Catapulting up to 40 feet in the air above the breaking surf, kiteboarders hardly seem of this world. Silken kites hold the athletes aloft for precious seconds—long enough for the execution of mind-boggling tricks—then deposit them back in the sea. This new sport is not for the weak-kneed. No matter what people might tell you, it's harder to learn than windsurfing. The unskilled (or unlucky) can be caught in an upwind and carried far out in the ocean, or worse—dropped smack on the shore. Because of insurance (or the lack thereof), companies are not allowed to rent equipment. Beginners must take lessons, and then purchase their own gear. Devotees swear that after your first few lessons, committing to buying your kite is easy.
Kanaha Beach. The steady tracks on Kanaha Beach make this North Shore spot primo for learning. Specific areas are set aside for different water activities, so launch and land only in kiteboarding zones, and kindly give way to swimmers, divers, anglers, and paddlers. Amala Pl., Kahului, HI, 96732.
Aqua Sports Maui. A local favorite of kiteboarding schools, Aqua Sports is conveniently located near Kite Beach, at the west end of Kanaha Beach, and offers basic to advanced kiteboarding lessons. Rates start at $240 for a three-hour basics course taught by certified instructors. Amala Pl., near Kite Beach, Kahului, HI, 96732. PHONE: 808/242-8015. www.mauikiteboardinglessons.com.
Hawaiian Sailboarding Techniques. Pro kiteboarder and legendary windsurfer Alan Cadiz will have you safely ripping in no time at lower Kanaha Beach Park. A "Learn to Kitesurf" package starts at $225 for a three-hour private lesson, equipment included. Instead of observing from the shore, instructors paddle after students on a chaseboard to give immediate feedback. The company is part of Hi-Tech Surf Sports, in the Triangle Square shopping center. Triangle Square, 425 Koloa St., Kahului, HI, 96732. PHONE: 808/871-5423 or 800/968-5423. www.hstwindsurfing.com.
Kiteboarding School of Maui. One of the first kiteboarding schools in the United States, KSM offers one-on-one "flight lessons." Pro kiteboarders will induct you at Kite Beach, at the west end of Kanaha Beach, providing instruction, equipment, snacks, and FAA guidelines. (Seriously, there are rules about avoiding airplanes at nearby Kahului Airport.) Rates start at $270 for three hours. KSM is the only school that offers retail gear as well as instruction. They offer a 15 to 25% discount on gear, depending on how many lessons are purchased. 400 Hana Hwy., Kahului, HI, 96732. PHONE: 808/873-0015. www.ksmaui.com.