Windsurfing vs. Kitesurfing

There are many water sports that employ a board. The shape, size and other attributes of these boards differ by some degree. Among the most popular ones are windsurfing and kiteboarding/kitesurfing.

Windsurfing (also called sailboarding) refers to surfing with surfboards with sails. The wind provides the needed propulsion while the surfer adjusts to attain speed and perform stunts.

On the other hand, kitesurfing entails using a surfboard while holding unto a large kite that provides the propulsion. Both are considered extreme water sports and as such require proper training to perform properly.

Differences and Similarities Between Windsurfing and Kitesurfing

In assessing the differences and similarities between the two sports, the following aspects shall be analyzed:

  Windsurfing Kiteboarding/Kitesurfing
Age Old (invented in 1950s) Young (1984)
Cost of Equipment About $1,000 About $1,000
Transport Difficult Moderate to Easy
Learning Curve Moderate Steep
Independence High Low
Physical Attributes (Fitness) High Medium
Locations Not suitable in shallow waters Best for places without obstacles
Wind Small window to acquire(15ft) less power for waves Large wind to acquire(100ft) more power for waves
Stoppage/slowing down Subtly lower the sail Raise the kite above you
Fragility Sails are strong Kites are fragile
Balance Center of balance not stationary thus unstable Center balance stationary and stable
Kitesurfing in action


In terms of age and maturity, windsurfing has been around and it is more developed and mature. Kitesurfing is a much younger water sport that is still developing.

Cost of Equipment

Generally, the equipment for the sports cost just about the same. On average, you’ll spend anything from $1,000 upwards for a set of kitesurfing or windsurfing gear.

However, then it comes to the longevity of the equipment, your windsurfing gear will likely outlast the kitesurfing one. The fact that the kitesurfing gear needs to be light to provide the needed speed and all for the extreme tricks the sport offers means that the material will not last that long.

When compared, you’ll need to replace some of your kitesurfing gear about every 3 years. However, most windsurfing gear will serve you well beyond 5 years.

The lifetime of each set of equipment will depend majorly on the storage techniques employed. When not using it, keep it away from the water and the sun. Before hitting the water, check the integrity of each part of the equipment for safety.

Transport and Logistics

Unless you have a house just by the beach, you’ll need to transport your gear from home to the water and back. In this category, transporting kitesurfing gear is far less stressful compared to moving windsurfing gear.

A typical kitesurfing setup is a single surfboard with a folded kite both of which can be easily tucked under your arms as you head out to the beach. They take up very little space in the car and will not cost you any extra cash moving them around.

Windsurfing gear, on the other hand, requires a special carry case to move around a surfboard and its large sail. While the surfboard will be similar to what you’ll use in kitesurfing, the sail is by far larger and heavier than the kite for a kitesurfer.

Learning Curve-Which is easier?

The answer may vary when it comes down to which is easier than the other. Different people have different learning abilities. Hence some people will say kiting is easier while others will say windsurfing is easier. It depends on an individual…

You’ll generally take longer to learn how to kite surf but from there you’ll be quite comfortable with the gear and the sport. On the other hand, you’ll take only a few hours before you’re great with a windsurf. However, you’ll keep learning for a long while afterwards.

For a kitesurfer, you’ll need some activities on the land such as how to handle the kite. After that, you’ll learn how to handle the board on its own before you can combine the two. On average, you my take about 9 hours to be allowed to do a simple kitesurfing session. Windsurfing is quite straightforward with new students able to surf comfortably after about 3 hours of learning.

The other difference comes in after you have learned the basics of either sport. With kitesurfing, you’ll be performing complex tricks in a short while. However, with windsurfing, even after the short learning period, you’ll be on a constant learning curve for a long while afterwards.

As such, if you’re into a sport that you’ll learn fast and get to peak performance fast as well, go for kitesurfing. If you’re into a sport that will always provide learning opportunities throughout your life, go for windsurfing. At best, go for both if you can.

Level of Independence Attainable

Eventually, you’ll be windsurfing or kitesurfing on your own. However, before you get there, you’ll need a lot of help mainly to avoid accidents. For these sports, the level of independence differs by a significant extent.

While both sports require someone to be watching from the sides for safety, windsurfing affords you more independence since you can launch and land the gear on your own. With kitesurfing, however, it’s tough launching and landing the kite on your own. For this reason, you need to always have an extra person to help with the kites each time you head out for kitesurfing.Level of Safety

To put it plainly, kitesurfing is by far one of the most dangerous water sports around. With the kite depending more on the wind than the control of the surfer, it’s always a tough sport to perform especially when you’re relatively new to it.

The kitesurfer needs a certain level of skill and physical ability to stay in control of the gear. Even when disaster strikes, it requires a high level of alertness to avert or minimize harm on the surfer and others around them. With kites soaring several feet off the surface of the water, a small mistake will almost always lead to serious harm.

For a windsurfer, the risk is quite low with speeds being minimal and very few chances of the gear and the rider going above the water. As such, when disaster strikes when windsurfing, taking control of things is quite easy.

Physical Attributes

While more dangerous, kitesurfing requires much less physically compared to windsurfing. As long as you can hold unto the kite properly and keep the board on your feet, you’re good to go. With windsurfing, however, you’re needed to balance heavier and more complex gear at a speed.

Both sports require the rider to be fit enough to make quick movements to enjoy the ride while averting injuries to themselves and other riders.

Surfing Locations

The suitability of any given area depends on the type of gear you’re using. For example, a kitesurfer has a floating board that’s light and doesn’t go much into the water. On the other hand, their kite flies high and can be affected by structures above them.

As such, a kitesurfer should stay away from shorelines with trees and other structures that can affect their kites.

While the windsurfer worries little about trees on the shoreline, they’re in trouble if they get near a shallow region. The windsurfing board and the rest of the gear go significantly deep into the water making it hard surfing in shallow areas. The board can easily hit the bottom of the shore leading to damage and even injuries on the rider.


Sails are more durable compared to kites. Once kites crash, recovery is almost impossible.

Wind Acquiring Window

Generally kiteboarding has a larger window to acquire wind, about 100 ft while windsurfing has about 15 ft.


For windsurfers, the center of balance and strength is not stationary. The windsurfer moves around much more because they’re close to the sail. Kite surfers are usually far from the kite thus moving is minimized thus more balance

Which is better?

None is better, it will depend on what you want as an individual. Overall, windsurfing is can slightly be a better option because it is more mature meaning that getting the equipment and learning resources is easy.

Kitesurfing may also be a better option if you’ve been windsurfing for a while and in need of something new and challenging.

However, it is very important to understand that each of the sport will require time and effort to learn and master.

Final Thoughts

Choosing either sport will depend on several factors as stated above. Both kitesurfing and windsurfing are not only extreme but also exciting water sports are exciting.  All in all, it all depends on a combination of these factors and your personal choice for either sport.

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