Kiteboarding: the most popular designation for the sport in United States, Canada, Argentina, France, and the Czech Republic | Photo: Maragni/Red Bull

What do you call the sport of riding a board on water while being pulled by a kite? Are you a kiteboarder or a kitesurfer? What is the official name for the action sport?

It is one of the youngest boardsports in the world, and it was born in the early 1980s in France and Hawaii.

Generally speaking, kiteboarding and kitesurfing are different names for the same water sport.

The majority of people use them interchangeably in conversations, although purists say they do not represent the same thing.

So, why do we have two titles for one single outdoor activity?

One of the reasons kite enthusiasts use two terms for the same sport is that there has always been a dispute on whether it should be considered a sailing or surfing recreation.

Some argue that a kite is a sail, or wing, that uses the wind's power to propel the participant across the water.

For them, kiteboarding is a sailing or wind sport similar to windsurfing.

If we look at the technical aspects of the kite ride, we'll find several characteristics featured in sailing: upwind and downwind navigation, tacking and jibing, port and starboard, points of sail, and wind window.

Others will point out that the main drive is the board and that riders use directional surfboards (as opposed to twin tip boards) that can be ridden in the surf; thus, it should be named kitesurfing.

From a historical perspective, the sport was inspired by sailboats, and it only got to the waves in the early 1990s.

Kitesurfing: a term that is popular in Brazil, Europe, Middle East, Russia, India, and Oceania | Photo: Shutterstock

Sailing or Surfing?

This subtle semantic divergence has had several implications for the bureaucratic categorization of the sport.

Should kiteboarding be ruled under World Sailing (WS), or should kitesurfing be under the International Surfing Association (ISA) umbrella?

The truth is that kiteboarding/kitesurfing ended up falling into World Sailing's governance.

But increasingly discontent voices suggest a third way - creating a globally recognized kite sports association, which could address the specific needs of all water and land disciplines.

In fact, the sport of riding kites has many diverse disciplines, and that doesn't help the cause of finding an official name for the pastime.

While the course racing, slalom, and speed disciplines support the kiteboarding foundation, waves, big air, and freestyle are closer to the kitesurfing enthusiasts.

From a purely statistical point of view, the term kiteboarding is more popular in the United States, Canada, Argentina, France, and the Czech Republic, while kitesurfing remains the favorite designation in Brazil, Europe, the Middle East, Russia, India, and Oceania.

One thing's for sure: the sport itself combines components of sailing, surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, and even paragliding, so there should not be one single name for it.

Whether you call it kiteboarding or kitesurfing, it will always be a colorful, exhilarating, highly versatile, and challenging sport that attracts wave riding and wind speed fanatics alike.

Learn more about the sport of kiteboarding/kitesurfing.

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