Catapulting up to 40 feet above the breaking surf, kiteboarders hardly seem of this world. Silken kites hold these athletes aloft for precious seconds—long enough for the execution of mind-boggling tricks—then deposit them back in the sea. This new sport is not for the weak-kneed. No matter what people might tell you, it's harder to learn than windsurfing. The unskilled (or unlucky) can be caught in an upwind and carried far out in the ocean, or worse—dropped smack on the shore. Because of insurance (or the lack thereof), companies are not allowed to rent equipment. Beginners must take lessons and then purchase their own gear. Devotees swear that after your first few lessons, committing to buying your kite is easy.


Aqua Sports Maui. A local favorite of kiteboarding schools, Aqua Sports is conveniently located near Kite Beach, at the west end of Kanaha Beach, and offers basic to advanced kiteboarding lessons. Rates start at $225 for a three-hour basics course taught by certified instructors. Students enjoy a 10% discount at several Maui kite and surf shops. 111 Hana Hwy., Suite 110, near Kite Beach, Kahului, Hawaii, 96732. 808/242–8015;

Hawaiian Sailboarding Techniques. Experienced instructors will have you safely ripping in no time at lower Kanaha Beach Park. A Discover Kitesurf package starts at $255 for a three-hour private lesson, equipment included. Instead of observing from the shore, instructors paddle after students on a chaseboard to give immediate feedback. The company is part of Hi-Tech Surf Sports, in the Triangle Square shopping center. Triangle Square, 425 Koloa St., Kahului, Hawaii, 96732. 808/871–5423;

Kiteboarding School of Maui. One of the first kiteboarding schools in the United States, KSM offers one-on-one "flight lessons." Pro kiteboarders will induct you at Kite Beach, at the west end of Kanaha Beach, providing private instruction with quality equipment. Rates start at $95 for one-and-a-half hours. 111 Hana Hwy., Suite 110, Kahului, Hawaii, 96732. 808/873–0015;