That moment...

That moment...
Launching from Star Peak, NV

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Few Words about Learning to Kiteboard

Great sport.  More technical than I realized going into it.  Having done other things (surfing, skateboards, windsurf, hangliding, etc) I expected it to come pretty quickly but I struggled through a number of rather discouraging sessions before it all started coming together and I really started flying.



This is in fact a somewhat extreme sport—you are playing with forces that can literally pick your body up and throw it against the nearest solid object (rock, tree, car, person, sandbar, you name it) so don’t be stupid.  A qualified instructor can teach you the basics of kite handling, guide you through and around the pitfalls you don’t even know exist, and generally help you survive, learn and actually have fun!  You will also get acquainted with modern, safe gear and what size and types are appropriate for you and the conditions.  Added bonus—your newbie crashes will be with somebody else’s gear.  Don’t underestimate this advantage :)

I did take a couple of lessons, did learn the basics and then got my own gear and started working on it.  In hindsight, probably another couple of lessons would have helped me avoid or lessen some of the early struggles I had.   A lot of my early issues centered around being in slightly marginal conditions with slightly small gear (i.e. underpowered) so that will be my focus, but I bet these are not uncommon problems.

1.     Power = (Wind x Kite x Board)  To successfully plane on the water requires enough wind, kite and board (for your body weight).  If you don’t have this minimum, it aint gonna happen.  A big wide flat board helps tremendously here and let’s you get away with less kite for a given wind, which can really help.  If you are not getting up, you are either not diving the kite aggressively enough or you are deficient in Power.
2.     Technique.  It helps, can reduce your minimum required Power significantly, but you don’t have it yet.  Elements:
3.     You gotta start downwind.  This will build your speed, get you planning.  Then you can start edging upwind. The kite generates more power the faster it flies (apparent wind effect). If you are popping up ok but then sinking out, it is possible you may not have quite enough Power, but also possible you are choking out the kite by starting upwind too soon.  Try a couple of deliberately more downwind runs and see what happens.
4.     Initial dive.  Some of the power of the kite is in the momentum of the initial dive.  You can use this to yank yourself up, but then may have nothing left to keep going.  Try to help the kite—as you dive it, roll your head and shoulders forward over the board and then straighten your legs to get up.  If you can help the kite get you up, you can avoid stopping it in its tracks and therefore not having any juice to help get moving forward.
5.     Stance.  This is a biggie.  If you think of yourself as an inanimate object (think little plastic army man) getting pulled around by a kite, it will be obvious that where you go and how it works will depend a lot on your body position.  To start, point board 45 degrees downwind.  Your stance coming up will be front leg mostly extended, back leg somewhat bent.  70% weight  back will get you in the ballpark.  Lift your toes to find your edge.  For me, focusing on my back heel, getting some weigh put down there, helped me get going and in control.
That’s pretty much it from me.  There is a ton of material on the web and youtube to show basic techniques, but I haven’t seen much analysis, which would have helped me a lot.  It’s a subtle sport, the fine points matter.  Hope this helps you crack the code—be safe and have fun!

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