How to find the best kiteschool?

6 ways to find yourself the best kiteschools in the world!

Category: Kitesurfing Portugal

How to find the best Kiteschools around?

Sit back, relax and see how to find yourself a topnotch Kiteschool!

read more to find out…

In this how-to we will elaborate about the question: how to find the right Kiteschool.

We give you six golden rules to find yourself a great Kiteschool!

First we talk about the location of the school, then we discuss the instructor certification and experience. Then, very important for you, we discuss the lesson time, the student ratio and all procedures. Of course , equipment is important as well as the infrastructure of the school. At last, use your common sense and check what the reviews are of a kiteschool

If you want to learn kitesurfing, we’re quite sure that one day you will need this information.

Read on, and enjoy!

“I believe that with simple steps a safer experience with Kitesurfing is easily achievable. Safety first.”

– Tiago Rocha, Owner & Founder of Kookproof

Kite terminology

1. Location

Check the school primary teaching location and main wind direction.

The first thing you should learn is how to recognize an excellent spot to kitesurf. So it’s only natural that your school has done the same.

You will learn how to do a Spot check. First, we look at the wind direction, strength, and quality.

You will learn that you should look for places that have side or side onshore winds predominantly for your practice after your lesson. So let’s break down all the wind directions and how the schools can cope with different ones in the best way.

Off-shore: this direction can become a problem as you will be taken away from the beach making it harder for the school, they should have a rescue/teaching boat available and ready to pick you up. This direction makes the school work extra hard. Also, your riding direction is parallel to the beach so is for all the other riders.

On-Shore: This is the one that doesn’t show a hidden problem. The wind can blow you to the beach and make you have an accident. In this case, the school should have a boat or a way to get very far from the beach to start the lesson. It’s not the most practical wind direction. This wind direction makes the school work extra hard. Also, your riding direction is parallel to the beach so is for all the other riders.

Side-onshore: This is a helpful direction as you can go and come back to the beach and when in trouble you will be brought slowly to the beach. Still, you will be pulled downwind and into the beach so take special care in checking the beach conditions.

Side: This allows you to go and come back to the beach. This direction doesn’t bring you closer to the beach naturally but will enable you to stay practicing longer and forces you to use the kite to come to the beach or away depending on the side you relaunch the kite.

The strength of the wind should be adequate for your skill level, kite used, line length and exercise. It’s important to learn skills in light and strong winds as you never know the conditions you will encounter. Even if you start with average wind speed, this can change very fast so it’s important to know how to react in all possible conditions and also to know your limits. Learning with light or strong wind is very important as it’s better to acquire the correct skills under the supervision and help of an instructor than by yourself. Your progression might seem slow, but it will prepare you better to become independent.

The quality of the wind is also another significant factor. The wind shouldn’t have obstacles upwind or downwind of your practice location. Not having obstacles will ensure that the wind doesn’t get affected by the surroundings making it gusty and provoking an unexpected reaction from the kite.

So, when checking for a kite school to start your training, look for their primary location. Ask what the most common direction is and if the school as a rescue/support boat to assist on the lessons.

On a spot check, we also check the spot on land. There we should be able to spot a place to set up the kite, launch and land it. The launching and landing are the two moments that cause the majority of accidents. Make sure that these areas are big enough and clear of obstacles.

We also check the water type.

We should observe the surface, underground, the currents, and the temperature.

On the surface, we check if the spot is flat, wavy or choppy.

The best is flat water as it’s one less thing to worry. Waves create unnecessary difficulty in the beginning but are a necessary skill to learn to become independent. If the place has waves take into consideration that the learning will take a bit longer, but you will be much more skillful in the end.  Choppy conditions are a mix of the other 2 with both the benefits and difficulties of both. An independent rider should be able to ride in all of them, so if you only had lessons in flat water take one more class to get used to the waves. It’s a lot of fun to ride the waves so don’t miss out on a wave session.

Underground we should consider if the spot is sandy, rocky or if it has any hidden dangers, check it with the school and other users. You also should check if the spot is shallow or deep. Shallow places allow you to have your instructor closer to you in a more natural way. In deeper water, the instructor has to hold on to you to be able to help you making it harder for him. Make sure the spot is not too shallow. As a rule of thumb, the best is waist deep, so there is still enough water for an accidental crash not to have consequences.

Currents are critical and a lot of time not visible. Current against the wind direction can help you to get upwind and maintain you in the same place. The board, however, will tend to go upwind from you making it harder to recover. Current in the same direction of the wind makes you go downwind fast and makes it harder in light winds to get the kite relaunched. Low current or current against the wind is always easier, but it’s important to learn also with the most adverse conditions.

The temperature is also critical. Check if you need a wetsuit or if lycra is enough. Make sure to use a good sunscreen to protect yourself.

Another thing to consider about the spot is the action on it. Check if the beach has other users such as surfers, windsurfers, bathers, fisherman’s, etc.… make sure there is enough space between your learning place and them.

So when checking the school for your first lessons, try to get one that has a beautiful spot, that is not overcrowded, has flat shallow water and a side or side-on wind direction and one that has a safety/teaching boat available for support, this is what we did and do at Kook Proof in Esposende.

2. Instructor certification and experience

The instructor certification and experience is another factor to have into consideration on your choice of school.

There are several certifications, IKO – International Kitesurf Organization, VDWS, FVVL, BKSA, sailing association, etc…

IKO is the oldest and most recognized worldwide. It started in the begging of the kite development creating safety procedures to help people learn faster. The IKO has around 20-30 Examiners that train more than 1000 instructors per year. It has more than 6000 Active instructors worldwide. Having so many pieces of training allows IKO to gather more and more input and progress the teaching technics. Other certifications are more local and fewer numbers not allowing for a broader scope of teaching technics.

On the IKO website, you can also find if the school is IKO certified, meaning it fulfills all the requirements. A lot of schools say they are IKO, but they are not as they don’t show up on the website. There you can also get to know your instructors and what did the other students had to say about their lessons. Checking the site also helps you to find the best instructors. All IKO certified, and active instructors have a personal profile on the IKO website. The instructors can be level 1, level 2, level 3,  Coach, assistant trainer, coach trainer or examiner.  The higher qualified instructor with more feedbacks means they are professional about their work with IKO. If an instructor is not on the website that says that he lost his affiliation, so he is no longer teaching under the standards.

When you get a lesson in an IKO center, you should receive at the end of all your lessons a certificate with the level you have achieved to be able to continue later in another IKO school, and they can determine the best teaching plan more efficiently.

3. Lesson time, Student Ratio and procedure

When you look at prices, you get offered a group lesson (up to 4 students), semi-private (2 persons) or a private course usually. Then it can be one kite per student or 1 kite per every 2 students or in some cases 4 kites for four students and one instructor.

First of all, we recommend you make the math as the cheaper option is usually the worst one.

If you have four persons in a 4h lesson that means you lost 4h of your time but only used 1h for actual practice.

You can learn by observing, but you also get cold and distracted once you don’t have the kite.

You also have to think that kitesurfing when you are learning is going to get you tired so 1h  to 1:30 of physical activity is more than enough. It’s also the most effective as your concentration, energy and temperature levels will go down in time. After 1:30 of intensive physical activity your concentration and coordination skills go down, and it is time you start making more mistakes, and those can lead to injury due to the fatigue of the brain and the body.

In group lessons, there is the issue with the number of kites and the safe distance between them. So if you have four students with two kites only with one instructor that means the instructor is going to be having to run between the 2. Even using short lines with the safety distance between them the instructor will still be too far away to help you quickly in case of need.

When you are starting, it is particularly important on the first fazes of the water teaching such as body dragging. During this phase, the proximity of the instructor by holding on to you and staying close in the first attempts in the water can significantly improve your progression. Once you practice, alone the attention and concentration of the instructor can also help him advise you better on the corrections as he is fully concentrated on you. Once you start doing your first water starts, then the influence of the instructor is lowered as he can’t be in contact with you. In this faze a 2-way radio can significantly improve your progression. Once tricks come into the equation, a video of your lesson can help a lot on the detection of your errors and activation of better muscle memory.

Also, the ratio of instruction to practice should be 20-80.  Meaning that the instructor should use 20% of the time to explain the exercise and 80% of the time the student should be trying to put in to practice what he has learned. Meaning that 80% of the lesson time the student should be the one piloting the kite and not the instructor.

So we recommend you choose private lessons of 1:30h, that the instructor goes with you into the water to help you all the time. Also, make sure the instructor allows you to practice more time than the one he spends explaining. All exercises should mimic what you will be doing while riding later.

4. Equipment

When searching for a school take a look at the equipment used and how the school prepares it.

The type, model and size will be hard for a person that is learning to evaluate the quality or if it is adequate for the lesson. Take a better look at the size of the lines and the place the student is practicing. So in the beginning and until after the first few water-starts the school and instructors should use short lines every time the kite is flying correctly as none of the exercises needs power. Only to go upwind, you will need power. Before that, all you need is to master the skills, so no power is required. A higher control and perception is obtained by using short lines. If the school uses long lines on land with some wind, then you should for sure avoid this school. Any unintentional piloting in the power zone by the learning student can lead for you to get lofted and fall. If you are on the water, it’s not a great deal, but if you are on land, you can get hurt. Make sure the school provides you with a life vest and helmet, and if the instructors use one too, means they are serious in going into the water to help you out. Some schools also have a safety/rescue team that oversees the lessons and helps the instructor helping him not to lose time. Most schools use a seat harness, and curiously most people use waist harness when riding, this is strange to me as if the seat is used to learn why isn’t it used after. Often instructors will say that it’s because you keep the kite at 12 most of the time and so the kite pulls up. So the problem is not the kite pulling up but the place you are being taught to keep the kite. The kite should always be at a 45º angle, so 10:30 or 1:30, this way the kite will not ride up as it will be pulling you sideways. In case of a lull, it also doesn’t fall in the power zone. Another problem of the seat harness is that it restrains your leg movement and can be very annoying and make you not that comfortable.

Using a leash connected in the back can be very dangerous, in case of a problem you will not be able to release as you will be pulled from behind and your release will be unreachable. If the leash is in front, it will be possible to activate it as it will be in your reach.

Some quick tips: Check if the leash you will use is connected to the front of the waist harness, the use of short lines, the existence of a rescue boat or jet ski and the overall coordination of the team.

All of the descriptions above is what we use at Kook Proof.

5. Infrastructure of the school

Some schools operate from the back of the car as they have to change location often due to the changing wind directions, but usually they have a base in the most consistent or best place. Check the infrastructure of the school, how they are organized if they have a proper changing room, showers, cleaning facility, equipment storage, rescue procedure plan, medic first aid training and equipment — all that you would expect if you went to a gym to practice any other sport. Some schools will also have or be associated with shop having equipment for you to test and purchase. Having a shop with a school helps you to get better gear and a more informed decision. Your instructor and school staff will know better your needs and can help you out in getting the best and most adequate gear for you after your lesson.

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