Are you fed up hearing the same advertising lines?
We are the Best school, NO’1 in town with the best equipment! Everywhere we seem to go, all have the same lame predictable advertisement! We know how frustrating that can be, and how it can affect your kitesurfing experience when picking the wrong school.
So how do you know to choose the right one?
This guide is to help you, the student, identify a good school from, well, a bad one.
Don’t be fooled by these claims, most dedicated and most experienced, I mean says who exactly? Bottom line, don’t take things for granted, do your homework so you can get the most out of your training.
Here are our best tips in order of what to look for when choosing your kitesurfing School.
- Qualified Instructors √
- Updated Equipment √
- General safety √
- Location Choice √
Qualified instructors and registered centers, what to know.
Q1. Is the instructor certified by a recognized training organization? I.e IKO, BKSA PASA, REAL, or similar. & do I need to book with a registered center?
A1: It is extremely important to choose a school with certified instructors, this means that the school employs fully trained instructors that have studied the appropriate methods to deliver a safe practice. All of the training organizations listed above teach similar methods but the leading and most recognized worldwide is IKO.
Well, what is the benefit of choosing an IKO center?
I took this directly from their website;
“With over 130 kite schools in 38 countries already affiliated, the IKO is the world’s largest kiteboard training organization. What this means for you is that your kite center will be recognized as carrying the IKO brand, which signifies quality and safety.
Students seeking to learn in an IKO Center because IKO Instructors are trained to teach using IKO’s safe progressive method, which helps students reach their goals with confidence. At the end of an IKO training, students are certified with a Member Card if they pass indicating they know the Standards set forth by the IKO for safe practice. This worldwide-recognized IKO Member Card helps your students to qualify to rent equipment and is their passport to practice on beaches that require it.”
Which is fantastic right, you know your money is well spent going with a large organization that carries out thorough safety procedures, great! But can’t IKO certified instructors do the exact same thing? YES, correct they can! without being an IKO center, YES again correct! you will be taught in the EXACT same method, step by step and still be granted a member card.
So will picking an IKO Center vs IKO instructor be any different? absolutely not, they all teach to the same methods! Our best advice, no matter where in the world you learn, pick a school with qualified instructors with experience! Read on..
Q2. How much experience does my Instructor have and how long have they been teaching professionally?
A2: This is a great and very valid point to bring up. Every school likes to claim they are the most experienced. With Google at our fingertips, it isn’t hard to quickly read up on a school or an individual instructor. A good school will have a detailed description of the team without the outrageous claims, this is so you can feel comfortable choosing your coach and get to know them before you arrive.
We strongly believe that to be a great teacher you must have all-round experience in many different countries and winds, Why? Because that instructor will have real experience teaching in all kinds of conditions such as strong winds, light wind, gusty wind, teaching with beach breaks, flat water, deep water, waves, in hot country’s , cold country’s, studying a variety of different winds and of course teaching students from all over the world helps an individual become a more adaptable person, and will generally have greater knowledge about kite surfing.
Q3: Do you communicate well and feel comfortable with your instructor?
A3: We always try to match our student’s personality to our instructors to get the most out of your lesson. If you do not feel comfortable learning with someone, then don’t. Simply ask to change instructor, remember this is YOUR experience. We all learn differently and a GOOD school will be able to understand this and adapt to your needs.
Q4: How can I spot a good school from a bad?
A4: I love this one! Our best advice is… tah dar, watch a lesson. What did they accomplish? Did it appear well-organized and effective? What do the students think about the experience?
Hang out at the beach for a while, Is your instructor watching other kites or checking his phone while teaching, Are they stood 10 feet back and not right by your side. Did you know most accidents in kite surfing happen on land, Why? Normally due to poor instruction or lack of experience. So look for the instructor who’s willing to get in the water with you every step of the way and correct your mistake before one happens. Watching can be a great indication to spot a good instructor from a bad one.
Q5: Is the cheapest the best for me?
A5: We understand kitesurfing lessons can be expensive but please consider this.
To become an independent rider, being able to go upwind and feeling comfortable, you will need around 6 – 12 hours on average. If a school guarantees that you to finish the course riding up-wind in under 6 hours, that is just a marketing strategy to make you book the course. You think you are gonna save money but at the end, you will normally end up paying much more!
One instructor is not able to monitor safely more than 1 kite in the water. So think about what you want to achieve before to enrolling in a group course with 2 or more kites at one time. In our opinion, this is not quality teaching, but dangerous teaching.
Also, a school that rushes you on the board may sound great but without knowing the critical techniques to relaunch, self-rescue and recover your board which takes time, you will most likely up in a messy situation and a lot more of your precious time and money wasted.
Q6: Do you want to be just a number?
A6: I know I certainly don’t, in and out, job done. Pick a school with passionate instructors and passionate owners. The best and most successful schools which we have seen, have been those in which the owners or managers gets stuck in, the ones who will get their hands dirty, help on the beach and share the stoke and not just a guy who wants to get his hours done and go home.
Equipment – What to look for
Q1. Does the school have new, well-maintained equipment with current safety systems along with helmets and life jackets?
A1: Why is having the latest equipment so important. Quite simply for your safety, kiteboarding is the fastest growing water sport and each year the kites get more and more advanced making life and learning a lot easier for you. The new 2018 models are designed to relaunch faster, fly much better and the safety is very clean and simple. Schools that use old equipment year after year put you at risk! you are much more likely to have a line snap or canopy break while riding. Ask your school to take a look at the equipment before committing, I’m sure if they have nothing to hide they won’t mind showing you. You should be looking for thin or torn material on the kite, if it looks thin, it is thin! Look at the bar and lines, are there any fraying? is there multiple knots in the bar? all of these are obvious signs the school does not update their equipment.
The best equipment claim – how can one say what is the best equipment is? because it really is personal preference. It took me years to find a set up that really felt right and it wasn’t the typical big brands either! Having the latest equipment is much more important. We will happily advise you on buying equipment that’s suited to your needs, level, even your location back home, desired style and of course your budget. If the school uses more than one brand, brilliant, ask them to try another kite during your lesson or even change harness, play around and find what YOU like.
Q2: What equipment should be included?
A2: All Schools, absolutely all should supply helmets and life jackets! This is to protect you from any potential impact during your lesson.
A typical kitesurfing set up consists of A kite, Bar, harness, safety leash, board, impact vest, helmet and wetsuit/ rash guard.
A bonus for equipment is a school which uses radios. We use the latest Bluetooth communication radios from BbTALKIN which are fantastic and certainly the future of coaching. They are two-way communication so if in doubt you can always ask a question while in the water and get real-time feedback instantly.
SAFETY- What is safe and unsafe
Q1: Is a boat mandatory?
A1: This completely depends on your location but I would say it is always a good idea to have one just in case. No matter the conditions there should always be a boat ready for you.
A rescue boat is normally required when teaching in deep water with offshore winds. This is because in the event your kite will not relaunch it cannot take you back to the beach in those directions. If you have side-on or onshore winds no matter what happens you will always drift back however it is very important to understand that the wind can change at any moment and is far safer and quicker for a boat to recover your kite then a self-rescue.
Picking the right conditions
Remember the weather will always affect your lesson regardless of whatever your kiteboarding instructor or kiteschool manager tells you. So make sure the conditions are right before even deciding to take a lesson. If it is going to be blowing more than 25 knots then its NOT a good idea to take a beginner course on that day.
A good school will teach in the right conditions and the right conditions only. Ask your instructor how is the wind and just listen to their reply. If it’s a blunt simple answer then this is a good indication because a GOOD school will be able to tell you the conditions needed and give a detailed answer to help YOU understand the wind as after all you are there to learn.
The guidelines are from minimum 10 knots to a maximum of 25 knots. The reason, to light and your kite will most likely fall from the sky and will be unable to relaunch ending the lesson abruptly and you, well, left feeling frustrated. Over 25 knots can get too strong for a student who’s just learning, therefore, the risk factor is much greater. It’s extremely hard to tell as a beginner if it’s you or the conditions so don’t be fooled.
Tip – Paracas has a very complex micro weather system with a thermal and venturi effect that’s hard to predict on any wind forecast. Your school will be able to explain this to you and help you understand the weather system and not just tell you now is okay without an explanation.
Q1: What makes a good teaching zone?
A1: Many factors make a quality lesson and having the right location can make a huge difference to your learning curve. We have taught across 5 continents in many different conditions and have personally seen how much faster the progression is when having the right combination. Instead of telling you where not to go, as again, that’s personal preference. I would like to tell you why Paracas is considered ONE of the best places in the world to learn and why we choose to have a kite school here in Peru.
In Paracas, we have a large U shape bay that is protected by a peninsula on the edge of The National Reserve and as the hot sun warms up throughout the day across the desert so does the famous Paracas winds due to it’s all year round thermal effect. At our main station in Santo Domingo Bay, we have a very special teaching zone as the wind pushes between two large sand dunes making a Venturi effect which in turn, increases the wind.
We have a huge flat water bay which creates an ideal teaching area for learning basic kite control and safety techniques. The ground below is a sandy bottom free of rocks and any nasty surprises, and due to the natural sand slope that allows the water to increase makes a safe practice zone for body dragging and board control without hurting yourself in shallow water.
Now a common mistake to make is that shallow water is good for learning, I mean think about it. If you are to fall you are much more likely to hurt yourself, we need minimum waste depth to deep water to practice board control safely.
Which is why Radio communication and a rescue boat are a must for fast safe progression.
Flatwater makes learning a 100 x easier and it’s really rather simple to understand. When learning a new sport you want as fewer distractions as possible. It would almost be like learning to drive a car and having water bombs thrown in your face to test your reaction. Well, that’s how waves can be while trying to ride. It can take experienced rider months if not years to become comfortable in waves.
With this combination, I would consider it a world-class teaching zone, but that’s my personal opinion. I encourage you to do your research of what makes a safe kite beach before just rocking up and riding. Ask a local or the nearest school of what to look out for. Are the tides going to change dramatically? will the wind change direction? are there any reefs or rocks to look out for? This is why you need to choose a school that will teach you everything and not cut corners to help you become independent.
So there you go, our best tips and pointers to help you, the student, pick a well ran kiteschool to get the most out of your lessons.