You should be fit and comfortable in the water. If you have experieince in other board sports like wakeboarding or snowboarding it will help you learn faster.
First spend a few hours flying a trainer kite to learn kite flying. (good trainer kites cost $200). Everyone agrees that this step is worthwhile.
Take at least one 3 hour lesson on the water (cost is about $250 with all gear supplied)
Buy your equipment. A new kite, board, and harness will cost $2000, or used gear is an option. We recommend that you deal with a reputable local kiteboard store. Most kiters eventually get two or three kites, for different winds.
How long does it take to learn? It depends. If you have purchased cheap old gear and skipped the trainer kite and lesson stages, it may take you months (and you can damage your gear or yourself). If you have good gear and proper instruction you should be having fun the first day and riding up on the board in the first few days. Staying upwind (being able to kite back to the beach where you started) takes a bit longer.
Enjoy yourself at every stage and have fun out there.
Where do I kiteboard?
The Local Map on the menu shows the various local beaches with the best wind direction. Note that only Spanish Banks West Extension beach is open to kiters during the summer. [update: the beach area at Tolmie Street is open to kiters as of 2022.]
Where to kite depends on wind direction and tide. In this area the most frequented spots are:
In SSE to ESE winds 3rd Ave (just west of Centenial Beach, Tsawassen) is the popular spot . You can ride in a S wind but it gets turbulent, or an E wind, but it is directly on shore, so in these conditions you better have some skills. 3rd Ave is the best place for those starting out in my opinion. If you go to 3rd when the tide is between 8 ft and 11 ft (for tides, click on Weather in the menu above) you can stand in ankle to waist high water and walk to shore or back up wind if things don't go well. If you can ride and stay stay up wind and body drag back to your board then 3rd Ave is good in any tide (a bit of a walk to the water if tide is under 8 feet)
In a W or NW wind, Spanish Banks is the place to be. Same tide heights apply as at 3rd if you want to be able to touch bottom. A good summer spot for the W or NW wind is the Ferry Terminal. Some of us go to other spots with a W or NW wind but you need a higher skill level at these places.
In a SW wind (not seen very often) Crescent Beach is the place to be. Below about 4 feet you are walking out over the sand bars to the water.
On summer days, almost any day (but check forecasts first), the best wind is at Squamish. You should be able to stay upwind if you ride there, so it's not for ideal beginners, unless you are going with an instructor, who will have a boat ready to assist.
So do what all of us do. Check the weather every hour or so, every day of the week, with gear packed in the truck. When you see its going to happen, check the forum to see if anyone has posted (they might not since they will be in a rush to get to the beach) then drive like hell to the spot, pump quickly and get rigged. Make sure to say hello to other kiters, ask for info, ask for help. Kiters are friendly and will get you introduced to an area.
You have a launch and land spot when the tide is below 5.7 ft. on the Vancouver station. Above 3 feet you ride out over the shallow water of the shelf. Above 5 feet a directional with fins will make it out.
Dog Beach (Spanish Banks West Extension)
At 2 feet you can walk right out to the drop off near the dolphin. At 4 feet the last 50 meters will be in water up to 1 foot. A hydrofoil can ride back in at 9 feet if approaching dog beach from the north or NW , but you need to stay
up on the foil once you are ˝ way in or you’ll hit the bottom..
Under 5 ft. you need to walk out and start off the shelf. At about 7 feet you can ride in shallow water. At 11 ft foiling right
off the shore works at Locarno launch, and riding almost all the way into
Spanish Banks west is ok. At 11.5 feet
foiling all the way in anywhere along the Locarno to West Extension is fine.
3rd Ave. Waist to Chest with Tsawwassen showing 11ft. At 8 feet the sand bars are showing and its getting too shallow. At 7.5 feet on the TSW station there are sand bars around the marker close into 3rd. At 10 ft. On the Vancouver and Tsawwassen stations, and 9.5 ft. On the Crescent beach scale, I've had to walk out past the first close sand bar to start riding my race board. 9 on TSW and 8.5 on Crescent will have dry sandbars. For foiling right from the beach you need 12.5 on TSW or 12 on Crescent. Nov. 27/2014 Foil session in very high tide (16 ft earlier in Vancouver). By 12.25 ft on Van station (11.75 at Crescent) we were body dragging the last 40 meters to get into the beach.
Lower than 6 feet on the Cresent Beach station the sand flats are exposed, and you can walk over the sand to launch at the edge of the river channel. So under 6 feet you ride in the channel. Over 8 feet you can ride from the beach edge.. Need about 9 feet to comfortably ride a race board, otherwise too much weed.
At 1 foot you can walk out to the first dolphin. There is a narrow spill way from the river you have to walk through with water up to the knees. At two feet it is difficult to cross in street clothes but OK in a wet suit. Over 5.2 feet (1.6 M) the sand bar is gone.
At 7 feet the launch area is good with no walk out to the water. Shallow riding within 20 meters of the beach. Mid April 2013. Race board OK but when tide gets to 5.5 ft. on the tsawwassen scale the fins are grabbing weeds that are attached to the sea bed. Wouldn't go raceboarding under 6 ft. Foil boards work above 9 feet on the Twawwassen station. Not so great at the east end of the causeway though, due to the poor wind and shallow areas that go quite a ways out. Better to launch at the wide spot to the east just west of the boat launch.
At 14 feet you can launch on the dyke and walk about 25 meters to start riding. At 12 feet the water is getting too shallow. Kiting is not allowed there any more.
If I remember correctly, ideal tides for Locust are in the 3-7ft range. You can kite in higher tides but you will need to stand in the water to launch. I think you could ride right off the launch in a 3 foot tide with a twin tip. Probably need 4 feet for a directional. 1 foot tide is just a short walk out to the water. The stronger Locust winds are in the October - April timeframe (like Bbay) but I understand that (unlike Bbay) they often get a few hours of 12-14m wind in the early morning and sometimes in the evening, throughout the spring and summer. At Locust I once came in when the tide was -2'. It was a long walk, but the bottom is firm and not slippery.
Around this time of year, when the thermal winds start kicking in, the stronger winds are on the southern end of Chuckanut drive (just south of Bellingham). The two kiting beaches are Dogfish if its low tide (3/4 of the way down Chuckanut drive, park at a viewpoint parking, bring hiking shoes or good runners, cause its a steep trail down) and Hunter if its mid or higher tide (at the south end just past the Bonsai nursery (you'll see where the kites are), set up and launch in a grassy farmers field and then over a small rock dike to the mud beach). Dogfish/Hunter winds are best when there is a NW wind in the straight as that will combine with the thermal and give 20kt+ winds in the afternoon.
They tell me that a 4' tide at Hunter beach brings the water level to the base of the dyke, so no walk there. The bottom is mucky there if you do have to walk. If the tide is really low the locals go to Dogfish.
(Thanks to Don Campbell for this location and tide information)