Kitesurfing is a highly physical sport, but as most of the power of the kite is taken though the waist/seat harness, it makes the sport accessible to virtually anyone with average level of fitness, however it still pays to keep as well conditioned as possible. The general assumption is that it requires significant upper body strength, but as the power is not really taken through the arms, this isn’t necessarily the case, but the shoulders do require good range of motion for all types and levels of riding and particularly for body dragging – which we all do at some point, not just when we’re learning!
Kitesurfing places high demands on the quadriceps (front of thigh), as the knees are often bent, effectively putting you in an isometric (static) contraction for the whole period you are riding. The hamstrings (back of thigh) and gluteals (buttocks) are also acting as global stabilisers. Core and back strength plays a huge role as, even in light winds, kitesurfers are working with huge dynamic forces pulling in all directions.
Light winds will see you mustering as much trunk rotation as possible to maintain your edge and your position on the water. Whereas stronger winds, creating more bar pressure (pull), will demand a lot more of the shoulders and latissimus (back and side of the trunk), arms – including forearms and wrists – in order to maintain control. And at every level of kiting, the neck takes the brunt of falls and mistakes, with strain to the neck flexors (front and side of neck).
As with any sport, over time, training hard can make all of these areas prone to tension and tightening as the body’s soft tissues – muscles, tendons, ligaments – become shorter and less elastic. A good stretching regime will help to counteract these effects and regular sports massage will play a vital role. Sports massage stretches and lengthens muscles fibres that often struggle to be stretched in any other way and thereby flush out tension in the muscles and associated structures.
Compared to windsurfing, kiting has a very quick learning curve, so you can soon find yourself riding harder and longer, doing jumps and tricks, all of which puts more force on the body. The constant changing direction and pull of the kite in opposing directions requires huge amounts of stabilising and deceleration of many of the major leg and trunk muscles. Jumping specifically puts huge loads on the body, especially with repeated bad landings, which can create discomfort and injuries in the back, knees and ankles. It is also not uncommon to receive a blow, from contact with the board, beach or collision with other riders. Significant blows can cause swelling and bruising which will require RICE protocol (Rest, application of Ice and Compression and Elevation) to help the injury repair. In this case massage will help break down adhesion’s and scar tissue that may otherwise start to inhibit movement and will encourage blood flow to the area to help eliminate waste products, brought about from the healing process, from the tissues.
In the right conditions, kiters will ride for hours with little or no break, so our slow twitch muscles fibres are hard at work in terms of endurance, but also our fast twitch fibres which enable us to perform power moves. And as you get into more aggressive riding along with freestyle and wave-riding, a lot more strain is placed on all the muscles and also the myofascial (connective tissue) slings (diagonal anterior and posterior), which can shorten over time, reducing flexibility and causing pain and stiffness.
All of these areas require conditioning. Weight training will help replicate the additional forces placed on the body when in water and will enhance muscle strength and joint stability. Pilates will assist with core strength, spine and pelvic alignment and general muscle balance. Regular stretching and regular maintenance sports massage will help keep soft tissues in an optimal state of health and pliability and together will limit our likelihood of injury and allow us to keep improving our riding.
If you are interested in Sports Massage in Poole or Bournemouth, Lilliput Health has an expert team of Sports Massage Therapists that can tailor treatments for your specific needs.