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Learning to Ride a Race Board: A Few More Sessions

Sometimes it feels like I'm getting this figured out.

By Paul Lang

I thought I’d be able to spend more time on this race board by now, but I’ve been distracted by some big swell days and the Pismo Kite Expo. I’ve been having fun learning to ride this thing, but not enough fun to pass up a good day in the surf.

In case you missed it, you can read about my first few race board sessions here.

Anxious to get a few more race board sessions, I tried going out in wind that was just too light. Not one to learn lessons quickly, I did this two days in a row, each day ending up getting to swim back in.

I’ve seen the top racers head out in 5-6 knots of wind, but my lack of skill and the fact that my largest kite is a 12m means that 9-10 knots seems to be my limit to avoid swimming.

Last week I was finally able to get back on the board for a few hours in 10-12 knots of wind. I installed some windsurfing-style foot straps that are a lot smaller than the previous straps I was using. Right away, the tighter straps made it feel like I had a lot more control over the board.

Getting up and going on a race board is an odd feeling as you can ride when it feels like there’s hardly any power in your kite. As you get up, the board feels really unstable until you flatten the board out and then accelerate on the fins.

Keeping the board flat is definitely key to riding fast, but I still can’t hold the board flat all the time. When I hit a big lull in the wind, I feel like the board comes off the fins and the windward rail sinks. As soon as that happens, it gets really unstable. Maybe I need to bear off in the lulls to stay on a plane?

I also need to start hitting the gym or something as my legs feel like they’re on fire when I ride this thing. It’s definitely way more of a workout than cruising on a twin tip or surfboard!

It feels like I’m getting the upwind part of riding a race board figured out and I can semi-successfully tack the board most of the time. I’m having trouble getting my feet back into the straps right away, but I’m sure I just need more practice.

Going downwind and jibing is a whole different animal. I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. Every time I try to see how fast I go, I crash. Every time I attempt to jibe, I crash. I don’t even know why. One moment I’m up, the next moment I’m down. I’ve still got a lot to learn here.

I'm still doing a lot of this.

I’ve discovered I can ride through a few strands of kelp with no problem, but thick kelp makes this board come to a halt. Getting it back out of thick kelp is no fun so I need to just avoid the stuff.

Kelp! Stay Away!

Hopefully I’ll get a few more sessions on this board soon. I’ve still got a lot to learn!

What I’ve Learned:

  • The smaller foot straps I put on made the board much easier to control.
  • I can’t go out in wind that averages less than 10 knots. I’ll end up swimming.
  • Getting constant power from the kite seems really important. I have trouble holding the board in the right position in gusty wind.
  • It feels like I learn more if I have a goal in mind. Just going back and forth doesn’t really help me learn, but working upwind/downwind to a specific point (like a buoy) helps a lot.

What’s Next:

  • Try to figure out how to jibe.
  • Learn how to go fast without crashing.
  • Try riding the thing in powered conditions on a smaller kite.

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