Assisted Launch

simplify kiteboarding 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.


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!