Kite Ground Boarding or ‘KGB’
What is a ‘KGB?’
Sounds like kiteboarding with no snow! Picture this – an oversized skateboard with bigger tires and a tough tread that can go over most terrain. These all-terrain boards were designed to simulate the sensation of snowboarding, allowing riders to carve turns and continue boarding long after the snow melts. Add a power kite and you have a sport called Kite Ground Boarding or more commonly referred to as KGB.
This is quite a new sport, derived from the downhill Mountainboard scene and adapted with kiteboarding, it has developed into a sport of its own.
The principle? – The rider is pulled along at speed by the power of a traction kite and is able to perform jumps and pull off many tricks such as 360 spins, board grabs and no handed big airs.
It’s a fun sport for all ages from young children to adults. Groms have been riding large parking lots with their boards and small sized kites, while the big boys sending huge jumps with lofty landings!
Many Kitesurfers are converting over to KGB when the wind is not right on the water. Whether the wind is too light to surf with or a bad direction, like offshore, one can still get in a session on land and go home happy.
It’s an easy sport and a lot less intimidating and expensive than kitesurfing. You can learn the basics of kiteboarding with a small kite and you can ride almost anywhere. The best part is that all of the gear can be packed into a daypack allowing you to easily travel with your kite gear, whether you are driving a small car, riding a train or even pedalling your bike to the park.
Being a land based sport, the safest kites available to use are open celled foils, these kites can be completely collapsed killing all of the power and leaving you smiling and in one piece. Since the boards have wheels, they roll along easily and require less power to get moving. Less power equals a smaller kite, and a smaller sized kite is less money. This means you can get started and become a kiteboarder for less dough!
The Technical Stuff
Q - I’m going to buy a Board, what do I need to consider?
A - The very first thing you need to consider when buying your first KGB (Kite Ground Board) is your size and weight. Boards come in a variety of shapes, sizes and thicknesses. The smaller or lighter you are, the thinner board you can get but bear in mind if you’re a bit on the large size, you’ll need a stronger board to take your weight. In general, lighter boards are preferred for freestyle while heavier boards are perfect for cruising. Budget is always one of the main factors so buy the best deck you can afford, you’ll not regret it. Usually the cheaper the board, the more inferior the quality will be. Typically a cheap board will be heavier and made from substandard components (steel screws etc). If you are riding on beaches be sure to get a board that has stainless steel bolts and screws and avoid buying the many rip-off brands that have cheap inferior models that will fall apart in a short time.
KGB’s are made from various materials but commonly a wood/fibreglass composite of a multi layered design. More expensive, lighter boards are made from Kevlar/carbon fibre composites but are much more expensive. Trucks and wheels also vary so you need to know the difference between the most common – Skate Trucks, Channel Trucks and Bionic trucks. Skate trucks are similar to skateboard trucks but with a wider axle. Channel trucks have a spring suspension that improves ride quality and balance. Bionic trucks are a combination of both skate and channel truck designs. Bionics have a central bushing block that can be changed or adjusted to fit your body weight and riding style. The central bushing in Bionic trucks helps absorb the terrain providing a stable ride, making it the #1 choice for KGB.
Tires come in different sizes, weights and treads. One will want a larger diameter tire for softer surfaces or for off-road conditions. Tire weight will be determined by the style of riding you prefer. If you are an aggressive shredder, you will want a heavier tire that comes in 4 or 8 ply thickness. For freestyle the lighter yet less durable 2-ply tires are the norm. Many treads are available and can be chosen based on personal preference and terrain. Less aggressive treads are better for grassy fields and power slides. Knobby treads are ideal for the beach where the tire needs bite to get traction.
Q -Which Kite?
A - Groundboarding can be done with virtually any size or style of kite. Open cell foils with a brake safety system are the safest. These kites can be flown on either handles or a control bar and offer the rider complete autonomy. They can be self launched, reversed launched and packed away easily by the rider alone. As the rolling resistance is so low, many start on smaller sized kites, depending on the surface of the terrain one chooses to ride. On solid ground like a parking lot or hard packed beach, one can be out boarding on a trainer kite, while 3 to 5 meter sizes provide more power and are more common. Terrain with more resistance, like long grass and softer sand, will require a larger kite for more power.
Although cruising the beaches and parks is great fun, many riders are getting into Groundboarding for the freestyle aspect of the sport. For freestyle and for peace of mind you will need a kite with a sheeting system that allows you to de-power the kite while riding. The Frenzy04 is the only kite that offers de-power control with the safety of an open foil, these features make the Frenzy the ultimate KGB kite. The Frenzy 04 will give you greater control over the amount of power you want, you can fly a larger kite and really load it up for high, floaty airs. It’s like having gears… you can easily control the amount of power you want ‘on the fly’ at your fingertips. Due to the larger surface area of the kite you will not only fly higher, but the landings can be super soft.
Q - OK, but how does the damn thing stop?
A - Like Snowboarding and skating, one can power slide to ‘put on the brakes’ and stop the board. The most efficient and safest method is to use the kite to slow your speed and stop. Just steer the kite overhead slowly, it will no longer be pulling you forward and will eventually stop pulling altogether. This has to be done slowly otherwise the riders will find themself lifting off the ground. Also, while cruising along, one can fly the kite into the wind and edge the board upwind until you slow your speed to a comfortable level.
Q - I want a Landboard, what and where should I buy?
A - Nearly all kite, snowboard and skate shops sell KGB’s. Also search kite related web sites and forums as many people sell second hand equipment at knockdown prices. The best is to go to your local shop or flying area and ask for advice from experienced people.
Q - Where’s the best place for Landboarding, can I fly anywhere?
A - Ground boarding is such an amazing sport because of the easy access to usable terrain. A good beach can’t be beat. Ideally you are looking for hard pack terrain, which is usually found at low tide, or if you are lucky enough the entire beach! Beaches are great because the wind is almost always steady coming off the ocean. For those not near the coastline, a grassy field is the best option. A football field or park can be perfect for riding. Most towns offer a sports ground with a grassy field that is suitable for KGB and in many cases you might only be minutes away from a sweet session. The desert provides many riding options with a plethora of dry lakebeds and open hard pack terrain. Dry Lakes offer a pavement like surface and many are miles across. Check out the sbbb.net for details on one of the nicest lakes in the world. The most common place to KGB is your local shopping mall parking lot. Any open paved area, ideally without light poles and police can provide quick access to boarding.
No matter where you ride, always first check with local authorities to make sure kiting is allowed. Join a local kite club to find out details for your area.
Q - It seems scary, will I hurt myself?
A - Kite Ground Boarding, like all power kiting, is simply what you make of it. You can choose the kite size you feel comfortable with for the given wind conditions. Go out on a smaller kite and just cruise, or load up a big gun and be prepared to be powered UP. Either way, it is a smart choice to pad up with protective gear, you are on land and impact can hurt. It’s a small expense but the best investment you’ll make. You’ll need a helmet, gloves, knee and elbow pads and if you want to start jumping we would recommend getting back and shoulder protection like dirt bike riders use. Also a good pair of sunglasses to stop the glare of the sun.
Right, there you have it, hopefully the information above is enough and you’re ready to go out confidently and make your purchases. If you are in any doubt about what choices to make contact your local shop, instructor, read magazines, search the Internet or ask other kite flyers for information. You can never ask too many questions.