General Kitesurfing Tips
If you’re looking for a more detailed explanation of flying the kite and the wind window, you should check out our Kite Dynamics page for some beginner information on what to expect when flying and landing your kite.
Fix Your Leaking Bladder Easily...two ways:
Best way: Most leaks in bladders are at the tips of the bladder where the seam is. Usually, this seam starts to separate because the original process of sealing the tip was not hot enough to get a good seam.
So don’t start taking the bladder out just yet. First, pull out about 12 inches of the bladder in one tip, then pump up the kite. Check that tip for a leak. Listen real close and you can squeeze the bladder to create more pressure. Do the other side. You will probably find it. if not, check the other areas that you can like the valve seals where valves are “glued” on the bladder. Sometimes these separate too. Usually a kite comes with a kit to reseal these. See below for goop if you don’t have the kit.
If a seam is undone, or a tear is in your bladder…the weird part. Get your clothes iron out and some wax paper. If your seam is damaged use the iron on a medium setting at first. Put wax paper under and over the bladder seam so the iron doesn’t make direct contact with the rubber of the bladder. Make sure the bladder rubber is evenly laid out and that you won’t inadvertently seal other parts of the bladder by mistake because its all bunched up. Take the edge of the iron and run it somewhat quickly over the seam. Check it. If its not hot enough, slow your movement down, or turn up the heat. Eventually, you will re-seam your bladder this way and it will be better than any patch kit. Take it slow, and increase the heat or slow your swipe down each time. Eventually you’ll get the hang of it, just don’t let the iron touch the bladder rubber directly. Its not hard.
If you don’t see the seam failure on the tips, then you gotta take out the bladder, and that turns into a much longer process, but one you have to do anyway. Good luck!
Another way: Most kiteboarding equipment comes with repair kits these days, but if you kooked out too much and used yours up, and your friends have become privy to your lame attempts to bogart some free stuff from them, you can find other stuff. Bladder leaks can be pretty annoying if you don’t fix them immediately, and even get worse, having to pump up your kite every hour on the hour. If they are fast leaks, they can prevent you from kiting all-together becuase the kite won’t stay stiff. There’s nothing like that sinking feeling of pumping up the kite at the beach and having it deflate in 5 minutes as you launch, ending your day. Slow leaks can turn into bad ones, so get it fixed! For alternative choices besides kite repair kits, check out a product made by GOOP called “Sportsman’s Contact Adhesive and Sealant”. Menards and Home Depot should have it. (Menards definitely has it). Lightly sand the areas of the leak first so get some very very fine sand paper, as well, while you’re there. The GOOP stuff is cheap, works well, is light-weight, and the package says it can be used to repair tire tubes.
How to Jump Higher to Boost Big!
High jumps can be achieved with good technique and good conditions. By conditions, there should be:
- High winds
- Smooth water
- Fast board that can quite an edge
- Fast-turning kite
- Rider skill
You need speed to get high. This is the key ingredient for boosting big. Speed will demand more skill to hold the edge, and more physical endurance on your muscles holding that much kite power down. To build speed reduce your edging so you travel perpendicular to the wind, rather than upwind. This will bring the kite back in the window a bit and your speed will dramatically increase. You should keep the kite relatively low at this point (45 degrees to the water) and as you reach the desired speed, slowly bring the kite up to 70 degrees to the water. If you’re “lit”, the kite will be pulling very hard and the board will be throwing up a huge spray of water even up into your kite lines. This is where rider skill comes in, being able to hold down the power of the kite and not losing your edge, sending you flying downwind or getting “teabagged”.
At this point the kite should be quickly sent upward or even slightly in the reverse direction. While the kite is sent, you should be edging much harder to hold the edge more upwind until you cannot hold the kite any longer. At this point the edge should be released by pulling your feet up and the board out of the water. You can even “jump” off the water to help the kite pull you a bit higher into the air. Be sure not to let your feet slip out of the foot straps, or your board will “stick” to the water due to the added surface tension and you will wind up flying barefooted.
If you feel you’re too lit, you can bear off a bit downwind (not downwind, but more even to the wind). Your speed will increase, but you can bear off and “pivot” the kite to point it straight up. When its pointed in the direction you want, push your feet forward and lean back and edge, leaning as horizontal as you can go to load up the kite lines. You will be torn from the water to heights never before realized. At this point, spot your landing and claim it by pulling with your forward hand a second before hitting the water. Bend your legs, take it, and after steering downwind toward the kite a bit, sit back and edge and continue off.
Just remember, as soon as you leave the water, depending on your kite size, you will need to steer the kite to control your flight. You don’t want to steer it too far in either direction, or you will be slung across under the kite and it will hindenburg. Most likely, you will eat it hard a few times before getting the timing right – do not worry about that. Most people have a favorite kite that they are best with, also. The larger the kite, the slower it turns and the quicker you’ll have to be with corrective moves – otherwise you’ll have a stalled kite and you will plummet to the water with a resounding thud. This is what impact vests are for if you think you need one, get one. Some impacts from large jumps that were poorly executed could result in knocking the rider unconscious. Start jumping in stages. Don’t go huge your first jump. Practice your timing by “sending” the kite with progressively more snap each time you jump. When you think you can go big, only then should you be trying to send the kite in the opposite direction. Kitesurfing delivers a violent surge of power through the harness to the rider which typically freaks most riders out when they first go huge.
As you progress and complete hundreds of jumps, you will be able to control the kite to a point where your hangtimes will be much longer, and you will be able to control where you land. Spins and rolls will come much easier when you master the art of high jumping, which is undoubtedly the most attractive feature of kitesurfing.
Getting a Knot Out of Your Flying Line
If you have a knot in your line, an old rock climbing tip to take knots out of webbing was to whack the knot up against a rock, or tree, to get it to loosen a bit. You can use this on an old line with a knot in it by lightly tapping the knot with a hammer. The knot will eventually come out, but there may be damage to the line. You can use soap and water to help the situation. That damage may, or may not, have been caused by the hammer. There’s a question as to whether the line will be further weakened by trying to take out a knot that is extremely macked under load. Its probably better to just leave it and not damage the line fibers. Otherwise, get a new line set.
If the knot is near the end (and it usually is), just cut the lines even to remove the knot and kitesurf with 26m lines instead of 30s. If a line breaks in 30 degree weather with 33 degree water, you’re screwed. Spend the money and keep your lines healthy!
Riding upwind...avoid that walk of shame!
Taking lessons is the best thing to do, you’ll learn more for a minimal fee than you would getting frustrated teaching yourself, watching some video, or watching from the shore. But….to ride upwind, the best thing is to have a 4 line kite which can be sheeted out at the edge of the window. The kite will produce lift more in your direction of travel, making it easier to point upwind. Try depowering a bit and lowering the kite, then when you get it low enough pull in again with your arms and lean back.If you have your kite and board skills down, you’ll figure out what that means.
Most of it is technique. Try pushing your back heel down into the board, forcing the board to edge more into the water, and then forcing against the kite. This will not only force the kite to the edge of the window, but will also slow you down and turn you more sharply upwind. At first this might stall you out to the point where you lose speed and fall over on your back. You just have to learn the balance point of edging upwind and maintaining board speed. Its an art! Also, look into the wind, not at the kite, and your head being turned will automatically turn your hips toward the wind. Turning your hips is an important piece of the equation to ride upwind. This will straighten your forward leg and bend your rear leg like the stance you see expert riders holdiing while riding. Also, your weight will shift more toward the rear of the board which is what you want, but again balance of kitepower and board speed come into play so you don’t fall on your butt. Riding upwind will create more drag at the board and eventually slow your boardspeed and kitespeed, so you will need to work the kite if you’re not well-powered up. You’ll know you’re going upwind when the sound of the wind is much louder in your ears….and you get back to the beach the same spot you started, or better yet upwind of where you launched!
How Do I Prevent From Screaming Downwind at Super-Speeds?
For a while, concentrate on kiting as slow as possible. Also practice edging so hard that you actually stop and sink. Then get going again and do it again. Once you learn to control the board’s edging, you will be able to control speed much more easily. Also focus on minimal kite inputs. The kite always wants to fly to the edge of the window until the angle of attack is such that it can’t fly any further. At the edge is when the kite is depowered. Pulling yourself upwind by edging forces the kite to the edge faster, and therefore depower more. Any inputs to turn the kite away from it’s path to the edge of the window will also generate power.
As soon as you start moving downwind the kite drifts back into the power-zone. This is due to the fact that you move toward the kite which reduces line tension and the kite drifts back. In strong wind, even a slight bear-away down wind can start a chain reaction where you go more and more downwind, and the kite gets more and more powered. It can easily get to the point where it is simply impossible to get it back again. Only by sharply kiting straight downwind toward the kite to depower the kite or jumping can you regain control. The best thing to do is just point the board downwind and kill the kite’s power then re-edge and go on about your day.
If you just learned to go upwind and don’t want to lose precious distance by steering downwind, when super powered, drag your butt, arm and even front leg in the water to add resistance and slow down. Stomp that back foot! It will slow you down and force the kite to fly to the edge. When you are stationary on land the kite has no where to go but the edge of the window. If you walk upwind against the kite, you force it to go there quicker. If you have your kite low and walk slowly downwind the kite will drift back into the power.
When you know what you’re doing, you can control your speed by edging so far upwind you will stop, or bearing off a bit to pick up speed (but not too much or you kill the kite). With practice, this will be a subconscious act you won’t have to think about. It will just happen.
Does current affect the kite's apparent wind speed?
Yes. Apparent wind is the difference between the wind speed and your board speed. With a 10 knot wind and a 5 knot current that flows the opposite way, it is effectively like sailing in 15 knots. Current can also affect your ability to stay upwind. Usually the current is working against you, so keep this in mind when kitesurfing in rivers, or other narrow water channels.
Lose your board while riding?
Many riders, when they get better and rarely lose their board, opt out of having a board leash. The reason for this is once you start pulling larger airs and more complex tricks, if you lose your board, it becomes a large projectile that can seriously injure you out on the water. If you lose your board, regardless of whether you were wearing a leash, or not, you can “body drag upwind” to regain it.
You can use your body to drag upwind. You should have done this when you were learning, and if you’re an experienced kiteboarder, you should already know how. There are some equipment conditions to accomplish this. You should have an inflatable or foil/hybrid with a 4 line setup. You can only do it with kites which AOA can be changed. You must be powered up, it is impossible to body drag upwind when underpowered. You need to dive the kite to one side of the wind window’s edge and sheet out as far as possible with the bar. There needs to be enough wind so that when the kite is at the edge of the window, you should still be moving at a decent speed in the water. Keep your body straight as possible, steering the kite with one arm on the bar, and extending the other in the water, forcing your body upwind. This should be practiced of you’re not already familiar with the technique.
Although I don’t ever know if I’m going “upwind” or not (I doubt it), the point is that when its windy and you lose your board, the wind will blow the board further downwind, than you, if you’re doing the bodydrag, extend that hand out and use it to force your direction into the wind as much as possible. Keep an idea of how far you’re dragging each way from your board, so you don’t freak out when you think you’ve lost it (its there, it won’t sink). You can use the kite to jump up a few feet off the water if the rollers are big to help you re-locate its position. Usually, one back-and-forth run of a hundred feet will get you back to your board – if you didn’t lose it too far upwind of you. Once reached, you can resume riding. Far better than waiting on the beach for your board to drift back in!
Some Kitesurfing Tidbits
Always pump up your inflatable kite with it laid out completely. This will prevent the bladder from twisting inside the sheathing.
When winding up your lines on your controlbar, it is better to use a “figure 8” pattern rather than just looping them around the bar in a circle like on a spool. The figure 8 pattern helps prevent them from tangling when you unwind the lines before your next session.
Check your line lengths periodically. The kite lines tend to stretch over time, and new lines you buy on a spool will need to be pre-stretched. You can adjust the leader line knots to adjust for any changes.
Make sure your harness has a spreader bar that only detaches on one side. If you need rescue on the water, you can unhook your bar so its not in the way if you need to lie on your board and paddle into shore.
Its a good idea to kitesurf with a hook knife, or some other knife made of stainless steel so it won’t rust. You may need to cut a flying line one day.
To make your board easier to reach while in the water, you can attach your board leash onto your harness or spreader bar. This way you don’t have to reach down to your ankle to grab the leash. Also, if launching and walking out in the water, the board isn’t tugging on one leg, making it harder to walk. Thirdly, after a big wipeout, there’s less potential to sprain your ankle. Fourth, when getting ready to go out, its easier to attach the leash to the harness spreader bar, rather than reach down and get it on your ankle.
When landing your kite alone, depower the kite with your leash safety system, then attach the leash to your board to hold the leash deployed when you walk to the kite. Hold the line if you need to, as well. Additionally, pile some sand on the board and leash to ensure it will stay put. You don’t want your kite blowing down the beach alone with lines flying all over the place.
The best way to find a bladder leak is to remove the bladder and pump it up well, then spread some soapy water solution over the bladder to find where it bubbles. Mark it at this spot and proceed to repair the leak.
Don’t roll the kite up the same way every time. The material can stretch over time and change the flight characteristics of the kite (it may fly always to one side, etc.)
Fold up your inflatable from one end to the middle, then do the other end. This prevents the valve from being covered making the air difficult to push out. Folding also prevents leading edge bladder twists
Fold up your ARC with the zipper on the outside of the kite. This prevents the air from being trapped inside by the zippered area being inside the roll. When folding the ARC in windy situations, bring the downwind tip UNDER the kite to the other tip to prevent the kite from catching wind and flying away..
After deflating your inflatable, close the valves, so sand doesn’t blow in for your next session. You can also use your pump to deflate your bladders since most pumps work in reverse, too.
The Skinny on Kiteboards
Small boards need more power, large boards need less power. Keeping this in mind, for any winds speed, use a smaller board in the higher winds for more control and a larger board in the lighter winds for more planing ability.
The more power the kite generates, the shorter your session will be on a smaller board since the rider has to resist more of the power of the kite with the legs.
Shorter boards are better for jumping since they create less centrifical force while doing spinning tricks, weigh less so you can go higher, and you can release your edge with a smaller board more quickly.
A thinner rail is more efficient than a thick rail for edging into the water.
The sharpness of the rail affects the edging ability, as does the thickness.
A longer rail is more efficient for edging.
Less rocker is faster due to less drag, but no rocker is slower. A plywood board will typically flex to create less drag.
Directionals are typically better for variable wind and light wind conditions due to their size and volume.
More fins help you hold down more kite, but they can also slow you down. More fins will also help to go upwind for the first time in learning this skill.
Wider is better. Wider boards will “plane” up more quickly than narrower boards.
Can I Wear Booties With My Board Straps?
Basically, a lot of people ask how you can wear booties in the footstraps of your Slingshot board (or any other board with footstraps and pads, for that matter). Its pretty simple. There are two popular methods to choose from:
1) Unscrew the kiteboard foot strap at each end and put the screw through the outermost hole of the strap, making the strap around your foot longer, so it can fit your foot and bootie. or…
2) Unscrew the strap, and replace the screw with a longer one (stainless), and use a small aluminum, or plastic, spacer to raise the strap connection points off the board a bit.
Each of these modifications takes a few minutes with a phillips screwdriver and will allow you to ride with either booties, or neoprene socks in the spring and winter.
Does Your Inflatable Fly to One Side? Bladder Twist and Removal for Repair...
If your lines are the same length, your kite is probably skew. Test to see if you have a twist in the leading edge bladder. Inflate the kite and put it leading edge down on a flat surface. If one of the tips is raised up or the shape of the leading edge isn’t symmetrical when you pick up the leading edge right in the middle (tips resting on the ground), then you probably have a twist.
Remove the bladder by pulling it out one end of the LE casing and tie a string to the other end (so you have something to pull it back through when you’re done)….and be very careful with this thin, delicate material. Use a sharpie marker to draw a line right along the front seam of the bladder. Use plenty of talcum/baby powder when replacing the bladder. The powder will help the bladder slide easily back in with less friction that could cause another twist. The line on the bladder will show up through the leading edge casing (a flashlight shining through the other side helps to see it too), so you can tell if it’s straight.
Sometimes, this problem can also be caused by a partial twist in the kite’s leading edge outer casing. To fix in most cases, pump up the kite firmly indoors or somewhere completely out of the wind. Stand behind the kite and observe the tip struts and how the LE is sitting on the floor. You will see some asymetry, on one side. Starting at the middle of the LE, you should firmly grip and twist the LE, every foot or so, in the opposite direction to remove the twist. Test fly the kite afterwards, the assymetrical flying behavior should be gone.
Bladder Twist: Does your inflation nozzle disappear into the sheathing as you pump up the LE bladder? If your bladder is twisted but the kite flies fine, you can remove the bladder and re-insert it using the technique listed above or try a faster method that may work. If the twist doesn’t seem that severe, you can try to pump the bladder a little so that it just barely holds shape and use the access zipper on the sheathing to reach in and untwist any prolems. Then pump up a little more, then reach in again to untwist when the problem occurs. Keep doing this until the bladder is fully inflated and the inflation nozzle is properly seated in the hole in the sheathing. This may require some effort and the problem may persist later.
Prevent Twists: Also, to prevent further twists, rolling up the kite tightly from the tips toward the center can cause the leading edge bladder to twist. Folding is better. Fold the kite toward the center using the tip-to-first-batten distance as a guide. Basically just fold the kite at the first batten, then fold again to the next batten and so on, until each side is folded. Then fold from TE to LE andit should fit in the bag no problem with minimal twist.
How to Find and Fix a Leak in Your Leading Edge Bladder...
There are several ways to do this. First, remove the bladder by pulling it out from one end of the LE sheathing and be sure to tie a string to the other end (so you have something to pull it back through when you’re done)….and be very careful with this thin, delicate material. Use a sharpie marker to draw a line right along the front seam of the bladder so you know it goes back in straight. Use plenty of talcum/baby powder when replacing the bladder. The powder will help the bladder slide easily back in with less friction that could cause another twist. The line on the bladder will show up through the leading edge casing (a flashlight shining through the other side helps to see it too), so you can tell if it’s straight.
Use a sponge and some soapy water to spread over the bladder, one end to the next to find the leak. The water will bubble. If this doesn’t work, you can fill your bathtub with water, and submerse the bladder from one end, to the other, while squeezing and looking for bubbles. Check the ends of the bladder, too. Sometimes the heat seals at the ends come undone and that could be the source of the leak.
How to Repair a Cut or Scratch in Your Leading Edge Bladder Sheathing...
The best way to repair small cuts (ie 3-4cm) which have just gone through the dacron but have not caused a puncture in the leading edge is to use insignia cloth with, or without, ados contact adhesive. You can reach the back of the cut areas by pulling the inside of the bladder sheath thru the zip in the middle. Patch both sides, use insignia cloth, not sail repair tape, for the older mylar bladder cloth. For the newer Dacron covered bladders, use ados contact adhesive (waterproof, flexible, permanant). Clean the sticky glue off the insignia cloth with solvent, and apply the contact adhesive. This is much stronger, and you typically only need to patch the inside. Overlap a fair way past the cuts and keep an eye on it when you inflate, if there is any bulging at the cuts get is sewn, otherwise just inspect it often in hot weather. Another option for leading edge bladders is to glue the repair, I avoid sewing wherever possible. The best glue is a clear, flexible waterproof polyurethane, commonly sold in camping stores as seam sealer for tents, shoes etc. The ados F2 contact adhesive you can find on the internet or at many harware stores. Its readily available.
How to tie Q-line and a Larks-head
- Fold the line about 8-10ý. You want room to make some knots with the line and have enough left over to be able to comfortably loop it over your leader knots on the kite.
- Take the double-line and tie and overhand knot in the double-line with an overhand knot as a back-up on the single left over line. You want about a half inch to an inch of left over line.
- To loop the larks head over another knotted leader line, spread and fold over the end loop of the big loop in the line you just made.
- There should be two loops now, so just fold these back together to make one double-loop at the end of the line that you can adjust larger or smaller. This is the loop you feed the leader line knot through thatýs on the kite.
The knot will hold under tension. The more tension, the more grip the larks head will produce.
Do You Need Longer Lines?
The downside to longer lines is less height on jumps, slow kite movement, more spaghetti potential in tangles and if its light so you need longer lines there may be no way to relaunch your kite if you drop it in the drink. The longer the lines, the more drag they create in the wind which keeps the kite further from the edge. This is a problem both in light and stronger winds. Longer lines also create extra weight, which could be a problem in light wind, making the kite drop more easily in lulls. On the other hand, you have the kite higher in the air due to longer lines, so you have a longer falling height to possibly “rescue” the kite if it drops from the air. Both of these problems would show as slack in the lines, so as long as your lines are tight, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The long lines do make the kite sit back further in the window, however this may actually be an advantage in certain circumstances…more steady pull. Long lines tend to be slacker, as well, due to drag and weight (the lines bend in the air) and from experience this makes kite steering slower (more of a delay from input to output).
The advantage to longer lines is the kite sits higher so you theoretically capture higher winds further above the ground. You also get a much longer powerstroke when you’re initially getting going.
Does Moving My Rear Line Attachments Forward Affect My Kite's Depower Performance?
The answer is yes. You get greater depower with the same amount of bar movement. Depowering ability is controlled by two factors.
The most important factor is the front line attachment position relative to the trailing edge. The further forward this position
the more you your kite will depower when the rear lines are completely slack without stalling the kite.
The second factor is your line setup. To actually acheive the full maximum depower that your front line attachment positions facilitate you have to be able to completely slacken the rear lines. If you have a free-bar or an adjuster strap that will allow slack rear lines then you are only limited by your arms reach. If you can comfortably sheet out far enough to make your rear lines slack then you have acheived full depower and changing the rear line attachement points will not give you any more depowering.
If, however, you have a adjuster strap which limits sheeting out such that you can not make the rear lines completely slack – or you have a shorter reach which makes it uncomfortable to acheive this, then moving the rear line attachments forward may help. What it does is create a shorter lever arm and so less linear movement of the bar is required to acheive the same angular rotation on the kite (the kite depowers by pivoting around the front line attachement points). See the figure below for a graphical illustration of the kite’s AOA change with respect to the same bar movement.
There are trade offs to shortening a lever arm. Most noticable is that it then requires more force to hold the kite at a particular (non-depowered) trim and so you will feel more rear line tension while riding (some riders prefer this as it gives more feedback and it can allow your kite to respond to gusts more readily). The other trade off is that if the rear line attachemnt points are moved forward enough then it may make it impossible to stall the kite down for landing and/or difficult to slow it fast enough if it starts to shoot through the power zone when launching.