Why Walk When You Can Fly? Where There’s a Wind There’s a Way.

All Photos Credit: Peter and Sylvia Iden

Propelled by the wind.

Lifted into the air.

Jumping the waves.

The fascination of speed, insanely high jumps and dizzying tricks while maintaining contact with the water. Surges of adrenalin and excitement beyond comparison. Talk to any participant in the sport. The praises have no end.

Kiteboarding is the visualised evolution of a sport. The simple original surfboard, growing with a sail into a windsurfer, then becoming a kiteboard by attaching a kite sail, which leads to the mastery of the kite by the rider of the board, all in less than a century. Evidence of how humans and their tools evolve, as they have always done during human history.

My first encounter with a kiteboarder was in 1985 on a lonely Lake Huron beach in the Bruce Peninsula. I asked him a lot of questions about kiteboarding, also his age. “I am 70 years old” he answered. I was impressed!

Kiteboarding has been around for quite some time. The Chinese apparently already used kites to propel ships in the 13th century. George Pocock, an English schoolteacher experimented successfully with man-lifting kites in 1824.


In 1903 an American, Samuel Franklin Cowdery, who changed his name to Sam Cody, crossed the English Channel in a kite-pulled boat. Sam Cody, who was known as “Buffalo Bill”, and his “Wild West Tours”, which played across Europe many times in the late 1800’s. He lived his passionate love of the Wild West by enlisting in 1863 as a 17-year-old teamster with the Kansas Cavalry in what is now Wyoming, but which was then the “Wild West”.

In October of 1977, a Dutchman named Gijsbertus Adrianus Panhuise patented a water sport named kitesurfing. But at the time, there was no commercial interest in his invention.

Today’s kites have an inflatable front (leading) edge which gives the kites their shape and allows them to float on water. An invention by two brothers from Breton, France. Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux, who patented their prototype in1985.

Boeing Aerodynamicist Bill Roeseler and his son Cory in Oregon developed and patented their “kiteskis” and started selling them in 1994. Basically, a water skier on traditional water skis pulled by a kite. Evolution of kiteboarding then took a sudden jump forward. Instead of water skis kiteboarders were soon using boards similar to surfboards, but they were smaller and differently shaped.

So how many kiteboarders are there now in the world? Wikipedia (not always dependable) says there are 1.5 million of them, based on sales of around 100,000 to 150,000 kites per year. The Ripatrip website compares various estimates ranging from 1 to 5 Million. IKsurfmag says 4 million, Kiteforum takes it all the way from 1 to 5 million. If I have misquoted any of them, it matters very little. Let’s face it: there are already an awful lot of kiteboarders in the world!

Kiteboarder at sunsetWasaga Beach has two official “Kiteboarding Areas”. One is on the west side at Wasaga Beach Area 5 and the other on the east side at Allenwood Beach. Because these beaches are also used by swimmers, certain cautions and restrictions relating to launching and landing must be observed by kiteboarders, especially by beginners.

Learning to kiteboard is challenging. Starting in the water is only one aspect required for the sport. There are many others. One of the things you must learn at the very beginning is how to save yourself if caught in a dangerous situation. Wind and weather play a major role, especially if it is cold, which may cause hypothermia. Others are offshore or cross-offshore winds, which may carry a kiteboarder too far out in the bay. Jumping in shallow water or hitting underwater rocks are other dangers. Equipment failures, physical stress, fatigue and tiredness caused by being on the water too long are some other risks. But, for a kiteboarder, the high of flying along under a kite is worth all of it!

The “Epicenter” of kiteboarding (or kitesurfing) in Southern Georgian Bay is at Wasaga Beach, due to its primarily northwestern onshore winds. Beach Area 5 is a customary place for the kiteboarders to meet, although one may meet them at all wide beaches. Two Kiteboarding Schools in the Southern Georgian Bay area are:

Kitefulness Kite Boarding School, 240 Shore Lane Road, Wasaga Beach, Ontario, L9Z 2J1 – Tel.: 705-718-8929

KitePassion Kiteboarding School, in Barriegate Centre, Trilliumgate Crescent, Barrie, Ontario, L4N 5K3 – Tel.: (705) 791-6385

Written by

Peter Iden is a resident of Wasaga Beach and a Naturalist and Photographer who has a broad range of knowledge of the natural world. Peter is also a volunteer Warden for the Piping Plover Recovery Programme with the Friends of Nancy Island.

Email: cmis-cbc@rogers.com

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