Meet Fernando Subero – former professional paintball player-turned kiteboardng instructor. I met Fernando on an impromptu adventure in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic where Fernando quite literally lives the dream. He lives on the top floor of a hostel he owns and spend his days at his kitesurfing school (Kite Club Puerto Plata) that starts at 11am. He has to show up at the beach every day and go kitesurfing – rough life, huh?
When I found out what he did, I cornered Fernando and begged him to teach me to kitesurf until he finally relented.. I spent 3 days getting certified with Fernando and between me biting it hard, I managed to sneak in some questions for you guys, just in case anyone is thinking about getting their IKO kiteboarding certification.
Let’s start with the basics. What is the IKO and what is an IKO certification?
IKO stands for International Kiteboarding Organization. IKO sets the standard on safety on kiteboarding lesson worldwide.
Your IKO certification is a card that is signed by the Instructor with his IKO number, certifying your kiteboarding riding level, and type of certification you have. The same card certifies whether you’re approved for power kites (land), snow kites (snow), or kiteboarding (water).
Can you explain the different levels of IKO certification? What do they each mean and what does each qualify you to do?
There are three levels of IKO certifications – 1 (discovery), 2 (intermediate), and 3 (independent). Each level consists of a set of basic skills that you need to pass in order to progress to the next level. The level and skill breakdown are as follows:
Level 1: Discovery
A In this level you will (1) Know safe wind directions and conditions for kiting. (2) Know the hazards on a spot. (3) Set up a trainer kite. (4) Know the use of safety systems.
B (1) Have basic flying skills with trainer kite. (2) Launch and land the trainer with an assistant. (3) Twist and untwist the lines while flying a kite. (4) Walk and change directiones while flying the kite (5) Know the wind window.
C (1) Set up a 4-5 line kite with a full power system. (2) Pre-flight check equipment and settings. (3) In-flight check equipment and settings. (4) Understand and use international communication signals. (5) Launch and land the kite to an assistant (and as an assistant). De-power a 4-5 line kite.
D (1) Control the kite hooked into the harness, (2) Understand the de-power system and can use the safety systems. (3) advanced flying skills with the de power kite. (4) Show full control of de power systems in flight.
E (1) Pull quick release and activate leash. (2) Recover the bar and kite and (3) Self-land the kite.
Level 2: Intermediate
F (1) Enter and exit the water independently and safely while controlling the kite. (2) Water re-launch the kite. (3) Body drag downwind. (4) Maintain correct kite position in the wind window. (5) Change direction to the left and right while body dragging. (6) Self rescue and pack down.
G (1) Upwind body drag to recover board. (2) Upwind body drag holding the board with one hand. (3) Enter and exit at the same point while upwind body dragging,
H (1) Know the power stroke for a water start. (2) Know the safety rules and theory for water start. (3) Can put board on the feet and maintain the correct position for water start.
I (1) Water start in both directions and ride a short distance. (2) Come to a controlled stop. (3) Understand weather forecast, tidal and wind effects. (4) determine the wind strength direction and quality. (5) Know the right of way rules. (6) Know equipments setup and choice according to weather conditions.
Level 3: Independent
J (1) Control the riding speed by edging. (2) Consistent riding in both directions,
K (1) Consistent riding in all directions including upwind. (2) Ride amongst other riders and water users, and respect the right of way rules,
L (1) Change of directions without stopping, make a toe side turn.
M (1) Self launch risk assessment (2) Self launch,
N (1) Know the theory and the safety rules for jumping (2) Land a basic jump.
Interesting, so how much does an IKO certification cost?
It really depends on what town or area you’re going to be taking lessons. At my school in Puerto Plata, lessons cost $50 USD/hour and it takes about 6 hours for an average person to get through the lessons and get up in the board. Some places charge upwards of $75-$80 and even $150/hour.
What should I look for in an IKO certified kitesurfing school?
You have to make sure the instructors are certified to teach so you can receive your IKO certification card. Be sure they’re not just throwing you on the board and that they run a a safe class.
Where can I learn to kitesurf?
Puerto Plata would be a great place (although I might be biased). Flat warm tropical waters, consistent trade winds and a lack of crowds make for great kiteboarding learning spots (all of which are true at Puerto Plata ;)).
How can you tell if a certain kite beach is a good place to get your certification?
It all depends, but the things I mentioned earlier (uncrowded, and steady winds) will help you get the most out of your time spent learning kiteboarding.
Any last words for soon-to-be kitesurfers out there?
Kiteboarding has become the number one growing watersport in the world, and one of the fastest growing sports in general precisely because the kiteboarding experience has no equal so go ahead, find a school and give it a shot (and make sure you’ve got a certified instructor!).
Fernando Subero is the owner and head IKO certified instructor at Kite Club Puerta Plata – a Domincan Republic Kite Boarding school in Puerta Plata on the north shore of the DR. He’s also been a professional paintball player in the United States before trading the camo and paint in for sun, sand, a board and a kite.