What is Wingsurfing?
Wingsurfing is a new “extreme” sport using the power of the wind in a hand held wing to propel the rider of a Dirtsurfer or mountainboard. Riders can reach speeds over 40mph and yet are capable of turning into or away from the wind in the same way as a windsurfer does. Add to this, freestyle tricks and jumps, and you soon realise that wingsurfing is not only great fun, but being a new sport, we are only just scratching the surface of moves and tricks.
What is a kitewing?
The Kitewing looks like a cross between a windsurfer sail and a hang glider. Designed in Finland, the hand held Kitewing is available in 3 sizes from 3.5 to 5.5 square metres and was originally designed for ice skaters. Apparently, wind powered ice skating has been an activity in Finland for many years, however the Kitewing is a modern design, using modern technology. Its beauty is in its power. As a wing, and in more than 8 or 9mph of wind, it literally flies. In your hands it can feel weightless, but the idea is to generate power. This power is simply achieved by adjusting the angle of the wing against the wind. If you’re a windsurfer, you’ll pick this up almost immediately, and you will also soon realise that the power can be forward (traction power) or upward (lift).
The next thing is…
What do you do with all this power?
Although the Kitewing was originally designed to power ice-skaters, over the last few years its use has expanded to snowboards, skis, inline skates, rollerskates, mountain boards and Dirtsurfers. What you use will depend on your environment and the conditions.
Wingsurfing in the UK typically uses a Dirtsurfer (a unique 2 wheeled in-line board) or a mountain board, as often used by power kiters or All-Terrain-Boarders (downhill riding)
What is a Dirtsurfer?
The Dirtsurfer is another marvel, designed in Australia as a summer alternative to snowboarding; Its a 2 wheeled (in-line) board thats looks like nothing else. It has two 16 or 20 inch wheels and a deck that the rider stands on (with or without footstraps). Stearing is achieved by simply leaning the board in much the same way as a skateboarder or snowboarder does, making it possible to mimic the fluid carves that are typical of a snowboard or surfer. Some riders use them purely for downhilling (on or off road) with recorded speeds of 74mph (120kph), others combine them with power from a Kitewing or PowerKite.
Where can I go?
In the UK we are lucky to have some great beaches, but on many, particularly in the busy summer months, you might find windsports are not allowed. So it’s best to check first. (check on the wingsurfer.co.uk forum). If you’re a speed freak and you have a decent onshore wind, a large (hard packed) empty beach, a Kitewing and a Dirtsurfer, you can easily find yourself doing 30mph or more. Popular beaches in Wales are Llangennith at the Gower (north of the stream), Abberavon (Port Talbot) or many of the great beaches on the west coast. In fact any beach where power kiters fly. Like power kiters, you will need to ride/fly considerately with other users in mind. There are also riders who meetup at Camber Sands on the South coast.
How Fast Can You go?
Using a Kitewing for power, the fastest recorded speed is currently 48.7MPH on a beach in South Wales. The current target is to go over 50mph.
The fastest recorded speed downhilling with a Dirtsurfer is 120KPH
Can I Jump?
The Kitewing gives you considerable lift, so its not uncommon to get some air. How high and far you go depends on the wind and your weight , some riders can jump several feet without the aid of a kicker; using a kicker this can be boosted considerably.
How do I stop?
Nearly all (except the very old ones) Dirtsurfers have calf operated brakes that the rider leans back on. This activates a disk or caliper brake on the back wheel.
Where can I see one or have a go?
The best thing is to visit the forum on http://www.wingsurfer.co.uk and join in one of the regular meetups. Most riders are more than happy to let you have a quick go with some basic instruction. If you have done any wind sports before, you will probably have an advantage, if you have done any surfing or snowboarding, you will probably find it easier than you expect.
Where can I find out more?
The best place to start in http://www.wingsurfer.co.uk a website run by riders. There are loads of videos, hints and tips and a great friendly forum.