Kite Racing

A Fast Growing Kite Sport

It seems that a small number of people have been kite racing on land for quite some time. Indeed, this became popular enough for manufacturers and designers to take notice and produce special racing traction kites. For example the Ozone Yakuza and the PKD Combat.

Kite Racing - 3 kite racers powering across the water.And they're away...
Kite Racing - 3 kite racers powering across the water.And they're away...

However, in 2005 a very significant new direction was taken in kiteboarding events...

A big sailing club and a kite surfing organization got together and experimented with sending kite surfers around a course. It was an interesting melting-together of a sailing regatta and a kite surfing competition.

Top riders from other countries also started to experiment with course racing. Many were looking for 'somewhere else to go' after having been immersed in the freestyle kite surfing scene for years.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the level of involvement and enthusiasm finally resulted in a national competition being organized in 2007. By this stage, many different approaches had been tried, with regard to technique and also equipment. For example, hydrofoil kite racing... Boards with a hydrofoil underneath were very quick upwind, but proved slow in other directions. 'Directional' board designs proved to be much more competitive than other types. Boards with too many fins were slower, and so on.

Since 2012, the IKA Formula Kite Class has been officially a World Sailing International class. The class has it's own official website, maintained by the International Kiteboarding Association. That's the place to go for detailed event information, rankings and so on.

Kite Racing - The Spectacle

When run close to shore over relatively short courses, kite foil racing is a real spectator sport!

As the riders wait for the start, a gaggle of colorful water kites weave around above the waves as they jostle for position. Just as in a sailing race, the starter's gun goes off and it's a race for the line.

As riders pick up speed, long white trails appear behind them as the boards carve through the water. If the conditions are challenging, the occasional rider might come off the board and hit the water while others skim past! The most skillful round the marker buoys closely, hardly dropping any speed as they smoothly make adjustments to the kite which is powering their progress.

Because of the boards' small size, kite surfing is actually faster than any other motor-less water craft in light and medium wind. Including windsurfing boards! The riders try to fly the largest kite that they can handle in the conditions, in order to extract maximum pull from the kite and therefore maximum speed through the water.

The Racing Kites

This is a kite site after all, so here's a quick roundup of the type of kites that have been used in kite racing.

Closeup of a large hybrid kiteA large LEI or Leading Edge Inflatable kite
Closeup of a large hybrid kiteA large LEI or Leading Edge Inflatable kite

Generally, the so-called flat inflatables are the ones to beat, when riders use them to their full potential. These kites can be fully de-powered if necessary, which is good for safety. Apparently, speeds approaching 50 knots are not unknown!

Inflatable refers to the hollow leading edge spar which is pumped up with air. This helps the kite keep its shape in the air and also prevents it from sinking if it happens to hit the water. Hence the term LEI or Leading Edge Inflatable has been part of the kite surfer's language almost since the sport started. Because of their shape in the air, these kites are also known as C-kites. They can be relaunched from the water.

Any old LEI kite will get a rider around a race course, but of course manufacturers have always been under pressure to come up with faster and better kites. Hence the first generation of 'Bow' kites made an appearance in 2005. With less curve than the C-kite, these became known as flat LEI kites. They had performance advantages over the standard LEI kite, but were more of a handful to operate, for a number of reasons.

The second generation of flat LEI kites in 2006 solved most of the Bow kite's problems and in 2008 were the kite of choice for kite racing. They are called Hybrid or Supported Leading Edge kites, SLE for short. The bridle is more complex, with attachments at various points along the leading edge of the kite.

Here are some registered series production kites that have been eligible for IKA racing since 2016 or later (in various sizes)...

  • Aeros Cruiser SR
  • Elf Joker7
  • F-One Diablo V2
  • Flysurfer Boost V2
  • Flysurfer Sonic FR V2
  • Neil Pryde Kites CR:X
  • Ozone R1 V2

This is only an overview of kite racing for those who haven't come across this variation of kite boarding yet, so I'll leave it there!


You might like these...

I can tell you love kites...

Otherwise you wouldn't be all the way down here near the bottom of the page :-)

So, could you do me just a small favor? 

Please sign up for my free monthly publication, "Tethered Flying". No other emails will be sent, and your details are safe with me. You do need to be at least 16 years old. There's...

  • A huge "photo of the month" (via a link)
  • 3 "tips of the month" (one each for beginners, parents and the more experienced)
  • A "flight report of the month" (selected from my own flying logs, with a photo)

Looking forward to hearing from you...

P.S. My free kite-making e-book "Simplest Dowel Kites" can be downloaded as soon as you sign up.


Back to top of page

Need winders, reels, flying line?

We earn a small commission if you click the following link and buy something. The item does not cost you any more, since we are an "affiliate" of Amazon.

Click here to buy anything you need. Just use the Search box in there if you need different weights or lengths of line, for example.

P.S. Keep an eye out for books by kite author Glenn Davison, a prominent kite person in the USA.

What's New!

  1. Flight Report:
    1-Skewer Roller Rose...

    Sep 14, 19 07:56 AM

    Very briefly, before descending again, unfortunately... The breeze was a very smooth 15 kph down at the beach, according to an online weather source. And healthy puffs of breeze blew through our yard…

    Read More

Wind Speeds

Light Air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2

Gentle ...
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3

Moderate ...
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4

Fresh ...
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5

Strong ...
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7

Like/share this site...

Like/share this page...


Plenty of fun kite info, photos and videos - there's definitely too much here for only one visit! Feel free to leave your impressions of this site or just this page, below...