We’ve had a lot of requests for a video on my favorite boots and the difference between boots and straps. The truth is kiteboarding is a diverse sport and what works for one person might not be best for another. Boots and straps both have their place and are here to stay.
It’s funny, in the early days, the first kiteboarders were actually wearing wakeboarding boots and building features. Just check out films like Auotofocus with Andre Philip and Jason Slezak. Or google Lou Wainman from the early 2000’s. Those guys were doing some amazing things with primitive gear. Some time after, footstraps became king and for good reason. Kites used to be dangerous and lacked any depower. Being able to ditch your board was essential for newer riders. This is where it gets funny. Sometime around 2011, we saw a huge resurgence with booted pro riders yet shops were hesitant to let new riders use anything but footstraps. Sometimes, trends need time to catch up. With modern gear being so safe and easy to use any kiteboarder with the ability to fly their kite with one hand could use boots now. That said, there are trade offs and benefits to each connection system. I’ll break all that down in this video and share what my favorite boots are.
Who should use them and why?
If you are just starting out, you should use footstraps. They are easier to get in and out of. It’s easier to ride upwind in them and the crashes are much more mellow. You can even just kick the board away while falling. Most important is after a crash, you don’t have a board creating resistance in the water. Sometimes, it's difficult for people who lack kite control and core strength to roll around and orient themselves after a crash.
They are also fun! I don’t use them often personally but when I do, I always enjoy them. You are more flexible for one! That means grabs are much easier and you can really tweak things out. Its also nice to just hop in and out of the board on the beach. You can do fun things like beach starts where you jump and put your board on or do old school tricks like board offs if thats your thing.
If you like to do kiteloops, sometimes the falls can be really rough. It’s not fun having a board locked to your feet when you take a hard fall like that. Being able to kick the board away on these tricks is also nice.
Boots will be more familiar to people crossing over from other board sports like snowboarding or wakeboarding. You get more ankle support and a locked in feeling on the board. They allow you to do more powered tricks and hold down more power in general. If you are looking to hit features or ramps, they are essential. I wouldn’t want a foot to come out on the middle of a rail!
If you are coming over from snowboarding like many kiteboarders, it might be tempting to get a pair of boots right away. I would recommend waiting a few months while you learn your kite first. It will save a lot of frustration while you get that part out of the way. That said, if you are a high level wakeboarder, you could get away with using boots really quickly. You would just want to spend a few sessions body dragging and mastering your kite first.
They do make some people feel more comfortable trying tricks too. Not feeling like your feet are going to come out of the board inspires a lot of confidence! Especially if you are unhooking or keeping the kite low.
Who should be using boots
There is a funny stigma with boots but frankly if it's something you want to do you should! Boots are really fun, I almost exclusively use them myself because of all the benefits. Now, bear in mind, there are some trade offs and they are not for everyone. You do lose some flexibility. It’s more difficult to get upwind for inexperienced riders and crashing can hurt more if you don’t know how to do it right.
If it’s your first season, footstraps are a good idea. If you have been snowboarding or wakeboarding for a while spend a couple months in straps while you figure out the kite and cross right back over. Boots make kiteboarding feel more like a boardsport. You can recreate the feeling of snowboarding or wakeboarding if you use them. They allow you to have more control over your edge and they allow you to ride more powered. More importantly, if you are going for powered tricks, they keep you locked in and let you land with more power.
Now, if you're just casually freeriding, doing a jump here or there boots might not be much of an interest to you. Grabs are easier without them, crashing is easier and getting upwind is easier. The biggest issue with boots pertaining to newer riders is that they are more difficult to get into and out of.
The choice is up to you on this one. They aren’t for everyone but if you happen to be a snowboarder or wakeboarder or you want to treat kiteboarding like one of those sports, then you should absolutely use them.