Can You Kitesurf on a Lake?

Kitesurfing is gaining acceptance around the world, and it is now a highly competitive watersport. Professional kitesurfers frequently travel to scenic locations to compete in events and promote their sport. Although the sport has a steeper learning curve than paddleboarding or kayaking, kitesurfing is enjoyed by beginners and professionals who practice their sport in bays, beaches, and lakes.

You can kitesurf on a lake if the area is large enough to support launching, riding, and landing your kite. Although oceans and bays are typically safer areas for kitesurfing, massive lakes with minimal wind interference from buildings, trees, and elevated topography are ideal for kitesurfing.

If you’re a beginner, the most challenging part about kitesurfing on a lake is avoiding the other boats, kayakers, and jet skiers. Beginners should not attempt to kitesurf during busy times unless they’re enrolled in a professional training course with experienced instructors.

Practicing how to control your kite on land, without using a board, is essential to learning how the kite reacts to your movements. Before you jump in the water, become accustomed to the powerful pull of the kite and how to adjust your grip and stance.

How Do You Kitesurf on a Lake?

Surfing on a lake can be an unforgettable ride, but remember to check out the local regulations regarding watersports on the lake. Never attempt to kitesurf if it is prohibited. 

You can face hefty fines and possible criminal charges if you violate local laws. Some areas restrict kitesurfing because of the risk to public safety. Smaller lakes cannot accommodate every activity, and often the newer watersports, like kitesurfing, are prohibited.

Before you launch your kite, take a look at the following list and descriptions that display how to kitesurf on a lake safely.

  • Check the wind’s speed
  • Locate an effective launching area
  • Unpack and inflate the kite
  • Safely launch the kite
  • Surf the lake
  • Land the kite

How to Determine Wind Speed

If the wind’s speed is inadequate on the day you want to launch your kite, try kitesurfing on another windy day. A low wind that is not sustained is incredibly challenging for rookies to control. The wind should be at least 13.3 knots (15 mph) to provide sustainable power for your kite.

To determine the wind’s speed, you can purchase this HOLDPEAK 866B Digital Anemometer on Amazon. The meter measures the wind’s speed, temperature, wind chill, and air velocity. It’s a handy tool to have since a weather report typically will not mention localized wind conditions over a lake. 

Another useful tool is the website, windfinder.com. The site consists of a global map that allows you to zoom in to any city or town in the world to check the wind conditions. Once you find the area where the lake is located, you can zoom in further to find the lake and check the conditions.

The site’s wind information is presented in the format displayed below.

LAT 32.0653LON: -83.3126
DirectionSpeed
42° (NE)2 mph

Finding an Effective Launching Area

When you’re scouting for an area to launch, examine the environment carefully to avoid tangling the kite in nearby trees or structures. You should have at least 100 yards of clearance to launch your kite safely. A treeless beach is an ideal launching point if the wind is blowing in the right direction.

Some lakes have sunken piers or buoys that may disrupt your launching process. A pair of binoculars is helpful when you need to search for obstacles in the water. Piers are another factor to consider when you prepare to launch.

Always position your kite downwind from the pier. You want to avoid traveling towards a dock (which is likely to have several fishing lines dangling from it), and you can benefit from the “clean wind” resulting from the dampening power of the pier.

It’s always safer to kiteboard with a friend, and if your friend cannot join you in the water, persuade them to supervise from shore. An even better option could have a chase boat or jet ski for rescue. If a ride or landing turns into a crash, you can rely on an observer to assist in the emergency.

How to Unpack and Inflate Your Kite

When you remove the contents from the bag, roll out the kite perpendicular to the wind. You don’t want the bottom arc of the kite to catch the wind and cause trouble. You can also use a little sand or a light weight to place over the rolled-out kite to keep the wind from disrupting the process.

Inflate the struts of the kite first and then inflate the body. When you attach the lines, ensure that they’re not tangled. Tangled lines can lead to unpredictable controls and possible disaster. Here is a step-by-step video that explains the unpacking and launching process.

How to Safely Launch the Kite

When you’re ready to launch, position yourself with your back to the wind. Single your friend or instructor that you’re prepared to launch and pull back slowly on one side of the bar to raise the kite. Wait until the kite reaches its zenith before you begin making turns.

A key factor in launching is a sustainable wind. If the wind is uneven or violent, you should probably try another spot. A consistent, fluid launch is a sign that the wind will sustain your surfing. Clearance is another crucial issue that requires you to examine your surroundings before lift-off.

When the kite first takes off, inspect your immediate environment to ensure that new observers or approaching vehicles have not entered your space.

Surfing the Lake Without Problems

You can have a blast gliding across the lake. Because of their size, large lakes offer an experience similar to one in a bay or calm ocean beach. However, the lake’s size also presents challenges if you happen to wipe out in a bad location.

To stay safe, you should try to surf close to the lake’s shore. Keep a distance of 150 to 200 yards from the shoreline to provide a reasonable swimming distance in case of an accident. If you’re an Olympic class swimmer and enjoy a challenge, then, by all means, surf a little farther from the beach.

Besides avoiding the other people enjoying the lake, try to stay clear any half-sunken obstacles you might have missed in your previous observations. Surfing the lake safely isn’t difficult; you only have to be aware of the lake’s architecture and the people inhabiting it.

Sparsely populated or vacant lakes, like the pink lake featured in this kitesurfing video, are the perfect locations to practice techniques.

Correctly Landing the kite

When you’re ready to land the kite, signal to your friend that you’re preparing to land. Slowly reduce your pressure on the bar to lower the kite and release the bar when your helper is ready to pick it up.

If the kite gets out of control before you’re ready to land and you decide to bail out, drop the handle, and the kite will dive into the lake. 

Another item that can help in that situation is a quick release harness, like the Kiteboarding Mini Slider Release Kite Leash from Amazon. It will drop the kite and release you from the line. When a potential emergency occurs, hitting the eject button can save you from injuries. 

It can damage your kite, but kites can always be repaired.

Which Lakes Are Large Enough to Kitesurf?

Several lakes in the United States and around the world allow kitesurfing. If you’re interested in surfing a nearby lake, contact your local recreation and parks department or check their website.

Human-made lakes in mountain valleys are a favorite location for experienced kite surfers. Sustainable thermal conditions are ideal for surfing, but some areas may not be suitable for beginners. If you’re unsure if you’re ready for brisk winds, you should consult an experienced friend or instructor about the lake’s conditions.

The following brief list includes some locations that provide incredible surfing adventures on lakes.

  • The Great Lakes, United States
  • Lake Tirol, Austria
  • Lake Baikal (when frozen), Russia
  • Lake Como, Italy
  • Lake Nicaragua, Central America

Closing Remarks

When you find a lake to kitesurf, remember to bring a friend unless you’re entirely confident in your abilities. Most professionals choose to surf in a group not only because of safety issues, but because it’s more fun to have company.

Surfing lakes requires a high degree of situational awareness, but as a beginner, your instructor or friend can guide you through the process. So, now you can launch your kite and surf the lake.


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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