Trimming your kite properly is an essential skill that every kiteboarder should possess, yet it’s amazing how many riders don’t take the time to set their trim correctly.
If you trim your kite properly you will go upwind easier, jump higher, take advantage of your kite’s full wind range and enjoy the best session possible because your kite will perform as it was designed. Incorrectly trimmed kites produce less responsive steering and potentially make your kite unstable and prone to back stalling or overflying. Trimming your kite adjusts its sheeting angle relative to the wind and controls the amount of surface area of the kite’s canopy exposed to the wind.
You change this angle on the water by pulling the bar closer (powering up the kite, effectively shortening the back lines) or pushing the bar away (depowering the kite and lengthening the back lines).
Before you get on the water you can adjust your trimming angle in three places; your kite’s attachment knots at the pigtails, the outside line attachment on your bar-ends and most importantly the center line power/tuning adjustment for changes on the fly.
Start by rigging your kite according to the pigtail settings suggested by your manufacturer’s user manual. Launch your kite with your center line power/tuning adjustment set at half to near full depower and bring the kite up overhead to 12 o’clock. Adjust your power/tuning adjustment up or down (strap, toggle or cleat) so that when you pull your bar all the way down to the chicken loop there is even pressure on all four lines, the wing tips are parallel to each other, and the kite stays overhead without moving forward or backwards. If your power/tuning strap doesn’t provide enough adjustment then you should adjust your chosen pigtail/connection points at the kite and lastly the back line settings at your bar ends.
Your kite lines may stretch over time where one or more lines can become shorter/longer than the others. Uneven line stretch is easily detectable as your kite will pull to one side when you put it at neutral/overhead. Connecting all four lines to a fixed point, like a nail on a fence and pulling the bar taught, will tell you if your lines are even from side to side. Check that the bar pulls even for back line parity and pulling the bar all the way to the quick release will help you determine if there is extra slack in one of the two front lines. Today’s bars are highly variable in how they allow lines to be adjusted for stretch, so refer to your user manual or local dealer for the correct way to adjust your lines specific to your personal gear.
BACK LINES TOO LONG/ UNDER TRIMMED
Too little tension on your back lines will limit the kite’s power and slow your kite’s turning response while potentially causing your kite to overfly the wind window and you. In this case, power up the kite to reduce back line sagging and put more tension on your back line tension. Visual clue: Back lines are sagging considerably more than front lines and canopy is luffing.
BACK LINES TOO SHORT/OVER TRIMMED
Too much pressure on your back lines creates more drag on your kite and will make launching harder and limit your upwind ability. It will also cause your kite to be less responsive to steering inputs and fly backwards or back stall as the oversheeted kite will kill airflow past the kite and will not be at full 100% power. Visual clue: wingtips of kite flared out.
Trimming your kite correctly is all about adjusting your front and back line settings so that when your bar travels in and out, it takes full advantage of the kite’s full depower when sheeted out and full power when sheeted in. The front and back lines are in a reverse relationship: Power up by shortening your back lines or lengthening your front lines.
You can depower by lengthening back lines or shortening front lines. When you change a knot or adjust your power/tuning strap, ask yourself which set of lines you are changing, lengthening or shortening and if all else fails, whether your adjustment will change the kite’s angle to expose more of the canopy to the wind and result in more power. Modern kites have a substantial amount of range built into the bar travel, so typically once you set your power/tuning strap, you should not have to adjust your controls much, if at all, unless the wind picks up or drops dramatically.
For more detail on how to setup your kite for a finely tuned experience, download
Tkb’s Beginner Instructional Guide.