Surf’s up - and so are the kites as sport gains new fans

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Kitesurfing is one of the fastest growing watersports in the world. There are now more than 7,000 kitesurfers in the UK and it is becoming all the more common to see the sport being practised on beaches all over the country.

Are you looking for a new sport to take up in this new year? Fishbourne student Pippa Grundy reckons you could do a lot worse than giving kitesurfing a go - here she explains why.

Kitesurfing is one of the fastest growing watersports in the world. There are now more than 7,000 kitesurfers in the UK and it is becoming all the more common to see the sport being practised on beaches all over the country.

Kitesurfing is a surface water sport where a rider uses a large kite to catch the wind and pull the rider across the water on a small surfboard or a kiteboard, similar to a wakeboard.

As well as kites being used for watersports, it is also common to see buggies and mountain boards whizzing up and down British beaches with the aid of kites powered by the wind.

Take a trip to the Witterings on a windy day and you can see all the action happening.

Kite sports are a fantastic way to keep fit, while enjoying the outdoors rather than suffering in a stuffy gymnasium day after day. As the sport grows, many kite schools are appearing on the south coast, the closest being the Bracklesham Boarders team running the Get Kiteboarding kite school (www.getkiteboarding.co.uk).

If you are thinking of giving kite sports ago, there are a few safety points to consider:

* Start by booking a lesson with a qualified kite sports instructor.

* Never launch a kite near electric power lines, or anything your lines could get tangled in, such as trees.

* When buying equipment, always seek a range of professional advice. Buying the wrong size kite for your ability could lead to you or others around you getting injured, being put off the sport for life that you would love with the right equipment. For more information visit www.kitesurfing.org.uk

As for me, I’m a 19-year-old currently at university. Away from studying, my main hobby is kitesurfing.

I spent every summer in southern Spain, where I would see kitesurfers every day. I was desperate for a lesson.

After years of being told I was not old enough to try such a sport, I finally convinced my dad to have a lesson with me back in the UK.

When I first got up riding at my local beach, it was the start of a brilliant – and expensive – journey, which I am still on now to become a professional kitesurfer.

Last year I started to compete on the national tour for freestyle kitesurfing and I really enjoyed it.

I am now focusing on improving as much as I can before the 2011 tour begins, getting to the beach every chance I get.

It is difficult to get out regularly, especially during the winter months when the water gets to temperatures close to freezing.

However, once I have my degree I hope to spend the winter months abroad, where conditions are constantly windy and warm which is great for training.

When I am at home from university, you will find me down at Bracklesham, when the conditions are good for kiting.

Feel free to come ask some questions if you spot me down the beach.

* For updates on my progression path in kitesurfing, visit www.pippagrundy.com