Wether we’re talking about kitesurfing, kiteboarding, windsurfing or even paragliding, there are a great many sports that owe their existence and execution to wind. And these sports aren’t even necessarily very modern. If one considers sailing a windsport—and how could it not be considered one?—then it’s safe to say that windsport goes back to the dawn on humanity making it thousands of years older than football, skiing, hockey, and even horse racing. Here we’re looking some of the origins of windsports and their developed.
As mentioned above, the earliest is most certainly sailing. Like skiing, which was used to traverse mountains in winter, and like ice skating which was developed on the frozen lakes of Finland more than 3000 years ago, sailing was of course a means of transportation before it was a sport. Unlike either ice skating or skiing though, which obviously require cold conditions, sailing was developed the world over. In ancient Egypt it was used as the primary method of transporting goods and people up the Nile into Upper Egypt; in one of the highest altitude lakes in the world, lake Titicaca, in Peru and Bolivia, the local Uru created boats from reeds and used primitive sailboats to get round the massive lake (including man-made floating islands that were used by fishers); in East Asia sailing was used in Japan by fishers and in China by traders; in Polynesia the entire culture group was centred round boats and seafaring. In boats of only 15 metres they were able to sail across the Pacific and settle remote islands that weren’t discovered by Europeans until massive three-masted sailing ships were developed and deployed in the 1700s. Sailing has been a crucial part of the human experience the world over.
However, for other windsports, like kitesurfing, for example, we can’t go back thousands of years but only hundreds. Two hundred, in fact. In the 1800s there were several attempts to develop kites that could be used to pull carts and ships long distances. While it may sound primitive, this technology is actually still being developed and used today by age shipping companies. As a hobby however it didn’t really became popular until the 20th century when, for the first time in history, leisure time was widely available to masses of people and not just the elite classes.
Kites were combined with skis, water skis, ice skates, roller skates, and even canoes to the end of developing new sports and new ways of having a good time.
Despite all the technological advances made throughout the thousands of years of human history, it can be both humbling and comforting to know that one of those most basic of weather phenomenon—wind—still places a major part of our daily lives, be it professionally or recreationally.