Travelling to different kitesurf spots, you most probably will have seen quite a few kiters wearing knee braces and maybe your local pro is wearing them on both knees. Tom Court even released a video on how he went to get his braces made. And I am sure while there are a few out there that think it’s a fashion statement, the reality is that knee injuries are becoming quite a regular injury for our sport. So why is that?
One of the obvious issues is that as our sport changes, so do the “trends” and one of those is to be riding in boots. Now while there is nothing wrong with boots (I switched to boots a few years back), it does mean that there is a very solid connection between the board and your legs which in a crash will usually not come undone. And similar to snowboarding, this solid connection adds a lot of strain on your ligaments in your knees. While riding with straps, a wipe out usually comes with loosing your board and unless you are very unlucky and only one of your feet comes free, your knees will most probably be fine.
But straps are also not necessarily your savior – hard landings such as missed kiteloops or any other high risk trick, can also mean you are coming down hard and that impact goes straight up into your knees.
So then what can you do? Well one thing that anybody can and should do is train the muscles that support your knee and ligaments. My winter activities include mountain biking and snowboarding, both of which keep my legs in shape and ready for those hard landings. There are also plenty of videos online explaining best training practices for knee rehab and strengthening. Also remember to do some basic warm up and stretching for your knee joints before going out onto the water. But I hear you, we are not getting any younger and all that might not be enough so what else can you do?
Well, I will tell you my secret: I am 42 now and both of my knees are still holding up well, even after some very ugly megaloop smashes and that comes down to one thing: The right board! See that picture above? That’s my 6th broken board and I am smiling. No, I did not loose my mind and no, I don’t get my boards for free. What I do is I ride boards that are actually a bit on the softer side and in my recent years, wearing boots only made me choose a slightly larger size but not a harder board.
While your classic freestyle/wakestyle board is about as flexible as a tomb stone, I ride a North Jaime and if you check out the specs on that board, you will see it actually is not meant to be used with boots. In fact as you can see from the photo above, one of my landings in boots pretty much split that board in half and on my previous boards the crack would be somewhere close to the inside of my rear boot. Every time that happens I walk away smiling because the board took the punishment and not my knees.
So if you are in the “older” half of the age bracket or simply want to avoid having to wear knee braces at some point down your kitesurfing career, think about getting a slightly softer board, sacrificing a bit of pop for the good of your knees.