Depower – And Ride Happier!

gear tuningA 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.