When looking to take lessons or become a kitesurfing instructor, you may find yourself choosing between the BKSA or IKO. To give you all the account of each organisation and what they offer, we’ve drawn up a comparison below.
BKSA vs IKO
The BKSA (British Kite Sports Association) is the governing body (non profit) for all things kiting in Britain. They run all the training schemes, from grass roots to coaches. They are one of the most respected organisations world wide and set the bar in terms or quality and integrity. All BKSA schools have BKSA trained and qualified instructors who continually have to re-validate, update and pass assessments to keep their qualifications valid. The schools are inspected regularly by external examiners to check the equipment is in good condition and they are abiding by the strict guidelines set by the BKSA. It’s an official governing body for Sport England and therefore ticks all the relevant boxes in accordance with this.
One of the main aims for the BKSA other than training are the grass root schemes for kids and the racing events, which eventually may be used for the qualification for the Olympics.
The VDWS is the German counterpart and one of the other internationally recognised governing bodies.
The IKO (International Kiteboarding Association) is a privately owned company based in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. The IKO was set up as the sport began and became the leading organisation as the sport developed in the late 90s. As the sport became more mainstream, most developed countries created governing bodies to take the sport forwards and develop nationally. In terms of schools and instructors, the IKO differs to the BKSA, it follows a similar course and to become qualified but once qualified the instructors are left to their own devices. They have to keep a log of their students email addresses online (which they pay for) and a revalidation is an online quiz every couple of years. The schools pay an annual fee to become IKO approved but are never inspected as the organisation is in the Caribbean and it’s the schools choice whether to carry out risk assessments and follow standard operating procedures, all of which are strict procedures for any BKSA school.
Our verdict – Stick with the BKSA or a governing body for whichever country you’re in. The IKO is run as a profit making business with disregard for quality and safety. Kite schools and instructors can’t be assessed with an online tick box test every 3 years and often the kit is totally inadequate within the schools as they’ve never inspected and never will be. The IKO has been banned in several countries already and will likely be in more in the future. Don’t get us wrong, the BKSA has it’s flaws as well and can be improved in certain areas but the training side and structure of the governing body is spot on.
An example of the quality of IKO instructors is someone who came for a job interview with us and claimed he had never done a self rescue / deep water packdown. This is a method used to get yourself safely back to the beach if everything goes wrong when out on the water. It’s something any BKSA school would teach on the very first day of a kitesurfing lesson and all BKSA instructors are trained to both teach it but also how to rescue someone who has begun one, either on a boat or kite. To say we were shocked was an understatement!
The IKO has it’s place in under developed countries as a governing body isn’t available, so it’s better than nothing, but anywhere else it’s inadequate.
From a potential instructors point of view, the qualifications gained are also something to consider. We would suggest first deciding where you want to instruct. The BKSA qualification is recognised worldwide and we’ve never had an instructor declined a job because of their qualification. The IKO is recognised worldwide and as previously mentioned, in less developed countries it would be no problem picking up work. However, for a lot of countries it is becoming a banned qualification and may cause problems.
*Since writing the initial comparison it should be noted that the IKO has been banned in several countries now as the national governing bodies look to take control of their beaches and prepare for their entries to the next Olympics which require a governing body and training / coaching structure in place.
For information regarding instructor courses please click here