Kitesurfing basics: Riding upwind

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Let’s talk about the first trick you’ll ever learn, riding upwind! It’s an essential part of learning to kite and one of the most frustrating, but once you crack it you’ll wonder how you ever struggled!

But struggle we did, so here are some top tips and tricks to help you nail it faster:

1) Speed is key

In order to ride upwind you need some speed, that’s why in your lessons you’ll be told to go downwind a bit to pick up speed, then lean back to start riding upwind. Simple hey! Unfortunately there’s a little more to it, as the speed has to be juuuuust right. Too slow and you’ll sink, too fast and you’ll faceplant, it’s like Goldie locks and the three bears, except it’s at sea and hopefully no bears are involved…

If you’re sinking, you’re going too slow. Work the kite up and down (1-2 or 10-11 o clock depending which side you’re on) to generate some more power and get some more speed. Once you can lean into the harness and let the bar out a little bit then you’re going fast enough, keep the kite still and cruise!

 

If you’re getting pulled face first into a world of hurt then chances are you’re going too fast. Stop working the kite after the first dive, lean into your harness, push that bar out and edge hard to slow down. If you start to skid over the surface of the water that’s the next point!

2) Edging

So you need to be able to edge in order to ride upwind. But what is edging I hear you cry?? It’s basically just leaning back on the heel side of your board to keep tension in the lines and keep the kite generating apparent wind (I’m not even going into that here though!). As you’ve probably heard in your lessons, bend your back leg and straighten your front leg to get into a good position for riding.

To achieve a solid edge you need to lean back into your harness, press down with the heel of your back foot, and pull up with the toes on your front foot. I like to tell students to concentrate on getting the rear heel side fin into the water as that will give you grip, and stop you sliding all over the place.

Once you understand edging you can control your board speed, which will allow you to concentrate on getting the kite right.

3) Bar position

This one catches a lot of people out as they either intentionally or accidentally end up pulling the bar in too much. It’s easily done if you’re not used to wearing a harness, so it just takes some time to get used to the correct position and comfortable leaning into the harness. The key factor is keeping the correct tension in the lines, too much and the kite will stall, too little and you won’t have any power to keep going

For normal riding conditions your bar should be in the middle third of the depower line, so not fully in and not fully out. If you’re pulling the bar in and nothing is happening, maybe you need a bigger kite, and if you’re tea bagging across the ocean out of control with the bar fully out, maybe a smaller one would help.

4) Additional tips

When you arrive at the beach, check the wind direction, or even draw yourself a little diagram in the sand to fix it in your head. Once you know the wind direction you can check for fixed points on the land which will show you where to ride to. If you have a fixed reference point you can look at very often it’ll help you maintain the correct angle riding upwind.

Check out other riders who are going upwind, try to match their line and speed or play follow the leader with a friend who can ride upwind. It can be massively beneficial just to have someone there who can give you a line to follow.

If you’re getting comfortable keeping the kite still, try dropping your front hand off the bar. This will automatically twist your shoulders and hips into a nice upwind riding position

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We hope these little tips can help you crack it faster, but obviously nothing is better than taking a lesson to help you nail it. A trained instructor will help you correct mistakes much faster and avoid you a lot of unnecessary frustration. To book a lesson with us, go HERE