Kiteboarding Tips and Advise: SIMPLIFY KITEBOARDING

A (slowly growing) collection of articles with tips and advise on kiteboarding technique, from the PROKITE semi annual newsletters.

 

simplify kiteboarding kiteloopsKite Loops  

Not just for experts, kiteloops are a relatively simple maneuver that when mastered can add lots of  freedom and versatility to your riding:

Understanding types of kiteloops:  Kiters commonly recognize 2 different types of kiteloops, upward loops (commonly just called kite-loops) and loops initiated by turning the kite down first, known as down-loops.  Although a true kiteloop involves turning the kite in a complete circle, downward kiteloops are commonly used during direction changing and are actually only half of a loop, as the kite is left flying toward the opposite side of the wind and not brought all the way around and back to the original direction (although that is of course possible as well).

So. why kiteloops?  Many reasons  …  a powerful and smooth way to pull you through direction changes.  a way to generate a good shot of power in light winds to get you up and going or through that big lull without stopping, a way to reposition the kite away from the edge of the wind while maintaining the same riding direction which is especially useful in wave riding situations, and eventually as the basis for a whole family of cool freestyle tricks including but certainly not limited to board slides, hand-drags, back and frontroll direction changes, and on the extreme end of things, getting massive and scary big air.

Considering just the basics, and the utility of the move in everyday riding, how do you get started?

In PROKITE lessons we often learn this maneuver while bodydragging,  which is a great way to figure out the kite control and what to expect before using the loops while riding.

A good loop to start with is a downward loop.  downward loops have plenty of forward pull, but little to no lift, and will not pick you up off the water.  beginning with the kite about 3/4 of the way up the side of the wind, say on the right side, heading right, you would steer the kite hard and steadily with the right hand, turning the kite straight down towards the water.  Continue to hold the steering steady and forcing the kite continue to rotate though the turn until it is pointed straight back up to 12 oclock, or even all the way around until it is pointed back to the right.  This is a full downward kite loop.

Simple right?

Here are some tips and what to expect:

1.  Tighter radius turns will generate less power and over a shorter duration than long wide radius loops.  so believe it or not, bringing the bar all the way in, and tuning it all way and holding it tight will generally result in a less powerful pull from the kite. Also a tight turn will keep the kite higher in the sky, and closer to its original location, for a more predictable and easy to control loop.

2.  In a downloop move, the kites power will be strongest in the middle and end of the loop, and not much at all at the beginning.  Start downloops with hard tight turns, then you can ease the bar out and lose some of the power if you need as the kite comes past the midway point and though the end of the loop.  When using a downloop to change riding direction, definitely initiate with a tight turn and hold it until the kite is pointed at an angle a little higher than straight across the wind window in the opposite direction, then use a large, even full, depower to allow the kite to pass throught the center of the wind window (the powerzone) without too much pull, then sheet back in as it reaches the edge of the wind on the new direction.

3,  Be prepared for the kite to pull straight downwind during kite loops, “bear off” or point the board at least a few degrees downwind as the loop pulls to allow yourself to go with the pull of the kite.

Upward loops are similar, but the timing of the pull is generally the opposite of the downloop.  The loop is most powerful during the beginning and first half, and less in the end.  If using an upwarnd loop, start them slowly, finish them tight and fast.  If initiated quickly and with the bar in, an upwards loop will try (and usually succeed), at lifting you off the water as the kite passes through 12 oclock.   Controlling the initial power and lift of the upward loop is the key to many freestyle moves.

Kite loops are great manuevers to learn in light winds, and once mastered can be used in all conditions and for all kinds of useful reasons even in just everyday out and back cruising.  As with any new technique we can master these safely and quickly in a Lesson Session, give a call when your ready to expand your kiting potential the fast and easy way with a PROKITE LESSON SESSION.

 

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simplify kiteboarding solo launchThe Tethered Launch    

There is more than one way to Solo Launch.  This article examines the TETHERED LAUNCH technique, also know as a fixed point or object assisted launch.
The TETHERED self launch is a convenient and highly reliable method to self launch a kiteboarding kite. This launch can be preformed on all surfaces including rough or abrasive, with minimal risk of damage to the kite.  This launch involves attaching the control bar to an object (tethering) and setting the kite on its wingtip in “launch position” at the edge of the wind.

Setting up a tethered launch is relatively easy:

1) Of course ensure a clear wind window.  Once rigged (correctly), attach the harness loop of the control bar to a fixed object. A tailgate, a post or log, a large sandbag or screw-in anchor are examples.  A length of spare line with a carabiner or something similar is helpful for this, but you can also use your kiteleash as the tether.  The bar will be left at the end of the sheeting line in the depower position.  Ensure the object is strong enough to hold the force of the kite at the edge of the wind.

2) Position the kite on its wingtip in “launch position” at the edge of the wind. The best way to go about this is to begin with the kite well UPWIND of the bar and where you think the edge of the wind is. This way as you get the kite out to the end of the lines and are holding it on its side there will be no power in the kite initially, and you can walk it downwind until it is catching the edge of the wind. Let the kite go slowly and “guide” it into it’s resting position at the edge of the wind.  The kite should be resting on its wingtip and balanced steadily.

3) Move back to the control bar.  Three important tips here:  stay on the upwind side of the lines, move quickly back to the bar, and ALWAYS MAINTAIN CONTACT WITH A CENTERLINE (in other words keep your hand on a centerline as you run back to the bar). The reason for keeping a hand on one of the centerlines (and we recommend the bottom one) is so that you can use it to disable the kite if something unexpected happens like the kite comes free from the tether, or takes off and flies out of control on its own, etc.  The way you disable the kite in this scenario is by holding that centerline tightly and running a few big steps toward your bar.  This will slack the other flying lines and “flag out” or disable your kite onto the centerline you are holding, allowing you to recover the kite and start again.

4) Transfer the bar from the tether to yourself, and fly the kite!  When transferring the control bar, do not touch the bar itself, just leave it in full depower.  Handle the control bar by the harness loop or sheeting line only, leaving the kite to sit on its wingtip until you are completely attached and ready to fly it.

 

LOOKING BACK:    I think the most important part of this article, which I wrote probably 6 or 7 years ago in an instructor column, is the part about STAYING IN CONTACT WITH ONE OF THE INSIDE LINES (i recommend the bottom inside line) while moving from the kite back to the bar.  Do not trust your tethered launch to work perfectly every time, once in a while the kite will tangle a line on its wingtip or around the bar on a bounce, or fall over backward into the powerzone and then blast out of it.  Over the years and pretty much every season I have seen a wide variety of potentially deadly objects hurled into the air by kites that got loose during a tethered launch.  It is simple to disable the kite if it falls or tangles a line and starts to fly:  hold the centerline tight and run a few feet (usually only about 10-15, a few big steps) toward the bar.  This will disable (flag out) your kite and allow you to reset it and start over (without having to replace the bumper of your car or duck a fencepost or “dog anchor screw / self launch tool” coming at you at 90mph,followed by a 100yd dash to recover your loose kite.

The second most important tip is NOT TO TOUCH THE BAR while detaching from the tether and hooking up yourself.  Just handle the control bar by the harness loop or sheeting line, leaving the bar in full depower while you hook up.

This kind of technique, like many others in kiteboarding, is best practiced and learned in a supervised setting.  A SELF LAUNCH lesson from PROKITE is only $75, we spend about 1hr practicing as many as 5 different techniques.  Give us a call and we will see you at the beach!

 

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simplify kiteboarding assisted launch

ASSISTED LAUNCH 

This is an important topic.  Please read below for a refresher on how to handle one of the most likely situations for a person to get hurt during.

 

Two of the most common problems

1. Riders that create (or allow) line tension from an angle that is too far upwind of the edge of the wind, resulting in a kite that is pressing hard into the assistant, or pulling the rider forward and allowing the kite to “fold” or “bend” over the assistant, or worse.

2. Riders that are too far downwind of the edge of the wind and signaling for their fluttering, powerless kite to be released, only to stand and watch as it falls back and onto the trailing edge, usually followed by the kite rolling downwind (into the “power zone”).

The following tips are primarily directed at the RIDER (the person that will be flying the kite). As the rider it is YOUR responsibility to make the launch right, the assistant’s job is simply to hold the kite on its side until you fly it out of their hands.

 

 

The Technique

Begin well downwind of where you estimate the edge of the wind to be from your kite. Remember, the edge of the wind is roughly a right angle, or perpendicular, to the wind direction, and in other words across the wind from the kite. A good reference point to initially position yourself at is halfway between straight downwind of the kite and across the wind from it. From this downwind location, while your kite is being held in position by your assistant, you can perform a “Final Line Check” by individually tensioning lines and visually confirming they are rigged correctly without the risk of catching any wind, or power, in the kite. We highly recommend waiting to hook up to your control bar until after you have performed a “Final Line Check” in this way.

Once hooked up, create line tension through your centerlines (by moving back until they are taught). There should be enough line tension so that you are at least slightly pulling the kite and launch assistant toward you (but not so much that you are ripping the kite out of their hands or forcing them to walk towards you more than a small step here and there). You will feel the tension through the centerlines, and your harness.

While maintaining centerline tension, move into the wind (upwind) around your kite to approach the edge of the wind. While approaching the edge of the wind your control bar should be held IN for “power” and backline tension with a light and relaxed grip. As you find (catch) the edge of the wind and the kite begins to become taught, be prepared to USE YOUR BODYWEIGHT to hold the kite, (it does not necessarily take a lot, just do not allow the kite to pull you forward toward the assistant). The edge of the wind is not necessarily a static or fixed location or angle, it is adjusting and changing with the constantly changing wind strength and angle. You will often need to continue to move at least a few more degrees into the wind from where the kite first catches the wind, and while the kite is being released, to assure the kite is in fact flying (that there is decent “power”) as it is let go. As you catch the edge of the wind and the kite is released keep a relaxed grip on the bar, allow it to slide out (and back in) as necessary to manage the pull of the kite. Often times it is best to continue moving into the wind as the kite is released.

Do not rush to bring your kite high into the air. There are few things more uncomfortable for an experienced launch assistant (like me) than holding a kite that I can feel is being aggressively steered upwards during a launch. In a smooth launch the kite should simply hover low to the ground in the same location it was being held. Bring it up slowly to just a few feet over the launcher, or maybe halfway up the side of the wind, while you feel out the kites tuning and wind conditions. There is nothing worse than sending a kite high into the sky and above your head in the first few seconds of flying, before you have a chance to confirm everything is feeling right (like tuning and wind strength and conditions).

So there it is. In summary

1. Begin well downwind of the edge of the wind
2. Maintain line tension and keep the bar in (lightly) while walking upwind until you find or catch the wind.
3. As the kite catches the wind, take the force of the kite using your bodyweight, don’t let it pull you towards it, continue walking into the wind as the kite is launched, keeping a relaxed grip on the bar and sheeting out or in as necessary.
4. Don’t steer the kite aggressively upwards during the launch.

Other tips: might as well ….

DEPOWER YOUR TRIM: It is a good idea (even if you know your gear tuning inside and out) to have the trim on the control bar set for “depower” during your launch. Too much slack in the backlines (depower) is far less of a problem than not enough.

MINIMIZE EXPOSURE OVER LAND:  Move your gear as close as you can to your riding location (the water) before launching.

BE PREPARED TO RELEASE:  During your launch be prepared to release yourself from the harness loop (primary release) and disable the kite onto the leash until you can confirm your kite is flying and feeling correctly. If you screwed up or something unexpected happens during your launch, like the assistant accidentally let the kite go before you were flying it or ready, or the kite was tuned poorly, or the wind didn’t cooperate, etc, you do not need to try to “save” or “fix” the situation and force the kite to fly or relaunch. Don’t hesitate to simply release the kite onto the leash and disable it, and then start over. We watched many people hit the sand (hard) because they stayed attached during and after their failed launch, or decided to relaunch their crashed kites from a bad position after a failed launch.

ALWAYS MAINTAIN A CLEAR DOWNWIND AREA:  On BOTH sides of the wind window as well as straight downwind. If for some reason your launch does fail and you do disable the kite onto the leash (or fail to disable it and allow it to get out of control and pull you) you don’t want it to crash on, or crash you into anything, like other people, your car, a rock, tree, or anything else.)

One more time:  If your kite is not launching well (for example it is falling back onto its trailing edge, or seems like it is pulling itself either up or down, basically anything besides hovering nicely at the edge of the wind) LET GO OF THE BAR, be ready to release. It is not a problem to let out or let go of the bar and let the kite touch down or sit on its wingtip after the launch, and if it isn’t sitting down nicely (like it is rolling downwind, or steering itself upwards) then release it onto the leash to disable it, and start over.

A few tips for the Assistant

Try to hold the kite on its side so that there is even tension on the centerlines as the rider is checking their lines as well as walking into the wind to find the edge of the wind.

As the kite is beginning to catch the wind hold it lightly so that it can properly position itself in regards to how it will be flying once released.

It is not necessary to hold a kite high off the ground, the low wingtip can in fact be resting lightly on the ground, especially with bigger kites this makes them much easier to hold.

Do not throw the kite during the launch, simply loosen your grip and allow the kite to be flow out of your hands. As the rider properly catches the edge of the wind and begins flying the kite you should feel it pushing lightly into you or hovering in the same spot you are holding it at. If the kite is pushing you hard the rider is too far upwind of the edge of the wind, if there is no forward pressure and it feels like kite will fall back and downwind once released then the rider is still not far enough upwind and not in fact flying the kite at the edge of the wind yet.

FINAL NOTE

If a rider can’t reliably create a smooth assisted launch, put their kite down and walk away. You can recommend they give us a call for a ½ hour land session, we will help them perfect their launching technique, their preparedness to deal with common problems that can occur, and also make sure they are 100% proficient at something far more simple but equally mysterious to many, and even more important than launching: landing their kite by themselves.

Thanks for reading, have a great next session!

 

 

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gear tuningDEPOWER AND RIDE HAPPIER

A new regular feature in the PROKITE newsletter, SIMPLIFY KITEBOARDING offers tips to help you improve your kiteboarding technique, and make the most of your kite gear. Although not all tips and techniques will apply to everyone, hopefully many of you find helpful information that you can use to take some of the mystery out of kiteboarding. In this article Simplify Kiteboarding addresses gear tuning, and how you can make adjustments to any kite and bar to allow you to ride more comfortably, more aggressively, and with more control, and the answer, surprise surprise, is that you probably need to depower your kite to do it.

Poor kite tuning is one of the most common problems I see people struggle with at the kite beach, and most of the time the cause is too much overall back-line tension. Too much back-line tension creates a number of difficulties for the rider, from stalling kites, to unsmooth power delivery and pull, to insufficient or awkwardly long reach to achieve depower. If you have found yourself reaching out as far as possible and still having a hard time slowing down, or that you are losing power, consistent pull, and flying performance when the bar is pulled all the way in, then you are probably tuned with too much back-line tension.

Adjusting your tuning so that you can pull the bar all the way in when you want or need power, and not have to reach awkwardly far forward to depower will help you improve your riding stance and comfort. You will be able to ride with your bar in , your shoulders back, and your back straighter, helping you hold a more aggressive edging stance. In addition, you will have a far easier time depowering the kite, allowing you to more easily manage higher riding speeds and overall power. The only potential drawback to tuning a kite for more depower is there will be less outside line tension to work with and therefore your kite’s steering may feel less sensitive. For most riders, and especially beginners and intermediates, the benefits of being able to hold a more powerful stance as well as having ample depower within a short and comfortable reach, far outweigh the possible benefits and likely detriments of higher back-line tension and more sensitive steering.
 

How to tune your kite and bar to your body so that you don’t have too much back-line tension: When flying your kite steadily along the edge of the wind (about 1/2 up) you should be able to bend forward, reach out a comfortable distance, and have effective depower; the back lines should become slack enough for the canopy to flutter at least lightly, preferably more, and the kite to fall quickly. You should have to pull the bar at least 1/2 way in or more in order to regain line tension and fly the kite. If you have to reach out farther than is comfortable to achieve adequate depower, or with the bar most of the way out the kite is still sensitive to steering inputs, then it is likely that you need to tune for more depower for comfortable riding.

Tip: Tune to your personal arm reach. A rider with shorter arm reach may need more depower closer to their body than a rider with longer arm reach who can comfortably get the bar farther out.

How to find a comfortable tuning with adequate depower: Depower is achieved by lengthening the back lines in relation to the front lines. The simplest way to do this is by letting the bar out. While flying the kite along the side of the wind if there is not adequate depower within a comfortable reach, then you can pull down on the “trim adjustment” on the control bar which tightens or shortens your center-lines and creates relatively longer back/outside lines, resulting in more complete depower without having to let the bar as far out. If you need to pull your depower strap or line down more than a few inches to have a comfortable amount of depower within arms reach, then you should consider changing the line attachment points you are using where you attach your flying lines to the kite, in order to create relatively longer back-lines. By creating relatively longer back-lines you can have the same comfortable bar tuning without needing the trim strap pulled down or depowered so far. For example, if at the bar you have the trim adjustment pulled down 5 inches, and at this tuning you have comfortable depower within reach, you could lengthen your outside lines by 5″, which will give you the same bar tuning and depower feel within reach but with the trim strap on the bar set to full power. Now you have a bar that is set at a functional and comfortable tuning, without having to use the trim strap to take up unnecessary back-line tension. This allows you to ride without the depowered trim strap flapping around, and gives you more total depowerability when you do pull the trim strap down, which can be useful in low power flying situations like handling the kites around the beach or walking flying kites upwind.

 

Ways to add overall length to your outside lines when you rig: If you find you need to add a few inches of overall length to your outside lines in order to better tune your bar, there are two ways you can do it. You can lengthen your outside lines by attaching them farther away from the kite, or you can shorten your inside lines by attaching them closer to the kite. Tightening or shortening your inside lines has the same effect as lengthening your outside lines. To lengthen your outside lines you may be able to attach them to a knot farther away from the kite on the outside line attachment point. If the outside line connection point is already as far from the kite as possible, you can add a line connector (pigtail) to the outside line attachment point, extending it the necessary length. If you can’t lengthen the outside lines and dont have extra line connectors, it may be possible to shorten your center-lines instead. On many kites it is possible to add a knot (a simple overhand or figure 8 knot), a few inches closer to the kite at the front/inside line connection point.

In kiteboarding, a few inches can make a big difference in terms of overall tuning, kite performance, and comfort.

 

Additional tips:

Two quick tips for improving the steering responsiveness of kites tuned for more depower, if necessary:

1. Learn to hold the bar closer in (or all the way in) and steer more aggressively – often times there is plenty of line tension available to turn a kite in as tight a turn as it can make, even when the bar is tuned for less back-line tension. As a rider you simply need to pull the bar in far enough and turn it hard enough to create the necessary outside line tension.

2. Consider using a longer control bar, especially if you currently have a short bar – a longer control bar will give you more steering line tension and leverage when turning the bar, and allow for more sensitive and tighter turning even when tuned for less overall back-line tension. At PROKITE we use medium length bars (50cm) to fly all our kites, including the 9’s, 7’s, and even 5’s, so that our students have responsive steering without requiring as much over all back-line tension.

Other considerations for tuning your bar to your body: Consider your overall arm reach. A rider with shorter arms and less forward reach cannot get the bar out as far or as comfortably as a rider with a long reach. A rider with a longer reach may find it easy to depower the bar all the way out, but awkward to pull the bar all the way in. It does not necessarily have to be so. A rider with short arm reach can gain inches of valuable power control by using a control bar with a short harness loop and quick release assembly, and a harness with a short harness hook. This will bring the entire control bar in closer to the riders body, and allow them to let the bar out further with greater ease. A rider with long arms can do the opposite, and select a control bar with a long harness loop and QR assembly, which will put the control bar farther away and allow for more comfortable sheeting in. A seat harness also brings the control bar in closer and allows for more depower reach, and a waist harness positions the bar slightly farther away. Blade Kiteboarding’s UNI BAR offers 2 harness loop sizes, a small one for riders with less reach, and a med/large loop for riders with longer arms.