Besides learning curve and safety, cost is probably the number one hurdle for most people looking to start kitesurfing. Our sport is famous for having a relatively high initial financial barrier to entry.
But how much does it really cost to start kitesurfing? First, expect to spend $500 to $800 for lessons – highly recommended for everyone’s safety. Then you’ll need to buy at least 2 size kites, each costing $500 (used) to $1000+ new. A kiteboard will set you back $300 – $500, a harness $75-$200, a kite pump $30-$50, a wetsuit $150-$300, impact vest $50-$100. Overall, expect a total budget of $1900+ to almost $4000 depending on lesson hours and gear age.
I know, the above estimates are quite broad ranging – in reality, the costs can range even much wider. Let’s look at those figures a bit closer and see what options you have for getting started at a reasonable cost.
How much does kitesurf instruction cost?
You should always start with kitesurfing lessons – teaching yourself kitesurfing is risky and counterproductive, see this post for more on self-learning. Lessons are the first investment you need to make when starting kitesurfing.
Lessons prices can run very high depending on the place you’re at and the season you start in. If you’re smart and get a chance to wait past peak season, you may be able to find hourly rates of around $50-$60 for group lessons from a decent school. The price includes both lessons and gear – much better than using your own gear for learning.
Make sure the school you choose is reliable and checks all boxes – read about how to choose a good kitesurfing school in this other post. Even if looking for a good off-season deal, don’t compromise on instructor quality.
You’ll typically need 10 to 12 hours of guided instruction (see: how long does it take to learn to kitesurf) to learn the basics, so that adds up to $500-$700. You may then decide to rent some gear from the same school for self-practice under their supervision, setting you back another $200 or so.
Note that some beginners choose to invest in boat / jetski-assisted instruction. Such lessons are pricier, around $150/hour, but can save you hours of drag walking your kite on the beach and speed up your learning curve.
Personally, I chose the less expensive path and went for cheap group rates without a boat. Took me more time and sweat (and got ripped off somewhat due to mixed levels and long transport time) but I learned to kite anyway.
Note that you can save some kite school time by teaching yourself basic flying skills on a trainer kite. A new trainer costs $250 to $300 but you may be able to find a used one in decent condition.
How much does it cost to buy a kite?
The cost of a brand new kite from the current year normally retails from around $1300 for a 9m2 size without a control bar. Add about $200 for a 12m2 size, and -$150 for a 7m2. The control bar alone is at least another $400.
So if you purchase a brand new kite of a brand new model, expect to fork out $1500-$2000 for the complete depending on brand, size, and control bar type – some models come with high-tech bars that run $800 or more.
Here’s the thing though: if you’re just getting started with kitesurfing, you’ll need at least two different kite sizes to avoid sitting it out when the wind is too light or strong – 3 sizes should actually cover most wind days, but you can initially make do with 2. Buying 2 new kites at the above prices will set you back over $3000.
If you get your different size kites from the same brand, you can usually use a single control bar for both, saving the cost of the extra bar/lines. Vendors always recommend a smaller bar for a smaller kite – it does make the kite more nimble – but I – and many other kitesurfers – use the same bar and that works fine for me.
Aside from using a single bar, what can you do to lower your total cost? Most cash-strapped kitesurfers buy models from the previous year. These are brand new kites typically sold at a 30% discount. They may not be as glamorous as the latest models, but who cares.
The other option is to look for used kites. This is a trickier choice since you need to know what you’re doing and how to assess the condition of the fabric, struts, bridles, lines etc. Also, like for a used car, you should know who you’re buying the kite(s) from.
Keep in mind you’ll still be abusing your kite for some time after your instruction, so either put off buying brand new gear until you almost never crash your kite, or get inexpensive kites (albeit ones that won’t blow up on you).
If you decide to get a used kite, look for something no older than 3 years old, which hasn’t been beaten up too hard, and priced around $500. See this post for more about choosing your first kite.
How much does a beginner kiteboard cost?
Kiteboards typically cost $500-700 – though they can run as high as $1000. However, it’s typically quite easy to find used boards in good state for around $300.
Most of the time a kiteboard from a well-known brand will be fine to start with: it may be scratched but will be fully functional, unless the current owner drove over it or something.
Board size depends on your height, weight, level, and your usual wind and chop conditions. Kitesurf schools use big kiteboards (1.6m-1.7m) because they help students with their waterstart. Bigger riders should also use bigger boards. For riding in choppy conditions and doing tricks, a board around 1.35m-1.45m works well.
How much does other kitesurfing equipment cost?
Besides kites (and bar and lines) and kiteboard, the next most important thing you need to kitesurf is a harness. There are two types, seat harness and belt harness.
Seat harnesses are worn like shorts around your butt, with straps around your legs. They are comfortable and stable on your hips and are used for learning because of stability and low towing point.
Belt harnesses give you much more freedom of movement as they turn around your waist and move up your torso. They are a better choice for freestyle tricks and wave riding.
Both seat and belt harnesses cost around $150-200 new, though you can often find discounts at around $100. You can also get a used harness around $50-$75. Be sure to inspect it before you buy, check the state of the outer shell and the inner lining for wear and tear.
I once bought a brand new $200 Dakine harness but the hook snapped on first use. Dakine did the right thing and sent me a complete replacement harness – as opposed to a replacement hook only. Read my full story on my Dakine harnesses (spoiler: I wouldn’t change them!)
Aside from harness, most kitesurfers will need a wetsuit – even in warmish weather, strong wind will typically make you cold fast.
Depending on thickness (2/2, 3/2, 4/3), shape (spring suit, full suit, over knee, vest), material (basic neoprene or elastane) and brand name, prices can range from $100 to $400.
After trying all kinds of wetsuits, I now favor cheaper suits, 3/2mm thick for warm weather and 4/3 for cold, with standard neoprene. High stretch neoprene is light and comfy but it doesn’t hold up well to the constant rubbing from your harness. I also look for patches of smoothskin wind resistant neoprene in the front and back.
Impact vests are not life jackets, but they offer a little bit of floatation – just be aware that it may not keep your head out of the water if you’re knocked unconscious. On the other hand, riding with a life jacket on is hard!
An impact vest is useful in case of impact from your board or if you hit the water real hard after an unwanted fly in the air. Impact vests typically run around $100, but you can probably find a used one for about $50.
What is the ongoing cost of kitesurfing?
All the costs I mentioned so far – lessons, kites, board, harness etc – are part of your initial investment to get started with kitesurfing. What other costs should you expect after getting started ?
Depending on use, your kites may last you 2-3 years, so make sure you save up to renew them after that duration. Things that shorten your kite’s lifespan include :
- Leaving the kite flapping in the wind on the beach for hours
- Leaving it in the sun for hours (UV damage the fabric)
- Over inflating your kite consistently
- Crashing your kite a lot
- Dropping your kite in salt water and never rinsing it
- Storing your kite with lots of sand inside it
- Keeping your kite tightly closed in its bag for long periods
I’ve had my Cabrinha kites for 7 years now, and they’re still in good condition – my 7m2 just ripped up for the first time a couple of weeks ago, had it sewed up. I do take good care of them though, and have always avoided leaving them sitting in the wind and sun for too long.
Selling your used kite after 2 years, however, may be a better strategy, as you may still be able to get a good price for it, which will help you buy a new one. In my case, I don’t expect to be able to resell my kites for much.
As for your kiteboard, it can last you forever provided you don’t smash it into rocks or concrete. I haven’t ridden my twintip for years but it’s still brand new – I can probably still sell it for a decent price.
You should really consider renewing your kite lines at least every couple of years, particularly if you kitesurf on a regular basis and if your lines often get caught in rocks or other obstacles.
A set of 4 lines can cost between $150 and $250 depending on length and resistance. Lines are important for your safety, a line snapping while far at sea can quickly turn into a nightmare.
If you don’t replace your control bar after a couple of years, make sure to check your chicken loop and safety release system, and to replace them if they look like they’re getting old. Replacing parts, however, may cost you more than getting a new bar, depending on labor costs where you live.
I typically buy a new wetsuit every 1.5/ 2 years depending on the amount of riding I do. I actually own a few suits so I can alternate, lengthening the lifespan of each.
Other costs involved in kitesurfing over time includes buying more kite sizes or faster turning kites, a surfboard for waves or a foil, accessories such as wind meter, neoprene boots or helmet, and traveling costs for exploring new kitesurf destinations.
Is kitesurfing as costly as other sports ?
As you can see from the above sections, kitesurfing can be quite expensive to get into. It’s certainly costlier than surfing or stand up paddling, where your only investment is your board, a leash, and a paddle (for SUP).
However, kitesurfing is less expensive to get into than other sports. Wakeboarding requires access to a $50K board and at least $60/day worth of gas. A good mountain biking can easily cost $4500 – although unlike kitesurf kites, a bike can last you a lifetime with relatively low maintenance expenses.
Other sports like skydiving or whitewater kayaking are more expensive than kitesurfing. Regular windsurfers often buy two boons each season and a board every 2 years, while a sail may last 3 years, typically adding up to $1000 per season.
Depending on the gear you use, you can usually get keep kitesurfing for much less money. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had my Cabrinha kites for 7 years now and still riding them. Over that period I’ve only bought a couple of used surfboards to get started with strapped and strapless wave riding.
So overall, over the past 8 years, I’ve purchased my 3 kites (7m/9m/12m) for roughly $1000 each, 2 extra control bars for $350 total, a twintip kiteboard for about $350, an impact vest for $50, a harness for $150, and 2 surfboards for about $400. That’s $4300 total, i.e. a little $530/year.
This is not counting wetsuits, travel costs and hospital bills (just kidding, never hurt myself kiting)
That’s not too bad considering the incredible lifestyle we get from kitesurfing !