Have you ever wondered what kind of sport kitesurfing actually is? Is kite surfing an endurance sport or a strength sport? And how do the pro’s train? Do they train endurance or strength?
First, let’s get back to the beginning. What exactly is an endurance sport and what is a strength sport? What’s the difference?
With an endurance sport you mainly burden your stamina and your muscles less. During an endurance sport you burn a lot of calories, these are mainly obtained from carbohydrates. A small portion of the calories are taken from fat, protein and even your muscles. As soon as you stop exercising, the burning of calories stops as well. You mainly train your heart muscle, but you develop little muscle tissue. You move at a reasonable intensity for a long time.
With a strength sport you mainly burden your muscles and less your stamina. In contrast to an endurance sport, you burn few calories during a training, but you keep burning calories up to 48 hours after training. You accelerate your metabolism & develop more muscle tissue. You are not constantly moving, but the movement you do is more intensive than in an endurance sport.
- Endurance sports include: cycling, rowing, running, mountain climbing.
- Strength sports include: bodybuilding, weightlifting, power lifting.
And then we also have the fast strength sports: Surfing, gymnastics, athletics, sprinting, boxing, etc.
Surf!? Yes Yes! No smartass, as a kitesurfer you should not call yourself a strength athlete already. Let’s stay honest. Only the paddling a wave surfer does requires already so much more strength than a kitesurf freeride session.
When we talk about kitesurfing with the average kitesurfer in our mind, who is mainly busy with freeriding and once in a while throws a jump, back roll or other trick, we are talking about an endurance sport. After a session we have been working for a relatively long time, with a reasonable and sometimes even low intensity. That kite just really helps us a lot.
BUT. A “normal” quiet session of 5 hours cannot be compared to the 1 hour storm session in which you are pounding through the waves. When you make every effort to not be torn apart by those mega loops or when you try to land that unhooked trick 400 times in a row, we need to think of it more as a fast power sport. And now we are talking about the fanatics but not even about the pro’ s yet!
Speaking of pro’ s... What would they say about this? I asked a few well known kitesurfers 2 questions:
- Is kitesurfing (at a high level) a strength or endurance sport?
- Is your additional training mainly focused on strength or endurance?
"I agree with you that the big air discipline tends more towards a strength sport, perhaps 80% strength, but then I'm talking about the real stormy days. For me, wave riding feels more like an endurance sport than a strength sport.
My additional training is mainly endurance sport focused at this moment. A lot of cycling and running, throwing with iron is not included... Although, I did it a lot when I was semi-addicted to crossfit, but even then I wonder if all those muscles contribute to wave riding. I think a training of duration and explosiveness is what you want. Do not deadlift 100 kilograms for the sake of kitesurfing."
"Kitesurfing has a huge diversity of different disciplines & each discipline has its own challenges. For example, wakestyle / freestyle involves fast and intensive movements. It is super technical and intensive for the body. In big air, steering the kite is a challenge, the strength of the body is less important in that discipline. And last but certainly not least, we also have the racing disciplines, where small technical details and strategy are very important. To sum it up, I think kite surfing has it all.
In addition to kite surfing, I do many different sports. I do what feels good to my body without plan or strategic training. Meditating, running and cycling can all keep me busy. Sometimes my body asks for push-ups and sometimes just for a stretch. I think listening to your body is the most important thing in a healthy fitness, you have to learn to speak the same language. For me it is important to continue to focus on what is most important: having fun and enjoying being outside."
"There are of course different disciplines in kite surfing and the recreational kite is more of an endurance athlete. If you practice it at a high level, it goes more towards a combination of strength and endurance. Because everything has to be as powerful and good as possible, and that requires strength.
My additional training consists of yoga and workouts, where the focus is on strength, balance and explosiveness."
Annabel van Westerop
"Whether kiting is a strength or endurance sport certainly differs per discipline. I have always done freestyle competitions and that is definitely a strength sport: performing the tricks one by one very explosively. I think the wave surf discipline is also more powerful, because the number of minutes you have to get the waves is short and therefore you give everything at that moment. The racing discipline, on the other hand, is a real endurance sport. Stamina is key there.
My training was always focused on strength, because I had to be able to be explosive during the matches. Now I no longer train for competitions and so I have a broader training schedule to stay in shape in all areas. I notice that after years of strength training I have a lot of difficulty with endurance, for example: running is not easy for me! Haha!"
Again our question... Kitesurfing: endurance or strength sport?
Conclusion: Whether kitesurfing is an endurance sport or a (fast) strength sport depends entirely on the kitesurfer and the riding style/discipline that is practiced. Who are you as a kitesurfer? An endurance athlete or a strength athlete?