KITEBOARDING is where pumping adrenaline meets pumping iron. The sport combines surfing, windsurfing, snowboarding, paragliding and skateboarding, all while providing an intense full-body workout.
Riders stand on a narrow plank that resembles a snowboard while hanging onto a kite spanning 30 feet or more, which pulls them across the water. "You have the freedom to jump 10, 20, 30 feet off the water, even without the use of a wave," says instructor Nick Brouwer, owner of Nix Kite Curaçao, on the island that USA Today recognized as one of the best spots in the Caribbean for the sport.
Like many kiteboarders, Brouwer was a windsurfer who was converted after he tried kiteboarding on a whim. He got more than thrills; he got a workout. That side benefit attracted another convert, one who knows a good burn when he feels it. Exercise physiologist Mike T. Nelson says he was "shocked how sore my abs were after my first time riding a kiteboard." That's because to stay on the board, riders must battle the resistance of wind and water, holding their torsos steady while changing their leg and arm positioning to adapt and steer. "I'll ride for three to four hours at a time. The amount of exercise I get is great," says Nelson, "and I don't even feel like I'm exercising."
Despite the fitness benefits, beginners don't have to be especially strong, Brouwer says. As long as they have good mobility and overall health, anyone from eight to 80 can participate. He does advise patience at the start and recommends a teacher affiliated with the International Kiteboarding Association, but dedicated students can be up and riding quickly and be certified to kiteboard without the supervision of an instructor within days. "Once you get up," Nelson says, "you get addicted to that feeling."
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Surf Tips From Swim
"I think for me, surfing is always a great place to decompress. It's the best thing for my body and soul, a great way to really get centered and balanced mentally. It's also fun, and it's a great way to spend time with someone."
SI Swimsuit model and pro surfer
Kiteboarding requires a strong core, so if you want to get started or train to improve your skills, try adding the woodchopper exercise to your regular workout.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart with a cable or resistance band above to one side. Grab the handle with your arms extended.
Pull down and across your body, keeping your core tight and allowing your hips and torso to rotate. Slowly return to the starting position.
For more athlete training profiles and tips, go to SI.com/edge