Kiteboarders harness the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite that pulls them across the water on a kiteboard, similar to a wakeboard or a small surfboard.
"Kitesurfing" is a style of kiteboarding that is specific to wave riding. Kitesurfers use standard surfboards or boards shaped specifically for kitesurfing.
There are different styles of kiteboarding, including freestyle, freeride, downwinders, speed, course racing, wakestyle, jumping and kitesurfing in the waves.
Freeride is anything that you want it to be and the most popular kitesurfing style. Most boards sold today are designed for freeride. It’s about having fun and learning new techniques. Popular are twintip boards and kites with good relaunch and a wide wind range.
In Freestyle the kite and board are used to get big air (jumps) so that various tricks can be done while airborne. This style also used for competitive events and is free-format and "go anywhere". Smaller twintip boards and kites with good boost and hangtime are used.
In 1996, Laird Hamilton and Manu Bertin were instrumental in demonstrating and popularising kitesurfing off the Hawaiian coast of Maui.
In Florida Raphaël Baruch experimented riding windsurfing boards with various foil kites and changing the name of the sport from flysurfing to kitesurfing.
In 1997, the Legaignoux brothers developed and sold the breakthrough "Wipika" kite design which had a structure of preformed inflatable tubes and a simple bridle system to the wingtips, both of which greatly assisted water re-launch.
Bruno Legaignoux has continued to improve kite designs, including developing the bow kite design, which has been licensed to many kite manufacturers.
In 1997, specialized kite boards were developed by Raphaël Salles and Laurent Ness. By the end of 1998 kitesurfing had become an extreme sport, distributed and taught through a handful group of shops and schools worldwide. The first competition was held on Maui in September 1998 and won by Flash Austin.
Starting in 1999, kitesurfing became a mainstream sport with the entry of key windsurfing manufacturers, like Naish and Neil Pryde. Single direction boards derived from windsurfing and surfing designs became the dominant form of kiteboard.
From 2001 onwards, twin-tip bi-directional boards became more popular for most flat water riders,
with directional boards still in use for surf conditions.