SUP Kiting?

New discipline captures the best of both worlds

It was only a matter of time before two of the world’s hottest board sports crossed paths. French kiteboarding pioneer Raphael Salles started SUPing four years ago as a means of salvaging windless days on the water. After getting “more and more hooked” on paddleboarding, he began experimenting with SUPs and kites. The result is the new Source, a simple, two-line kite designed specifically for standup boards and manufactured by Salles’ F-One Kites brand.

Salles believes SUP kiting combines the appeal of both sports and will lead to more people on the water. The buoyancy of an SUP makes it possible to kite in light winds—eliminating the extreme-wind fear factor associated with traditional kiteboarding. The Source kite range comes in six sizes, the largest of which can be flown in barely five knots. SUP kiting requires no modifications to an existing board and uses old-school, and relatively easy-to-handle “unhooked” kite technology, eliminating the need for intimidating foot straps, complicated harnesses and obscure kiting techniques. What’s more, the larger board allows for tandem riding. “It’s a far different sport than classic kiteboarding because you need less wind,” says Salles. “So it can match a much wider range of users. It’s similar to the difference between surfing on a short board and an SUP.”

While some diehard kiters bemoan the Source’s primitive line system, which harkens back to kiteboarding’s early days of the mid-90s, the upshot for SUPers, of course, is that kiting makes paddleboarding less of a sufferfest on windy days. It could open the door to new freestyle moves in surf and on flatwater, says Salles, who likens the fast-paced, on-plane feeling of SUP kiting to surfing a wave. “Making power turns [with a kite] is the same movement as a bottom turn on a wave,” he says. Plus those on inland waterways can improve their wave-riding experience–even with the obvious lack of waves.

For Chris Boyle, a Cabarete, Dominican Republic-based kiteboarder, SUP kiting is a natural progression of both sports. “When I first tried it I had a ‘wish I woulda thought of that’ moment,” he says. This winter, Boyle’s employer, Long Beach, New York’s Cosmic Kites, is launching a series of SUP kiting-specific lessons at its Cabarete instructional center.

And Boyle believes that’s just the beginning. He expects the advent of wind-powered SUPing to create a new genre of endurance athletes, maybe even enabling long-distance ocean crossings via SUP. In the meantime, F-One is designing its own lineup of paddleboards, set to hit the market in the spring. In this, standup paddling’s age of innovation, SUP kiting seems to be the most natural of progressions.

–Conor Mihell