Kitesurfing has to be one of the coolest sports you’ve ever seen and you’d be damned if you didn’t at least give it a try! You took some lessons, you mastered the kite, you swallowed some water while body dragging and you’ve finally been handed a board. Now what? How do you learn to kitesurf?
What is the water start?
The water start is quite possibly the hardest and most critical kitesurfing ‘trick’ you’ll ever learn. This is the moment when learning to kitesurfing where you get up on the board and unleash all sorts of possibilities — face planting, ass dipping teabag style, a combination of shake-sliding, supermanning your way downwind … oh and riding! Yes, once you master the kiteboard waterstart, you could actually be riding!
We are not going to lie, when learning to kitesurf, the waterstart is a tricky skill to master. You need to control the kite up there, while you get your feet into the straps down here, you’re drifting downwind, while the current is taking you to the left, you just swallowed a bit of salt water while the sun is making it impossible to see anything, but you know there are at least five kiters in your way … before you know it, you’re spinning around, your kite just crashed in the water, and you lost your board who knows where. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
When learning to kitesurf, everything is so new, and oh so hard! We get it, we’ve been there! Our kite instructors will be with you every step of the way. Holding your board, your bar or your hand, supporting and directing you until you make it. In kiteboarding, the waterstart is a crucial skill that requires time, practice and feeling, but with the right instructor you’ll quickly learn to get up and get going.
4 most common problems students face when learning the kiteboard waterstart
If you haven’t already, go ahead and book some kiteboarding lessons, but in the meantime, here’s some insight into the most common mistakes we see when teaching the waterstart, and how to avoid them.
Problem 1: Spinning and twisting while getting ready for the kiteboard waterstart
Controlling the kite with one hand while trying to get your feet into the kiteboard straps and also not swallowing any water or crashing your kite while you’re battling the wind and current can be overwhelming. It is common for beginners to spin around while getting their feet into the kiteboard straps and/or while getting ready for the waterstart.
Here are some tips that will make your life easier if spinning is something that often happens to you:
1. Make sure you have the wind straight into your back.
Sometimes the wind changes direction during a session so it is very important to always adjust accordingly. Instead of focusing on a visual element like the hut or a tree for alignment, make sure you feel the wind. Easiest way to ensure your starting position is right, is to listen to the wind — you should feel/hear it equally in both ears.
2. Keep the kite parked at 12.
If you keep spinning it might be due to the kite pulling you to one side as soon as you get your eyes off of it. Holding the bar in the middle will minimise the chances of accidentally steering the kite.
3. Tighten your core.
Your core plays an insane role for balance in and off the water.
4. Make sure your board is perpendicular to the wind.
The board works like a steering wheel so make sure to put your feet in quickly and apply equal pressure on both feet. If you feel like you’re steering the board one way, try applying more pressure onto the other foot to realign yourself.
Problem 2: Not being able to get up or sinking in soon after
When first learning to kitesurf we can be a bit weary of the kite’s power and half ass the powerstroke. This is the most common reason why you just can’t get going.
These are some of the ways how you can make sure you’re generating enough power to get up:
1. Be more aggressive with your kite. Speed generates more power and that’s exactly what you need to get up and going.
2. Do a bigger powerstroke. Steer the kite backwards a bit before you dip it fast down the direction you’re going. A longer flying distance will also generate more power
3. Ensure you have the right kite size for the conditions. If you have an instructor beside you they’ll make sure you’re have the right gear for the job. But if you’re practicing on your own you might want to have a look around at what size kites are in the air.
Problem 3: Getting up on your kiteboard but falling backwards again (aka teabagging)
There are three possible causes to the teabagging phenomenon; not generating enough power, stalling the kite by pulling the bar too hard, stalling the kite by edging too much. Chances are, you’re guilty of all three of them.
Here’s how to stop ass dipping into the water teabag style:
1. Don’t pull the bar too much.
Pulling the bar is a natural reaction when trying to get up. While it does generate more power at first, pulling the bar too much will make the kite stall backwards and you’ll loose the pul.
2. Be more aggressive with the kite.
If you ensure you’re generating enough power with the kite you will feel no desire or need to pull the bar in and you will feel the lift through the harness.
3. Do a second power stroke.
If you get up but feel like you don’t have enough power to get going, a second power stroke will help you get some speed.
4. Adjust your stance and edge less.
Straighten your front leg while keeping your back leg gently bent and angle your board at about 45 degrees. When you edge too much the board creates an awful load of resistance, this means you’d need an insane amount of power to keep you going. By aligning your board slightly downwind you’ll need a lot less power from the kite in order to get up on your board and get going.
5. Tighten your core.
The kite will pull you up from the center (harness) therefore tightening your core is very important for your balance and to protect your back.
Problem 4: Getting up on your kiteboard but face-planting over the front (aka superman)
When learning to kitesurf, the teabag and superman go hand in hand. In the beginning it is normal to go from one extreme to the other, since you’re still getting the feeling for the game. Often students will start cautiously by not generating enough power and not getting up, until at some stage they find the courage to do a massive powerstroke which gets them up, up, up in the air and forward over the board into the water face first.
Here’s how to avoid face-planting when learning to kitesurf:
1. Don’t generate more power than what you can control.
This is a fine game of push and pull that you will master over time.
2. Adjust your stance.
If you’re straightening the front leg too much or putting too much weight on your front leg or toes, chances are you’re burying the board in the water or at least catching the edge.
3. Make it look cool.
The superman is part of the learning curve and it will happen so you may as well have some fun with it.
So what’s the real trick to getting up on a kiteboard?
You’ve probably noticed that the above tips often contradict each other. This is because, when we learn a new skill, we often tend to go from one extreme to the other before we get the feeling and find that middle ground. There are literally a million little tips we can give you to help you nail the kiteboarding water start; hands closer together, lean back, lean less, straighten the legs, edge less, edge more, pull the bar, don’t pull so much … But in the end it always comes down to perseverance and practice.
We know it’s hard, but we also know it’s doable and you can do it! So show up and try again, we promise it’s worth it!
Let us know if you have any questions in the comments and don’t forget to share this post with your friends who are just learning to kitesurf!