It’s been awhile since I last wrote about my experiences of learning to ride a race board and I feel like I’ve come a long way since I first tried to ride this thing.
Over the past few months I’ve spent the most time walking back upwind with my gear since when I first learned to kiteboard. This board definitely allows me to ride in much lighter wind that a surfboard, but I’ve been having a hard time judging exactly where my light wind limit is.
Light wind is also a lot more tiring than riding powered up. In sub-10 knot conditions it takes a lot of work to hold the board flat and I find my legs turning to jelly in a big hurry.
When the wind hits about 12 knots I feel like riding a race board gets much easier as once I have enough power that much of my weight is supported by the kite, the board takes much less energy to control. I would say this is one of the most important aspect of these boards – try to keep your weight off of them and instead let your kite support your weight.
Riding upwind I focus on holding the board flat by pushing on the balls of my feet and try to drive any pressure on my feet into the fins while keeping my weight off the heel edge of the board. When I do it right the board feels fast and almost effortless to ride. When I do it wrong the board feels slow, unstable, and takes a lot of leg muscle to control.
When I was first learning to ride this board I always wanted to see how fast I could go, but I think that was the wrong thing to do. It led to a lot of high-speed runs and spectacular wipeouts, but I wasn’t learning much. Now I focus not on speed, but control and good body position. I feel like I’m able to ride further upwind and stay in control of the board if I just focus on keeping the board flat and not simply trying to go fast.
Riding a race board upwind is one thing and riding one downwind is a completely different experience. At first, I couldn’t even figure out how to go downwind at all without crashing. Now I feel in control while flying downwind, but I still crash a lot and still haven’t made a successful full-speed jibe.
Riding downwind I’ve found it’s best to bend your knees a lot and keep your body more over the top of the board. You also have to be very aggressive with the kite to keep it powered while riding fast downwind.
When you ride downwind with a lot of speed, there is less pressure in your kite. This means it reacts relatively slowly and you have to use big, aggressive power strokes to keep your power and speed up.
Jibes still elude me. I’ve managed a few slow, wobbly ones, but I’ve yet to pull one off while riding fast. I still have a lot to learn here. I’m still enjoying the challenge of learning to ride something new and completely different than what I’m used to, but every time I get on this board I feel like a beginner again.
What I’ve Learned:
- It seems more important to focus on good form, not going as fast as possible.
- Let your weight hang from your kite. The board is much easier to control if you stay light on your feet.
- Jibing at full speed is very difficult.
- I need to do a race to see where I stand next to other riders.
- I think it’s time for me to upgrade to a current race board and fins, or at least ride new race gear for a few sessions. I’ve been told by a number of people that my setup is much more difficult to ride than the latest generation equipment and I’m curious to see what the difference is.