By Sean Mertens
Strapless kiteboarding can open up a world of fun. Taking off the straps gives a feeling incredibly close to surfing. I myself recently switched from straps to strapless. However, I think a lot of people make the mistake of switching to strapless too early just because it is the new thing to do.
In my opinion, strapped kitesurfing is still a very necessary step in progressing as a rider. Straps provide a more forgiving way to rip. They help when the conditions get gnarly and enable you to blast into the lip fully powered.
If you do feel that you have mastered the waves with straps or if you are looking to go strapless on those lighter days where you need to be on a larger board then it may be time to unscrew the straps. Here are a few suggestions and some information that may smooth over the learning curve:
- Booties and wax work great for traction, but over time the chop will put your heels through your board. A traction pad can increase the lifespan of your board a lot.
- Losing the straps can be a fun challenge, but sometimes the conditions just aren’t right. In big closeout surf, straps can allow you to tear up un-makeable waves and keep you smiling.
- If you are learning to get up and going, consider body dragging through the waves to eliminate crashes and evil glares from the more experienced riders going after waves.
- Riding strapless allows you to use less power from the kite and more from the wave. This makes wave riding feel just like surfing.
- Try to ride a board that you can also paddle surf on.
- If the wind gets light, try switching to a bigger board rather than a bigger kite.
- When you wax up your board don’t forget to use basecoat wax for the fist layer. This little extra effort makes your grip much better and your wax job will last longer.
- Choose your first few strapless sessions carefully. Trying to learn on days with lots of chop, gusty wind, or big surf can be very frustrating. A calm and smooth day will get you hooked.
- To punch through whitewater, hit it straight on. If you are crooked the wave will throw you over sideways.
- Park the kite as much as you can while on a wave. The less you have to mess with your kite the better.
- A board with less rocker will get upwind faster, but a board with more rocker performs better in the surf.
- When jibing, stay light on your feet and eliminate as many steps as you can. Ultimately, you should be able to switch both feet in one hop.
- Do not wear a leash. Spending time body dragging back to your board is much better than having it slingshot back at your head when you fall.
- Have fun and hit it as hard as you can.