Kite surfing first came about in the late 1970s, but it became more mainstream in the late 1990s after various kite designs were tested and refined. Kitesurfers started competing for the highest jump and craziest tricks in 1998 at the first competition in Maui.
How high a kitesurfer can jump depends on factors such as wind and experience. The current record, measured by WOO Sports, for the highest kite surfing jump, is 114 feet, or 34.8m, held by Maarten Haeger. Beginner kite surfers start with jumps under 10 feet (3m).
The competition to break the record for the highest kite surfing jump is fierce. A lot of what determines how high a kitesurfer can jump is the technique used for jumping, which comes with practice, repetition, and understanding kite surfing conditions. Read on to learn more!
How High Can Kite Surfers Jump?
Kitesurfers can jump upwards of 34m, proven by Maarten Haeger and several others. However, the majority of kite surfers will never reach that height. For beginners, a few meters might be the limit, and even for more experienced kitesurfers, the numbers tend to be lower than those pushing the limits.
The height of a jump depends on quite a few factors, with the wind speed playing an important role. On average, the wind needs to be at least 12 mph. For professional kite surfing events, the wind speed can be 30 knots or approximately 34mph. Higher wind speeds mean higher jumps.
The following are some basic steps for achieving big air when kitesurfing:
- Gain the appropriate speed and cut across the wind to garner the power needed for the kite to pull you off the water.
- Being able to control the board and the direction the board goes is the first step to a successful jump.
- Steer the kite up with the correct amount of force and tension as soon as you want to jump.
- Account for speed changes based on flat versus choppy water.
- Understand “edging” and how it works.
How high a kitesurfer can jump depends on how well they handle several things, like the things listed above. It also depends on the wind, equipment, and perhaps a little luck.
Below you find a great video of Maarten Haeger doing jumps at the Megaloop Challenge 2020.
How Do They Measure the Height of a Jump?
It can be difficult to figure out how to measure the height of a jump. Kitesurfers have experimented with several methods of measuring the accurate value of their jump sessions. The number one important tool is to record videos of their jumps with the use of a GoPro or have a friend offshore film their jumps.
Here are some of the methods:
- The first method is using a waterproof GPS watch. These GPS watches are the easiest method, but they are not totally accurate, and top-shelf versions cost a lot. WOO Sports developed an app for kitesurfers to measure their jumps. It is downloadable in the app store for both android, apple phones, and iPads.
- Another method kitesurfers use is using pictures to gauge a semi-accurate height measurement. It involves a bit of math by drawing a grid over the picture and counting the number of pixels in each grid. You get a grid/pixel ratio. Count the number of pixels from the board to the takeoff point and calculate the height.
- A third method is to find a friend who can hold a giant stick in the air while you jump over it. Mark the place where you hit the stick, and you can measure the height.
There are also specially built devices for this exact purpose. While this method is the best option, they are expensive and not commonly sold on the market.
Who Approves a Jump to Be the Highest?
WOO Sports is a dependable tool to help kitesurfers measure their jumps. All the data is documented firsthand. But it might not be enough.
To have their jumps officially verified, kite surfers send their videos and other sources as proof to accredited groups such as the International Kiteboarding Association, where experts weigh in their judgment and have it approved.
There are several associations that govern the sport of kite surfing. All of them are found worldwide. In a competitive event, the association hosting the event calls in experts to officiate the event. Events officials are usually people who produce fair and justified results based on the kite surfer’s performance.
Do They Need Special Equipment for High Jumping?
High jumping is increasingly becoming more popular. Nowadays, several brands offer kiteboards and kite models designed specifically for high jumps and for long distances. But there are other variables to consider, such as:
- A kite surfer’s skill level
- High wind conditions
- Level of control
To get the best out of high jumps, kiteboards are designed to be stiff and are equipped with large fins. These features help make jumping more efficient and controlled. Some big air kites are designed in a canopy shape with a flatter section through the middle, which gives the kite surfer great lift and hang-time.
User-friendly big air kites are also available. These kites give beginner to intermediate level kite surfers confidence to jump big and stay in the air.
Do They Have Special Competitions for High Jumping?
More kite surfing associations that promote competitions every year. Most notably, the Red Bull King of the Air is one of them. The event was first held in 2000 at a popular beach called Ho’okipa in Maui, Hawaii. Then, returning after an 8-year hiatus, the event was held in Cape Town, South Africa.
It is a popular kite surfing competition where the best athletes worldwide participate to show off their skills and talent, including who can achieve the highest jump. Though, there are numerous categories in which kite surfers can participate.
Here are some of the rules kite surfers should keep in mind for a high jump competition:
- There are no restrictions on the equipment during big air competitions.
- Judges award each kite surfer’s jump points on a scale from 1 to 10 in increments of 1/10th of a point.
- Judges analyze and score jumps based on a few things. Height counts for 70 percent, while technical difficulty and risk factor count for 30 percent.
- Wind conditions may determine a change in the weight given to the above scoring categories.
- Capsizing, grabbing the safety leash, crashing the kite, sinking, and landing on your back will be considered crashes by the judges.
There are other rules as well, but the competitions focus mainly on the jumps themselves.
How high a kitesurfer can jump is not only a question with a lot of variables. It is also one that is constantly changing. With so many people competing and techniques and technology improving by the day, the answer might just be different tomorrow.