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By Mike Campanaro

Many kiteboarders are reluctant to unhook, for fear that the kite will be too powerful and they won’t be able to control it without the use of their harness. The truth about unhooking is that it’s not nearly as difficult as most people think it is, and with a little practice unhooking can add a whole new dimension to your riding.

Once you unhook, you will be able to move your body in ways that just are not possible to do hooked in. Photo Paul Lang

Before you unhook, you need to first trim your kite so that it does not back stall when you have the bar pulled down against the chicken loop.

With your kite straight overhead, pull your bar all the way down. If the kite starts to back up into the window, you need to shorten your front lines until the kite will sit calmly at the edge of the window with the bar pulled all the way in.


To unhook:

  • 1. Make sure your donkey stick is not engaged.
  • 2. Ease up on your edge so that some line tension is released. This is the secret to being able to easily hold on to the kite while unhooked. The more downwind you are riding, the lower the pressure on your arms will be when you unhook.
  • 3. Pull down on the bar until the harness loop falls away from your hook.
  • 4. Keep your hands centered and your elbows close to your body. Don’t let the kite pull your arms away because you will most likely end up being pulled off your board or catch an edge. Maintain good body position by forcing your shoulders away from the kite and keeping your hips pushed towards the kite.

To hook back in:

  • 1. Ride downwind slightly to release line tension.
  • 2. Pull the bar down below your harness hook and guide it back on the hook. This can be difficult if your chicken loop is really small or floppy. If you are having trouble hooking back in, you can also grab onto the chicken loop and let go of the bar for a few moments. This will depower your kite and make it very easy to pull the chicken loop back on to your harness hook. Watch your fingers if you hook back in this way. If you hold your kite high in the window, you will find it much easier to kill the power in the kite and hook back in.

Sam Light shows us how much style unhooking can bring to your riding. Photo Toby Bromwich

Jumping Unhooked

The unhooked load and pop technique is very similar to when you are hooked in except now you will have a little more freedom when you are in the air. For some people, it’s actually easier to load and pop unhooked since the kite is not pulling you from your waist:

  • 1. Keep your hands close together in the center of the bar so that your kite stays in one place.
  • 2. Keep your kite at about ten o’clock and unhook. Keep your elbows in to your sides, hips forward, and shoulders facing forward.
  • 3. Edge hard into the wind and pop off your back foot. This motion is very similar to doing an ollie on a skateboard.
  • 4. Keep your body in control by keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • 5. As you are coming down for your landing, point your board downwind and bend your knees to soften your landing. After you land, hook back in and ride away.


Once you are comfortable with unhooking, try your first unhooked back roll. This will probably be the easiest trick to go for if you have already mastered it hooked in:

  • 1. Keep your kite low, ease off your edge, and unhook.
  • 2. Keep your bar close with your elbows in at your sides.
  • 3. Edge hard and pop off the water.
  • 4. Once you leave the water, look back over your front shoulder and let the rest of your body follow. As you come around through your rotation, spot your landing and tuck your knees towards your body. You can speed up the rotation by tucking your knees into your chest. You can slow down your rotation by slightly straightening your legs.
  • 5. Point your board slightly downwind and come in for your landing. Bend your knees and anticipate the impact. Hook back in and ride away.

Remember that you do not need to stay as compact as when you are hooked in. This will make you feel like you have a lot more freedom and a lot more style. Have fun!

Mike Campanaro is a co-owner of All Out Kiteboarding in Georgia.

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