How to choose a strapless kite surfboard

The ultimate guide to help you find the right surfboard for kitesurfing

How to choose the right kite surfboard for strapless kitesurfing?

A question we often get; How do I know what kite surfboard is right for me? Choosing the right kite surfboard is not easy. There are so many different options, types and shapes. And there are so many different combinations and variations possible. Because there is so much choice nowadays, kite surfers often try to stick to certain fixed values. So at least there is a limitation in that overkill of choices. 


How to choose the right size of a kite surfboard?

A good example of this fixed values is the size of a kite surfboard. Often kitesurfers are looking for a fixed size. Like a 5’2” or 6’0”. This is often based on their height and weight. But is choosing the size of your kite surfboard really such a fixed thing? Unfortunately, there’s more to it than that. Of course, your height and weight gives you an indication about which size kiteboard to choose. But things like your experience, wind strength, discipline, style and the shape of the board are also very important. In addition, the length of your kite surfboard is not the only thing that determines whether your kite surfboard is right for you. Don’t forget the volume, for example, or the outline of a board. 


We are here to help you choosing the right kiteboard

Don’t get overwhelmed, this article is going to help you find your way in the kite surfboard offerings. It should help you to choose the right kite surfboard that suits you and the conditions in which you prefer to strapless kite. For the Appletree surfboards we have made a kite surfboard calculator. This kite surfboard calculator calculates the right model and size for you based on a number of questions. Give it a try

How to choose a strapless kite surfboard


What types or shapes of kiteboards are there?

Let’s start at the beginning. To choose the right kiteboard, you need to know which discipline you want to practice. The three main types of kiteboards are: twin-tip boards, kite surfboards, and foil boards. In this article we only focus on kite surfboards. Kite surfboards are also called directional kiteboards or strapless kiteboards (but sometimes they do have straps). It’s like surfing with a kite. We can roughly divide directional kiteboards into two groups: wave kite surfboards and freestyle kite surfboards. Wave kite surfboards are, as the name says, used in waves and strapless freestyle kite surfboards are mainly used on flat water. 


What is the difference between a kite surfboard for waves and a kite surfboard for flat water/freestyle ?

Kiteboards used purely for wave riding are generally longer in length around 6 foot. And have more rocker, or bottom curve, we will call it rocker from now on. The size will be similar to the size of a normal surfboard, but usually a bit smaller as there is no volume needed for paddling. Because of the added length, the boards can be narrower, which makes them hold an edge better in the waves (more on this later). Most pure wave kiters also want a flexible wave kiteboard. Wave kiteboards don’t have to be ultra strong, as this usually also makes the board stiffer. Some wave riders will prefer to use straps on their wave kiteboard, which is fine, some like it some don’t. The straps are only used to gain control in big surf and for not losing the board in big surf. Some riders feel they can turn with more power when in straps. The straps on a wave kiteboard are usually not there for jumping. Jumping can be done, but then it is better to use a freestyle construction. 


Strapless freestyle

A strapless freestyle kiteboard is usually shorter, around the 5 foot mark. This makes the board spin easier in tricks. And the weight is more centered over the board, helping the board to stick under the feet better. The rocker is usually flatter, but sometimes the board will have an acceleration or kick in the back of the board, to help with release on jump tricks. Finally the boards are made stronger, some even in full carbon fibre to keep them ultra light. This of course is needed to resist jumping and landing on the deck. 

Having trouble choosing whether you want a glass or a carbon kite surfboard? Check our blog article about carbon vs. glass kite surfboards.


Can you use a normal surfboard for kitesurfing?

Strapless kitesurfing is like kitesurfing on a normal surfboard. Or like surfing with a kite. Yet there are big differences between a normal surfboard and a wave kiteboard. A regular surfboard is usually not strong enough for kitesurfing. Why not? This has mainly to do with the strain that comes on the deck of the surfboard during surfing or kitesurfing. When surfing you are only standing on the board maybe 10% of the time. In kitesurfing you are standing on the deck 100% of the time. So as you can imagine, the deck has to be much stronger. And we are not even talking about strapless freestyle, which will add even more stress to the deck. Wieger will explain it in more detail in the video.

What shape of kite surfboard should i get?

First of all, it is important to determine in which conditions you will use the kite surfboard most of the time. Are you a real strapless freestyle killer, do you like a mix of freestyle and small waves or do you prefer big waves and strong winds? With that in mind, you can take a closer look at the shape of a kite surfboard. We will go through the basics of a kite surfboard with you. This starts with how a board is built up and what features they have. A good starting point is also our KITEBOARD FINDER.


Different parts of a kite surfboard

Which part determines how the kite surfboard, or directional kiteboard, will perform? It’s not easy to answer that. All parts together determine, among other things, the design, the volume of the board, the control of the water flow and the maneuverability. When designing a board, we at Appletree first try and find the best combination of rocker, outline and rails. Only when we have this balance right we add stuff like crazy tails and bottoms to make the board better. And more exiting! So let’s start with those three points that for us are the basis of shaping a kite surfboard, so you know what to look for in your next board. 



The outline is the shape/contour of the kite surfboard looking from the top. The outline directly impacts how your board is going to perform. By the outline, what we mean, is the overall shape of the board and how the interaction of the different noses, rail and tails, influences the general outline and therefore performance. There are a lot of different kinds of outlines. Basically it comes down to super parallel to almost as round as a ball and everything in between. Just to make it clear how many outlines there are. 

A parallel outline gives your board more speed down the line, also it will help to go upwind. This is why you see this much more in kite surfboards and not so much in normal surfboards, as going upwind is not something you will have to do on a normal surfboard. It will make turning a little more challenging. With a kiteboard shape such a parallel outline often has more rocker in the back, to compensate, as more rocker will help turning. 

A curved outline is exactly what it is, a curve from the nose to the tail. It is not uncommon to see a shorter and flatter rocker with a curved outline. Because the curved outline allows you to make tight turns and the flatter rocker gives you the speed you need. As you can see, it’s all about the balance, and changing one thing usually means you have to change something else as well, to get the balance right. 

COP a kite surfboard with a parallel outline

Our C.O.P. model is a good example of a parallel outline.



The rails are the edge of the kite surfboard. They run from the nose to the tail and connect the deck to the bottom of the surfboard. There are two main types: a soft rail and a hard rail. In between there are many variations. A few examples are:

  • Round rail: A round rail forms almost a semicircle
  • Down rail: a rail that forms an edge towards the bottom of the surfboard
  • Egg rail: an egg rail looks like a round rail, but runs a little more outward, like the shape of an egg.
  • 50/50: the widest part of the rail is in the middle of the rail
  • 60/40: The widest part of the rail is more towards the bottom of the board


Usually the harder the rail with more edge, the faster the board. This is because the water will release off the hard edge easier than off a round edge. In kite surfing the speeds are much higher than in normal surfing, this means that usually only boards with thinner harder edges are used. If you make the rail really thick, with a lot of volume in the rail, it will be harder to push under water. It will make the board more bouncy, which you don’t want in a kite surfboard. Trying to pack volume in a board can be done without adding too much volume to the rail, so usually a thick rail in a kitesurf directional is a sign of poor design. 



The rocker is the curve of a surfboard, from the nose to the tail. The best way to determine the amount of rocker is to lay the board flat on the ground or keep it flat in front of you. This way you can also see the balance in the board and compare the nose and the tail rocker. General rule, a flat rocker will go upwind very well, but will be harder to turn. A lot of rocker will be loose and easy to turn, but not so good upwind and it can feel nervous. In kite surfboards you see a lot of boards with little rocker in the front and middle with extra rocker in the tail. This way you can move the weight forward when sailing upwind and use the flat rocker to go upwind faster. And move the weight backward when riding waves, so you can do tight turns. 



The nose of a surfboard is the tip of the board. The nose of a surfboard is out of the water when riding. There are different nose shapes. To keep it very simple: from square to pointy and everything in between. Most freestyle boards will have a rounded or even squared off nose. This is to lose length, but to keep width and parallel rail outline. A longer pointy nose is generally better in steeper waves where you need the nose area to prevent the board from diving. This is usually combined with extra rocker to also help prevent dives. As mentioned before it’s always a balance. 



The tail of the surfboard is at the back of the board. There are a wide range of tail shapes. The most common ones will be explained. On each tail a variation is possible. 

A tail is very determined for the outline also. A tail does not start at the last 10 cm, but basically at the widest part of the board. the outline has to start curving toward the tail in the middle. So the effect of the tail is always combined with the effect of the outline, being wide narrow, parallel or curved.

  • Square tail
  • Squash tail
  • Pin tail
  • Round tail
  • Swallow tail or Fish tail
  • Diamond tail


Square tail

What’s a square tail? A square tail means that both edges of the tail are shaped square. usually the last bit of the outline is also straight. very good for control, not perfect for turns


Squash tail

A squash tail is a rounder version of the square tail. The corners of the tail are not completely square, but a bit more rounded. Loosens the board up compared to the square.

Klokhouse kite surfboard with a squash tail

Klokhouse kite surfboard with a squash tail


Pin tail

The pin tail has the narrowest width of all tail shapes. This is because the tail runs to a point. Usually combined with a narrow outline. This will offer a lot of control, so good for strong winds, and big waves. It will be harder to turn sharply, better for drawn out long turns.

Appleflap kite surfboard pin tail

Appleflap kite surfboard pin tail

Read more about the difference between a squash tail vs. a pin tail.


Round tail

As the name suggests, a round tail is when the corners of the tail are made round. Almost like a semi-circle. Gives a very loose feel, and not good upwind. This is not a good tail for kite surfboards in general, maybe combined with a very narrow outline it can work. 


Swallow tail

The best way to describe a swallow tail is a upside down V, cut out from a square tail. This creates two small pin tails. It is a hybrid of the pin. simply said, it’s a double pin. one for each side. This will give the control of a pin tail with added width in the kite surfboard back end. a wider tail will feel looser but sometimes lacks control. Adding a swallow can stabilize the tail. Swallows can also be chopped up again. making rocket or bat tails, all variations that add little bits here and there, but less than you might expect. 

Swallow tail on the Malus Domestica

Swallow tail on the Malus Domestica


Diamond tail

A diamond tail is a blend of a round pin tail and a squash tail with the corners moved forward a bit. Again combining assets of both designs to achieve new feelings. Usually combined with V in the bottom to loosen a wide tail up again. But more on that later.

jonagold diamond tail

Jonagold diamond tail



The deck is the upper side of a surfboard. During kiting you stand on it and during surfing you lie on it when you paddle or stand on it when you catch a wave. Roughly speaking, you have four kinds of decks. A domed deck, a flat deck, a concave deck and a step deck. A domed deck has a slight curve from the rail to the middle and from the middle to the rail. A step deck has a platform deck with thinner rails. A concave deck is the curve of the board between the nose and tail. And a flat deck speaks for itself. 

For Kite surfboards it is very important that the deck is really strong. Usually this is achieved with strong foam, like Appletrees 50K foam combined with sandwich layers. Sandwich layers add impact resistance, by combining stiff glass or carbon layers with layers of foam in different strength. It’s not easy to produce consistently and it is one of the main reasons that kite boards are more expensive than normal surfboards.


Grab rail

A grab channel in the deck to aid in strapless freestyle tricks, giving a handle for the thumb to hold on to. It’s called a rail, but it is actually a trade of the deck. found a lot on strapless freestyle oriented kite surfboards.

Appleflap Noseless Grab rail

Appleflap Noseless Grab rail



This is the lower part of the surfboard. It is the part that comes into contact with the water. There are many types of kite surfboard bottoms. In addition, there are also all kinds of combinations of bottoms possible. We will explain a few common ones. 


Flat bottom

As you would expect, the bottom is flat. A flat bottom, or flat parts on the bottom of a kite surfboard, are usually great for planning on the surface. A flat bottom will make the kiteboard really fast, especially combined with a flat rocker. A problem is that the rocker is also a template for the turn, so more curve will be easier to turn. A flat bottom will stick to the water, so it’s not good for strapless freestyle where you want to release from the surface.  


Concave bottom

A concave is a hollow curve in the bottom of the board. It provides more water under the board. A single concave runs the length of the surfboard and leads the water clean from the tip to the fins. A double concave will split the water into two channels through the fins. Concaves create lift and help control the water flow therefore adding control over it. Also a deep concave will make the rocker in the middle of the board flatter, compared to the edge. This will make the board faster in a straight line, where you use the middle part, and looser in the turns where the water flows more over the edge of the board. This is one of the reasons why you see concaves in almost every board. Sometimes pushed to the extreme line in our Malus Domestica, which uses deep concaves to make the board really stable upwind, yet loose in turns. 

Concaves Malus Domestica

Concaves Malus Domestica



V-shaped bottom

The name already indicates the shape. The lowest point of the board is in the middle of the board. This low point provides a pivot point, which works well in wider boards to make the board loose, where the outline makes it less loose. It can be combined with concaves, so a double concave will usually flow into a V in the back, like in our Applino model. This keeps the tail area wide, but still the board is very loose. A wide tail gives lots of lift which Paulino wanted for landing reverse, but the board also had to be loose for snaps and freestyle. 

V-shaped bottom Applino

V-shaped bottom Applino


Channel bottom

Channels are usually at the tail of the surfboard. The channels ensure that the water is channelled through the bottom surface. This helps with grip and control and can even take the function of a fin. Like in our COP model where the forward channels help with gripping upwind.

Channel bottom C.O.P

Channel bottom C.O.P



The volume of your kiteboard is given in liters and is very important to know. It determines how resilient your kitesurf board is, how much it floats. This determines, among other things, how easily the board floats your weight, how easily the board rotates, how easily you catch waves, etc. The volume sometimes tells you more than the length of a board. For example, a 6’2” can have the same volume as a 6’8” or even a 5’2’’.

In general, the more volume, the easier it is to catch a wave. More volume just isn’t always better. If the board has more volume, it is often more difficult to maneuver and go upwind. However, this also depends very much on the rest of the shape and on your level and weight. When kitesurfing you need less volume because there is no paddling, but you still wants some to connect waves and glide when the kite does not give you much pull, when going straight downwind on a wave for instance. In strapless freestyle you need even less volume, but still some volume is nice as it means that you will not sink immediately when landing. More volume will give you a little extra time when doing transition tricks and will make learning easy, but you do not want too much as it will slow you down. Especially in flat water. 



What does flex mean for a surfboard? Flex means the amount of board bending from the nose to the tail. Flex gives the board a lively feel and responsiveness. For surfing with a kite in the waves some flex is nice as it will dampen some vibration when riding fast. But with too much flex you lose control. For strapless freestyle a stiff board is nice as you can push it harder and jump higher, but the landing might also be harder. In kite surfboards most riders use deck pads for grip but also to make the board a bit softer as long sessions might cause tired feet. most pro riders use no or very thin pads for maximum control, which is more important for a pro rider than comfort. For you this might be the other way around.



The fins are located at the bottom of the surfboard, at the tail. Fins come in different sizes and shapes. The most traditional fin construction is fibreglass. Fins in which more than one material is used as a construction are called composite fins. Why use fins on a surfboard? Fins allow you to steer and maneuver while in the water. Without fins this is a lot more difficult. In kite surfing the fins also help resisting the pull of the kite to go upwind. There is a difference between fixed fins and removable fins. Fixed fins are laminated into the surfboard. Removable fins can be screwed or clicked into a fin box of a surfboard. Choosing fins that will work best for you and your surfboard depends on your size, riding style, and your fin boxes.


Fin boxes

Fin boxes are the boxes in a surfboard in which the fins can be fixed. You have different types of boxes, in which certain types of fins fit. Futures and FCS-2 are the most common ones. Their fins are not interchangeable, so most riders pick one brand/system for all their boards, giving the option to swap fins for a different feeling. Both boxes are of similar strength. 


Fin set-up on kiteboards

The fin setup often fits the shape the board is meant for. It should support or enhance a shape. The number of finboxes on a surfboard already gives some idea of the different types of fin setups that are possible with that type of surfboard.


Twin fin

In a twin fin set up there are two fin boxes on both sides of the centre of the board/tail. A twin fin system/set up offers some extra maneuverability and speed. Generally not used on kite surfboards, but it can be fun for freestyle. Some pro riders use a twin setup with a very small fin in the middle, This makes the board really loose, and easy to land reverse as the twin fins don’t grip as fast as three fins, so the board does not turn straight immediately. 


Thruster or Tri fin

The thruster set up is probably the most used fin set up these days. A thruster setup uses three equal sized fins. The two outer fins are a little more forward, slightly angled towards the center of the board, which provides water tracking and speed. The center fin is the closest to the tail and is symmetric on both sides for stability. A thruster fin setup will gain grip with faster speeds, so it is usually preferred in larger surf where control is needed.

Thruster fin setup on the Klokhouse Noseless kite surfboard

Thruster fin setup on the Klokhouse Noseless kite surfboard



Quad fin

It has four fins, close to the rail. There is no fin in the middle of the board. A quad fin set up has some of the characteristics of both a twin and a thruster set ups. In general a quad set up is good for smaller, to medium high waves. It provides speed and control as well as sharp turns and a loose feel.


5 fin

For the sake of clarity, a 5 fin set up is not intended to use all five fin boxes. Having five fin boxes gives you more options in the use of the boxes, depending on your preference, style and surf conditions. Our Malus domestica for instance is designed as a quad setup but for adding control in bigger surf there is a fifth box so a thruster setup can be used as well. There are fin sets available with 5 fins, so you have all options in one buy, which saves money. Combining fins from different sets is also possible and can create unexpected results, both positive and negative.

5 fin set up on the Malus Domestica

5 fin set up on the Malus Domestica


You made it!

Congratulations, you made it to the end of this article on basics in kitesurf board design. There is much much much more to it than this, but this information will give you a good idea when choosing your next kite surfboard. Please feel free to contact us. We are happy to answer your questions!