4 Aug 2017


9 min.

Kite VS. Wakeboarding

Partners: Protest Sportswear, Nederlandse Kitesurf Vereniging, Down Under Nieuwegein

There’s one thing each boardsport has in common with it’s polar opposite. Hate. Surfers vs. bodyboarders, inliners vs. skaters, snowboarders vs. skiers. A lot of time is spent thinking about the other, and and often it gets nasty. Thing is, each boardsports has something on the other. If they could just put aside their differences, they might learn something.

If we’re going to be completely honest, this could also be the case for wakeboarding and kiting. Still, too often we see wakers and kiters dipping their toes in each other’s water so as to maximize their time in the waves. That’s what it’s all about of course: having fun.

Wakeboard course Down Under in Nieuwegein and the Nederlandse Kite Vereniging have taken note. To determine, once and for all, all the myths, benefits, etc. Protest Sportswear, Nederlandse Kite Vereniging and Down Under performed a unique experiment on Wednesday, 28th June, 2017. Wakeboarder Sjors van Kerkhof and kiter Roderick Pijls performed the ultimate test to discover the differences, similarities, and challenges between wakeboarding and kiting.


Riders introduce themselves
Roderick Pijls
– 24 years old
– Pro kitesurfer
– Kiting since 2007
– Kites at the EK, WK competition, past year top 10 in the world

I kite the international as well national competitions, and often have to travel, which is something I don’t mind at all. Besides freestyling I’m also a wave rider. That’s thanks to the time I took off during my injury. Along with my kite surfing career I also work as a model for different magazines.

Sjors van Kerkhof
– 36 years
– Wakeboarder for over 20 years
– Worldcup participant for a few years

I’m mostly busy with Freeriding. I like to visit as many different parks as possible to learn new tricks. These days I’m not often sailing behind a boat. I prefer the French parks the most where everything is often arranged just a bit better. I like getting it all down on camera so check out my Instagram. These days I’m also a PE teacher. I don’t quite have the flexibility of Roderick. Nonetheless, I’m at least 100 days a year on my board and I’m going on tour for the next six weeks.

Boys, have you guys checked out each other’s sport?
Roderick: I regularly get on a wakeboard course. It has constant pull. That way I can put all my effort and focus in a controlled manner. But still, I prefer to kite. Kitesurfing has more variety. There are more unexpected factors and disciplines in kiting. That way it remains exciting.

Sjors: I have kited. I took a lesson and also stood. But because I don’t have the flexibility of a pro-rider my preference remains wakeboarding on a course. Still, I want to kite again in the future.


The materials? Are they interchangeable, and what are the differences?
R: Sometimes when wakeboarding I use my kitesurfing materials, but then you land like a brick. Using a wakeboard when kitesurfings, I don’t think, is a good choice.

I often sail while wakeboarding with boots. With wakeskating that’s not needed, but I don’t do that too much anyway. You can use the stuff from kitesurfing on a wakeboard course, but if you want to perfect your tricks, you should use the materials as intended.

Aren’t wakeboards much stiffer?
S: The foam boarders back in the day were really stiff, but the modern wood core boards are not as bad. Do you wanna keep your friends on the course? Use your materials for what they’re meant for. A kiteboard is just better for edging really hard, and too much speed can make the cable swing aggressively.

A big difference between a wakeboard and kiteboard are the fins. A wakeboard doesn’t have those. When executing tricks, pushing off with fins is often more difficult. The kiteboard remains flat and this way you can’t build up pressure. With a wakeboard you often grab this at the edge. Also landing with a kiteboard is not ideal, often the board doesn’t stay flat.

If you don’t have the right material, it’s okay to use a kiteboard. If you want to speed up your progress, use the materials for what they were designed.

The wakeboards from the last ten years have gotten longer. These days they are about 151cm in length, while kiteboards are 138cm. The larger the surface area for a wakeboard, the softer then landing, and the more rails you can press.

R: I started with straps, but for many years now use boots. With unity in your feet you can do a lot more. More pop, better landings (without shooting out of your straps) and more power. The only negative is that when you land incorrectly you’re totally pulled apart. A back edge is then really nasty, but that’s what happens when you learn new tricks.

A wakeboard is a lot more of a rocker. You land more softly, but you do have more resistance when you are moving.


Anything else?
S: Make those little steps if you’re challenging yourself to discover new tricks. This way you don’t have to surfer as much pain, and more importantly, swim less. If you fall when on a wakeboard that often means a lot of swimming. That’s also a big difference between kitesurfing.

A golden tip: dose out your improvements. At the moment I am mostly busy with a switch frontside 360. That too I’m taking one step at a time.

Together Sjors and Roderick discover that there are substantial differences in the stable circumstances a course can offer. With kitesurfing those environments are often inconsistent, and when they are present you want to go for it. With wakeboarding when on a course all the factors remain the same, and you can build yourself step by step. Roderick often therefore goes for the ultimate.

S: Kiters often go full throttle, and you don’t want to be stuck behind that. The cable goes all kinds of ways with kitesurfers. With each boardsport there are (unwritten) rules and etiquettes. With wakeboarding you try and check in with each other. You make the effort to keep the line as steady as possible, especially if there are a lot of obstacles. If you decide not to take an obstacle, you pass by it in in a way to make sure that the boarder behind you won’t have any issues. If you fall after the kicker, swim to the side, then take off your board.

R: As a kiter you can build a bunch of power by practicing on a wakeboard course. Also, you can practice tricks on a course were you normally have to keep your kite low. These tricks do well at competitions. When you focus on a wakestyle than the course is ideal when there is no wind. Besides the normal priority rules, you have the unwritten etiquette. For example, in Brazil you have the world’s best kite on a tiny lagoon, you check in with one another, stay in a line, and not ride through.

pro 1

Sounds like I can conclude the following, no?
Both sports are growing immensely as are the amount of wakeboard courses. In the Netherlands there are enough opportunities for both sports. The wakeboard sport remains extremely accessible and it’s not dependent on weather. You can easily wakeboard eight months a year. Still there are a lot differences when abroad. Just like football and crossfit wakeboard is often sold as a commercial sport. In the Netherlands, for now, it’s seen as recreational. In the countries around us you can periodically practice the sport. This way you can make great progress. In The Netherlands that’s less common.

Wakeboarding is also a great way into kitesurfing. Especially when the wind dies down, it’s simple enough to go to a wakeboard course and get a feel for the board. That way you can focus on just the board and not worry about flying just yet. It’s perfect for novice kiters or if you want to practice tricks and there’s no wind.

For both sports I say: respect each other and delve into the other’s world. Stop the hate and communicate!