By Kurt Miller
Boosting on a strapped board can be a lot of fun, but strapless airs add a layer of technical difficulty that makes a successful landing both challenging and rewarding. There are many different types of airs on a strapless surfboard, each with varying levels of technique and difficulty. This tutorial will focus on strapless airs heading out through the surf.
The key to any strapless air (especially big jumps) is understanding how to keep the board glued to your feet. Obviously a good layer of wax or deck pads will help and I find booties make the board stick to your feet a bit better, particularly on landing. However, the most crucial component of a strapless air is using the wind to your advantage.
The first step is to ride with speed towards a wave that is starting to get steep, but has not yet started to break. Boosting off small (no more than two feet) whitewater on the inside is a good way to start. If you select a wave that is too steep, chances are that you will get launched straight up with little forward momentum. Lateral movement helps keep the board on your feet and makes landing much smoother.
Once in the air, position the bottom of the board into the wind as much as possible. The wind direction makes a large impact on how far you have to angle your board. In more onshore conditions, the board naturally wants to stick to your feet, whereas in sideshore conditions, you should angle the board more aggressively upwind. If you don’t put the bottom of the board into the wind, it will quickly spin out from underneath you and make landing impossible.
With so much focus on the board, many kiters forget about the bar and kite position. The tendency is for riders to put too much tension on their backhand, resulting in the kite zooming past 12 o’clock. Just like with regular boosting, this scenario causes the kiter to pendulum underneath the kite and drop out of the sky. You want to avoid this situation for three important reasons:
1. You will lose the board because there is not enough wind to keep it on your feet.
2. You will land on the board and immediately sink.
3. You might land on the board with a lot of vertical speed, making a catastrophic failure of your precious surfboard likely.
So, make sure to keep your lateral speed by positioning the kite in your direction of travel. As you come down for a landing bend your knees to absorb some of the impact. It also helps to curl your toes a bit to keep the board on your feet as you flatten out the board just before landing. This will prevent the surfboard from slipping out at the last second. Booties make landings a lot easier because they stop your front foot from sliding up the wax and off the board. Landing is not a good time for the splits.
Strapless airs are tough on surfboards, so if it looks like you are coming in hot, I suggest aborting before you land. Airs are cool, but a broken board is not. With these tips in mind, you’ll be shedding your footbelts without sacrificing your ability to boost.