Should you BUY or RENT kitesurfing gear? Check the pros and cons.
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
So you've had a few kitesurfing lessons and you are getting super stoked about it. You can see this sport becoming something you would regularly engage in and enjoy. You want to shred the waters and boost into the sky. You want to feel the wind on your face as you zoom across the surface of the water, soak your wetsuit in the sea and soak your soul in the awesome sensation of freedom kitesurfing gives you. All that and more - it is what we kitesurfing addicts are in for, and this is why we love this sport so much.
Now, if you are interested in pursuing kitesurfing as a hobby, sooner or later you are going to find yourself faced with the inevitable dilemma: Should you buy your own kitesurfing equipment or just rent it at kitesurfing spots or from kitesurfing schools/shops in your area?
Kitesurfing was never cheap to begin with, and it is getting more and more expensive each year, as the materials used are becoming more high-tech and manufacturers compete to deliver the highest quality products to the market. An interesting insight into the development of kitesurfing and where it might be headed can be found on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4beCzdPzuNE)
There are over 50 kitesurfing brands out there, ranging from large mainstream brands to smaller, boutique manufacturers. In my experience, though, the majority of kites you will see on the beach belong to 10 of the largest and most dominant brands: Duotone, Cabrinha, Core, Naish, Slingshot, Ozone, Flysurfer, North, F-One and Airush. The ratio between these will also depend to some extent on where you are, as some brands tend to be more represented in specific parts of the world. We should not forget to mention the manufacturers of kitesurfing apparel, such as Mystic, Ion, RideEngine and other brands which produce harnesses, wetsuits and other accessories required for kitesurfing (and other watersports).
Let's say that, for a basic kitesurfing "kit", you will need a:
Board + straps
Two kites (it is advisable to have minimum two kites in your quiver in order to cover a sufficiently wide wind range)
Harness with a leash, and
Wetsuit and/or lycra shirt (you may not need a wetsuit if you only kite in warm conditions, but it represents a small expense, so we can leave it on the list).
If you buy all this equipment brand new, the price quickly adds up into the 4,000 - 5,000 EUR range or more, depending on the kite brand you choose. Cost-wise, then, we can see that kitesurfing is quite a different matter from buying a nice pair of running shoes or a tennis racket. An alternative option is to buy second hand equipment (say 1 or 2 years old), in which case you can reduce the cost by 40-50%. Nonetheless, even 2,000 - 2,500 EUR can still represent a significant investment, especially if you intend to kitesurf only occasionally.
On the other hand, almost all major kitesurfing spots have one or several kiteschools and/or kite shops which offer the possibility of renting complete kitesurfing gear kits. So it might be easier and less costly for you to just rent the equipment, whenever you go kitesurfing. Both options (owning vs. renting) have their advantages and disadvantages. Let's have a look at some of them:
You can pick and choose exactly the kind of kite gear you want, depending on your proficiency and style of riding.
If you have your own gear, you are used to it and know exactly how it behaves, thus you can ride more confidently, perform better and progress faster.
It gives you more freedom, i.e. you can go kitesurfing whenever you want, without having to first contact the rental agency/school/shop and make a reservation, etc. Just put the gear into the trunk and - action!
You can kitesurf at unofficial kite spots where there are no kiteschools, kite shops or other places which would offer rentals.
A substantial initial investment.
The costs of any damage, tears, holes, etc. are borne by you.
You often have to go through the process of selling your old gear and buying a new one, especially if you want to replace it each season, or for example if you find out you do not like a particular type of kite.
You bear the extra costs of flying your gear to remote distances (some airlines charge substantially for sports equipment luggage).
Risk of malfunction and injury if you do not take proper care of your gear and/or if you use old and worn out gear.
It takes up space. This might sound like a negligible disadvantage, but if you happen to live in a small apartment, the entire set of equipment takes up quite a bit of space, which might be a nuisance if you only use it a couple of times per year. It is not advisable to keep it in damp basements, garden sheds or attics.
No initial investment
you do not have to worry too much about damaging the gear, especially if you purchase insurance (recommended, especially if you are a beginner).
No equipment transportation costs.
Kiteschools and rental shops often change their kites every season, so their gear (at least kites and bars) are usually in very good condition and properly maintained, thus reducing the risk of malfunction and injury.
Kiteschools and rentalt shops have a lot of kite sizes in their quiver, so you can choose exactly the right kite for the current conditions and change it quickly if needed.
You are limited to what a specific kiteschool or rental shop has to offer. Sometimes they do not have the kite/board/harness which would suit you perfectly, thus you cannot ride at the best of your abilities.
If you are late and there are a lot of other customers, you might be left without any equipment and miss a great session.
You may be riding with equipment you are not used to, which hampers your ability to ride as comfortably and confidently as you can, and it entails a higher risk of injury.
Depending on the location, renting the entire set of kite gear for either a couple of hours or an entire day, can be anywhere from 30 - 150 EUR or more. If you are kitesurfing a lot, the cost of renting quickly adds up to the point where it would make more sense to just buy it instead.
More logistics (making a reservation, picking up the gear and returning it, etc) - this only applies if you want to go kitesurfing somewhere where there are no on-the-spot kiteschools or rental shops, thus you have to rent it somewhere else and bring it to the spot.
How to decide?
As we can see above, both renting and owning have their pros and cons. So how to decide which option is right for you? This is a bit of a personal preference and there is no clear "objective" reason to do either one or the other. However, there are some indicators which might suggest which option would be more suitable for you. To render the decision a bit easier, try asking yourself the following questions:
1. What is my current skill level? I think this is a no-brainer, but let me stress it nonetheless: if you are completely new to kitesurfing, it makes no sense to buy your own gear right away. Have a few lessons, wait until you reach the level where you can ride confidently upwind and have reasonable control of your riding in different conditions. Then (if you have this possibility) try a few different brands and kites, and only then decide if (and what) you want to purchase.
Before you buy, do your research - read about different kite types and brands online, check the manufacturer descriptions and independent user reviews of particular kites. Kite brands have different type of kites for different purposes and skill levels. Just because you used a certain kite brand/type when you were learning to kitesurf and you liked it, it does not mean you won't like another kite even more. It also depends on your personal preference - for example, some riders prefer to have more force on the bar, more aggressive kite steering and more pull, whereas others prefer a softer feel and smoother steering. I suggest you do not commit to a purchase before you at least approximately know what you like, what you want and what will be a best fit for your skill level.
2. How often do I intend to go kitesurfing? This is the most important one. If you are super excited about kitesurfing and you intend to devote a lot of time to it and go kitesurfing often, then it would make sense to make the investment and buy your own equipment. After you get used to it, you will know exactly how it behaves, which will give you more confidence and enable faster progression. As noted above, I suggest experimenting by renting the gear for some time while you are a beginner, to see which kites, which brand, and what style of riding you prefer, before finally committing to a purchase.
On the other hand, perhaps kitesurfing is something which you only intend to do a couple days per year, maybe a few odd weekends or go on a once-per-year two-week kitesurfing trip. Or maybe if you deem it just as an additional activity you can do on your summer vacation just in case it's windy. In these cases, renting is probably a better option for you. It entails much less hassle (transportation, maintenance of gear, etc.) and expenses. As a rule of thumb, I would say if you expect to kitesurf less than 10-15 days per year, then renting is probably a more sensible option.
2. Where and when will I primarily kitesurf? Other factors are to be considered as well, such as whether you live close to a kitesurfing spot and you can go on a day or half-day trip? Do you intend to kitesurf on spots where there are no kitesurfing schools or shops and thus no possibility of renting? Do you only intend to kitesurf on kitesurfing trips to distant places? Essentially, this boils down to the previous question - i.e. how often do you intend to kitesurf - but it adds an extra layer of complexity.
For example, if you have a nice kite spot close to your home but there is no possibility of rental nearby, then you really have no other option than to buy, even if you do not intend to go kitesurfing very often. The good news is that, at least in the last couple of years, kitesurfing equipment has not seen any huge advances in technology and performance. This means that, if you buy a new set of equipment and take good care of it, it should serve you well for quite a few years, especially if you use it rarely and do not demand peak performance from your equipment.
It is noteworthy that harsh conditions such as extreme heat and sun, sand abrasion and flutter (while kites are lying on the beach), and salt all take their toll on the durability of the equipment, thus it is never advisable to leave any of it exposed to the sun and wind for prolonged periods of time, when you are not riding.
Ok, so to sum up: the decision between buying or renting depends on your specific circumstances. If you like the idea of having your own gear and the costs are not an issue, then by all means go for it and buy it, regardless of how often do you plan to kitesurf. On the other hand, if you are not sure about committing to a purchase, take into account all the above and decide. As stipulated, the big question is how often do you intend (and have the opportunity) to kitesurf. If the answer is "a lot", then, sooner or later, it will make sense to buy your own gear. If the answer is "rarely" or "occasionally", then, well, think about it. I hope this article will help you a little bit.
Ride safe and have fun!