By John Mapel
These days, I hear more and more people talk about how they want a lot of depower in their kite so they can have more control.
I often respond by remarking that a rider shouldn’t just rely on the kite’s depower capability, but should also work on strengthening his or her foundations.
Speed and power control is a combination of body positioning, board riding skills, and kite technique. Whether you are trying to hold it down in overpowered conditions or drive upwind, here are some tips for having better control over your riding.
Proper body position is the key ingredient for good power control and resistance against the kite. I like to tell my students to think about playing tug of war when edging. The winning team doesn’t bend over!
It’s all about keeping your hips forward, your shoulders back, and your head looking in the direction you want to go. Proper weight distribution over the board can be achieved by keeping your front leg straight and your back leg slightly bent.
Imagine creating a straight line through your body from your front heel to the back of your head. By doing these things, your body position over the board will fall into place automatically and you will be able to edge harder and have better control of your kite’s power.
Making sure your kite is properly adjusted and tuned is important in your ability to control power and speed, as it can have a huge effect on your ability to keep good body position.
You should be able to sheet out the bar and depower the kite without compromising your stance. For this very reason, I prefer to fly kites that are designed with a short throw on the bar system to depower the kite at arm’s length.
Many kites with a longer throw on the bar system include a stopper ball on the depower line that can be set so the bar will stay within reach if you let go of it. Having to bend over to depower the kite defeats the purpose of being able to control it, because you end up losing your edge and resistance against the kite. Make sure that you can depower the kite by pushing out just with your arms and not breaking at the waist.
A properly tuned kite gives you an advantage in power control and in being able to “hold it down” in high wind. In most cases, you should have your bar tuned so that all lines are equal length at the kite.
When flying in over‐powered conditions, you can experiment with alternate tunings by either shortening the front lines or lengthening the rears, depending on where your tuning options are. Many bar systems have different sets of knots on the leader lines, allowing you to adjust the line lengths.
The kite pigtails often have multiple knot attachment points. By shorting the front lines in comparison to the rears, it is easier to drive the kite to the edge of the wind window outside of the power zone. This will give you a bit more top end, as well as make it easier to edge upwind in over‐powered conditions.
Getting Upwind and Controlling Speed:
With a properly tuned kite and correct body position, controlling speed and getting upwind will be much easier to achieve. It’s a combination of kite control and edging with the board.
Start by riding with good speed and keeping a decent edge. Keep your kite low (I keep mine about five feet above the water line) and sheet out the bar just a bit. Progressively dig your board harder into the water, almost like gradually pressing the brake pedal with your back foot. At this point, you should notice the kite shoot forward into the wind as the window shifts with you.
You will also feel yourself slowing down as you progress more and more upwind. As you practice this technique, you should realize that if you edge too hard you will stop completely, and if not hard enough you won’t be forcing the kite outside of the window or traveling upwind. This is a valuable technique to master for intermediate level riding, and will allow you to have more control while relying less on your kite’s depower.
John Mapel is a co-owner of All Out Kiteboarding in Georgia.