You’ve been always dreaming about learning to kitesurf, you go to your local kite spot or you book holidays, you do some research and find out that there are over 10 kite schools in the area, which one is the best? Where do I start? What to look for in a good kite school?
As an example, here in Tarifa, we have over 50 kite schools with different prices, packages and offers that suit all budgets, levels and needs, so it can be very difficult to choose the best one, so this guide will help you clarify how to choose the best kitesurf school for you.
Are the instructors licensed?
The kitesurf instructors should have licences from recognised kitesurfing federation or board (IKO, FAV, BKSA, VDWS and etc.). These organisations offer the best teaching practices and a standardised way of teaching and progression, that can be easily followed.
This shows that the instructor took time to become a professional teacher and has good teaching methodology. This is a first step to check that the kite school is legitimate.
The instructor will be the only one who can make or break your dream for kitesurfing. If the instructor has bad teaching habits, this can transfer into your kitesurfing as well, so you would like to search for a school that has professional instructors that can make your lesson as safe and enjoyable as possible.
How long is the instructor teaching professionally?
Having an instructor’s licence is good, but you can get it after a year of kitesurfing, so you will need to ask how long is the instructor kiting & teaching. Sometimes the best riders, who can do complicated tricks, are not necessarily the best teachers, while a good teacher, who can explain the material well to the student, might not be a competitive level rider. You should ask the school about the instructor or just speak with the instructor to get the feeling.
What kind of lessons are they offering? Which should you pick?
What kind of lessons are they offering? Which should you pick? The question here is how motivated are you and how quickly you want to learn kitesurfing? Is it just a fun activity to do while you’re on holiday or you want to learn and progress?
On average to become an independent kitesurfer you will need to spend around 15-20 hours on the water, but to get up on the board and ride your first meters takes on average 6-8 hours of private lessons, some people pick it up quicker, some slower.
Few option you can consider:
The most efficient way to learn kitesurfing is, of course, private kite lesson. The instructor stays all the time with you, so it makes a safe and you get instant feedback on what to improve on the next run. While it’s the most expensive and intensive option, it’s definitely worth it, as you will save time, learn at your own pace and be safe throughout the lesson.
Another option is semi-private kite lesson, 2 students with a kite each and sharing the instructor. It’s a good option as you will practice all the time with your own kite and can progress at your own pace. Also it’s a little cheaper than the private lesson. While you will have full time on the kite, you’ll have to share the instructors time. This could be a good way to start kitesurfing lessons on the land, as there is not much danger involved. If the students have same level and pace, then it’s relatively safe. However, in the water, if one student has a better level than the other, then the instructor might spend a little bit more time with student who needs more attention.
Another option, if you’re on a tight budget, is group kite lesson. The lesson consist of a group of 4 or more people, so you would get only a limited time with the kite and instructor, at the end you will have to spend more hours to get the same amount of practice. You will also depend on the other person for your progression, which might slow you down. Plus the instructors is focusing on one student at the time, so if you get into trouble and need help, who will take care of you?
Of course if you’re with friends or family and you want to have a fun experience together, a group lesson can get you a good feeling of what kiteboarding is.
Does the school have insurance?
Normally all schools should have accident and third party/civil insurance, so ask them how are you covered. Also double check if they offer boat rescue services, if they teach in offshore conditions.
Is the kite gear new and in good condition?
It’s an important factor while choosing your kite school, because if the gear is not in a good shape then it could compromise the safety of the student and people around. It doesn’t need to be the latest year models, but well kept gear which is looked after.
While sometimes the kite gear breaks, do they have replacements on the shore, so you don’t waste the time of the lesson?
Do they use safety equipment?
Kitesurfing can be a dangerous sport and there are some risks involved, so safety gear is a MUST, stay clear out of the schools that don’t use helmets, life jackets and etc.
Another great addition to the lessons is radio communication systems such as BB Talkin or walkie talkies. This will allow you to get feedback from instructor in real time, so you can make adjustments straight away.
What are their cancellation, refund or no wind policies?
Unfortunately some of the kite schools use a factory/conveyor belt approach to teaching, especially here in Tarifa, where there is a lot of demand for the kite lessons. Trying to maximise the lessons done in the day and therefore teaching in conditions that might not suitable for kiting.
As an example if the wind is light, your kite is crashing all the time and even your instructor barely can keep the kite up in the air, but they still teaching and saying that it’s ok, then you know that they are trying to fill their pockets rather than teach you. In this case, if the school operates honestly and cares about your learning, they should stop the lesson and reschedule it and/or give you a refund/voucher for the time unspent.
See for yourself if the school tries to lock you in their school, do you need to pay for all the lessons upfront or the payments are flexible and day by day? Is there a room for negotiation?
If you have a chance visit them before or go to the beach to see how the lessons are going, to get a feel and the first impression.
What other customers are saying about the school?
One of the best way to find out about the school is to read reviews of other students and their experiences. Check reviews on Tripadvisor or any other platform of previous clients, see what they have to say about the school.