Kiteboarding is true to my lifestyle, and true to life, if you exercise a bit of preventative maintenance then your equipment will fly better, last longer, and provide you with a lot more enjoyment. Kiteboarding equipment is not the cheapest to buy, it certainly is not like going to Wall-Mart and buying a one-line decorative kite. The gear costs a good chunk of change, and it costs as much as it is worth, trust me. Just like any other valued treasure in your possession, you want to keep it in good condition. That way it is ready when you want to use it, and it last longer. You can’t complain with that. Kiteboarding does not have to much preventative maintenance. Its not like a car where you have to change moving parts all the time. To keep your kite as we say “crispy,” just follow a few common sense steps.
Within the realm of Kiteboarding there are some categories of maintenance to keep in mind. Those categories are the kite itself, the kite pump, the bar lines and safety system, the harness, and the board. Lets take a look at each one individually.
The Kite Itself: Storage. when you are not using your kite is is best to have it neatly rolled up and in the appropriate sized bag. But more than that you want to roll your kite up without sand or moisture on the kite. If you pack it away wet and dirty then that way it will stay in the bad. Your kite will discolor and the fabrics will begin to wear from the sand and water rubbing against the kite while inside the bag. So please, put your kite back in its bag, dry and clean if you can. This means sometimes letting your kite dry in the sun after a session before you pack it up. It is also clever to carry a clean rag with you. Some soft material like an old cotton T-shirt that you can use to wipe off the dirt. Clean and dry the kite while it is inflated. Once every few weeks, after your session, inspect the kite thoroughly. Look at the bridles, leader lines, and pigtails for signs that the ropes are in good condition. If they are not then change them before you snap a bridle in the middle of a session and do further damage to your kite. Also, routinely check the canopy and stitching for any tears or pinholes. Fix these as they occur. Kite maintenance on the water. Do not self-launch over rough terrain, try not to crash your kite to hard. If you are uncertain of what to do, just let go of the bar and let the kite come down gently. Most people who hold on the bar when they should let go end up with giant rips in the canopy of their kite, or they blow up a bladder. Speaking of the bladder. Every now and then please check your valves for slow leaks. This is a common problem that if spotted in time will prevent a session with an unhappy ending.
The Kite Pump: This piece of equipment is neglected by most riders. That is so foolish. The pump is the most important piece of equipment to take care of. It has the most moving parts, the most fragile construction, and you need it, absolutely need it, to pump up your kite if you want a session. Maintaining a pump is very easy, and very hard at the same time. All you have to do is pay attention to it. Keep the pump attached to your kite back, but leave the pump hose detached. When you leave the hose attached and the pump falls onto its side then the pump tube tares easily and you end up with a leaky pump. Nothing is more frustrating than a leaky pump. If only attach the hose to the pump when you inflate your kite then that tube will last a lot longer and you will save yourself much aggravation. Next, pumps need to have a clean and lubricated interior. If you dissect your pump, (by unscrewing the top,) you will find that a rubber o-ring supplies the airtight seal, and that a couple of gasket valves allow the double action of the pump. If your pump is sticking or squeaking, or you notice that only strokes of one direction push air, then you will need to open your pump. Unscrew the top, pull out the handle, clean the o-ring and smear some Vaseline around it. Then look at the gasket valves, most of the time one of them has been knocked out of its groove. Simply put it back in the groove. Put everything back together, and your pump will be good for another few months.
Lines: Before each session you walk-out the lines. As you walk them out check them for any inconsistency. I’m talking about knots in the line, frays or pinches flattened out spots. Especially check the pigtail where you connect the kite to your lines. This part of the lines takes the most abuse, and it is a good idea to carry an extra set so you can replace them as needed. If you have a knot in your lines the best way to get therm out is with your own saliva. No joke, put the knot in your mouth, use your back molars to gnaw on the line. Work your saliva into the lines for a few minutes. Then try to work the knot out with your fingers.
Bar: The control bar is where all of your safety equipment is located. If there is one piece of equipment, besides the pump, to keep pristine, the bar is it. It does not take a lot of time to inspect your bar, so you can do this every few sessions. Look at your “throw” line to make sure it has not frayed. If it has then replace it. Check your leader lines to make sure they are okay. Check your chicken loop by testing the quick release. Make sure that you can actually disable your kite. Don’t just pop the chicken loop and put it back together. Finally inspect your power strap. Run a routine check on your bar once a week or so and it will never fail you. If you have a pulley bar remember to check your pulley’s.
Harness: This is an easy one. Does your harness still fit? Does it still feel comfortable? Are the straps frayed? Any stitching out of place or missing? Is your grab handle tattered? Are the metal parts securely fasted by their bolts? Is your spreader bar in good shape? If you address those questions then you will know what kind of shape your harness is in. Personally I try to get a new harness every year. They break down faster than the rest of the equipment, and I like to be comfortable on the water.
The Board: To maintain your board is easy. Check the screws frequently and make sure they are all tightly fastened. If the footpads wear or the straps wear then you need to replace them. Keep it clean between sessions. Rinse it off so sand doesn’t build up under the food pad. Adjust the straps from time to time to prevent them from getting stiff in one position. Don’t jump around with your board on your feet while you are on land.
So now you know some of the more common ways your gear will break down, and how to prevent further damage. Its always easier to replace a harness, or a line, or a pigtail, or a bridle, than it is to replace your kite.