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How to Avoid a Bad Kiteboarding School

Maybe your friends are already doing it, or perhaps your co-workers. Maybe you just want to add more street cred to your reputation. Either way it's time. You've decided it's finally time to learn to kiteboard! A good kiteboarding instructor can give you a solid foundation and take you from noob to awesome in the shortest time possible, but a bad one can waste your time and money, leaving you floundering as a beginner for years.

So, how do you know a good kite school from a bad kite school? You want to learn to kiteboard, but don’t want to waste your money on poor instruction. You want to get a good deal, but you don't want to sacrificing quality, or worse – your safety. We have seen a lot of bad behavior from kite schools that just want your money, but care little about your actual skill progression and can even be putting you in danger without you even knowing it. Here is how you can spot and avoid a bad kiteboarding school.

1.) Schools that put 2 or MORE students per instructor

The worst behavior we see is when schools try to put many students out on the water with one instructor. there is no way one person can keep watch for many student who are all doing different things, and certainly no way to give proper feedback to all of them. It may sound like you are getting a good deal, but they are actually trying to get the most revenue while only paying for one instructor, ripping you off and putting you in danger with your instructors attention divided.

Why it's a bad idea:

• Wastes your money, no attention on your skill progression, puts you in danger

Look for: Lessons that provide one-on-one instruction for the entire lesson. You will progress faster and at the pace you need, and it is safer when you have 100% attention of your instructor.

2.) Non-professional kite “dudes” trying to make an extra buck (dudettes, too)

Just because someone knows how to kite, does not mean they are qualified to teach someone else. A lot of people are trying to fund their vacation by giving occasional lessons, but they may not have learned the proper safety techniques and do not know how to lay the right kiteboarding foundation. Worse, we see beginners who can barely stay upwind giving lessons and passing off as "professionals", and others who party before their lessons, which is obviously dangerous for students.

Why it's a bad idea:

• Not practiced in the art of “teaching” others

• No training on proper building blocks around kite safety techniques

• Slows your progression; you will need more lessons, costing more $$$

• Drink or get high before lessons – puts you in danger!

Look for: IKO certified instructors. Those without it may not know proper skill layering or have been trained in proper safety techniques.

3.) Instructor stays on land or ATV during lessons

It may sound like a great system to have an instructor on an ATV or on land if they have a radio, but this system will waste your lesson time on non-water activities and potentially puts you in danger.

Why it's a bad idea:

• Means your water-time will be very short, wasting your valuable lesson time taking you and your kite upwind again for another “downwinder”, and re-setting up your gear over and over.

• The instructor is not with you on the water to help you if something goes wrong, putting your safety at risk! We have rescued many students from other schools who’s instructors were on land and unable to help them.

• You will ultimately need to buy more lessons to get to a certain level, costing you more money.

Look for: Schools that give lessons using jet ski or boat assistance, especially in deep water places like La Ventana, hands down. You will get the most time on the water during your lessons and your will be in the safest situation.

4.) Using cheap earbuds and calling them “radio helmets”– or NO radio at all

Not having constant feedback during your lesson is a waste of time since you don't know what you are doing right, wrong, or how to get out of trouble. Many schools cut corners with what they call radio helmets, but are actually non-waterproof earbuds and use tape to adhere them to your head. Professional radio helmets have the speakers built into the helmet and are synced with the instructor’s hand radio. Most schools do not want to spend the money for this level of quality.

Why it's a bad idea:

• Earbuds taped to your ear are not professional radio helmets – they fall of when water touches them.

• Earbuds get water logged causing failure and loss of communication with your instructor.

Look for: Schools that use professional radio helmets that have build in radio and are waterproof.

5.) Using old equipment because it is cheap

Many schools buy old used equipment from wherever they can find it because it is cheap. The kite can make a big difference between helping you learn faster or wasting your lesson time while struggling. A good school has invested in a brand and model that helps their student progress faster. Bad schools using a mishmash of different kite brands and styles are cutting corners and buying old kites because they are cheap.

Why it's a bad idea:

• Old technology means not up to date performance advancements, leaving you struggling to relaunch kites, struggling with kite control, leaving you more frustrated and less actual skill progression.

• Not up to date safety releases have a higher rate of failure in emergency situations, putting you in danger.

Look for: Schools that use one brand of kite that are no more than 2-3 years old.

6.) Shady sales techniques to get your money

These are harder to spot, but if it sounds too good to be true, there is usually a catch. Some schools have aggressive sales techniques to try to lock you in and take your money, but are trying to hide low quality lesson structures.

Why it's a bad idea:

• "Buy this package and you will get 3 hours FREE!" Sounds really good, right? What they are telling you is that they are giving the lesson while the instructor is on land, making it difficult for you to get the feedback you need and you are likely to need to walk your kite upwind every 20 minutes, meaning you will need lots more lessons in order to get the same amount of progress from a school that has jet skis and radio helmets. Let's be honest, do you want to be a kiteboarder faster, or do you want to be a lesson-taker?

• "Our instructors are so good, they don't need jet skis" Are you kidding me? What this means is they are too cheap to invest in the right system and they just want to get your money, even if it means you are not in the safest situation or your lesson time will be wasted on carrying your kite upwind. These kite schools tend to exhibit other bad behaviors mentioned above.

Look for: Avoid schools that say things like what we mentioned above. Good schools also offer discounts for package lessons rather than additional free hours. It's better to spend a few more dollars on quality lessons than waste your time and money.

Now you are equipped with the knowledge to weed out bad kiteboarding schools, and you can feel more confident about the school you do select. At 4 Elements Kiteboarding, we have incorporated the best in class practices for kiteboarding lessons. If you want to avoid all these bad behaviors and learn to kiteboard with professionals to focus on your skill progression, contact us!

Want to see what lessons should look like? Check out this video!

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