As a beginner kiteboarder, you probably went through the whole learning process and heard the same basic kiteboarding tips over and over again.
There are a lot of things, however, you can only learn through experience. These things can not only make your kitesurfing life much easier and learning curve smoother, they can even help to keep you safe. In this post, I will share 45 beginner kiteboarding tips from the trenches, most of which I learned the hard way.
The following list of tips covers many aspects of kiteboarding, from packing up your stuff, setting up your gear, getting into the water, getting up on your board, staying upwind, relaunching your kite, jumping, landing your kite, after riding, all the way to packing up and leaving.
Before leaving home
1. Always take all your gear
There’s nothing worse for a beginner kiteboarder than reaching the beach after a long drive just to realize everyone is riding on 12m kite but you left yours at home after seeing the 25-knot forecast (or conversely with a light wind forecast).
No matter how sure I am about the conditions, I try to always bring my 3 kites and both a twintip and a directional – some friends also have their foil kiteboard handy just in case. Unless, of course, you’re in a zone where cars tend to get broken into…
2. Have a set fixed gear checklist
I always count these 5 items (on my fingers) before leaving:
- Control bar
In my case, these things are not stored together at home, so making sure I get everything before I leave is vital. As a beginner kiteboarder in the past, I’ve lost a few sessions due to a missing bar – or even board!
I also usually pack a large bucket to put my wet harness and wetsuit in, a plastic bag for the wetsuit in so it doesn’t get damaged from the harness straps in the bucket, and a longer bag for my wet bar. In cold weather, I also take a poncho tower robe for changing more comfortably.
3. Don’t just rely on your wind meter
When it comes to picking your kite for the current session, always listen to 1) your natural body sensors and 2) popular wisdom! Step on the beach near the water, put your face out in the wind, and let your brains compare current wind speed with your previous sessions.
Or, if you’re a newbie, look at what everyone else (assuming you’re not the only kiter on that beach) is pumping, talk to them, and adjust for your weight, board, and skill level.
No matter how much you think you know, don’t rely solely on a wind meter. Aside from the relative accuracy of meters, the other riders may know something you don’t about today’s conditions – tide, storm, thermal effects…
4. Choose an appropriate wetsuit
If, because of the conditions and/or your beginner level, there’s a good chance you may end up losing your board or failing to relaunch your kite today, wear a thick enough wetsuit that will keep you warm if you find yourself floating and drifting downwind toward the shore for a long time.
If you’re a complete rookie kiteboarder, e.g. fresh out of kite school, I recommend also using a floatation jacket, especially if the wind is gusty and/or there are waves (check out my post on kite vests).
5. Suit up and set up your lines first
Especially with strong wind, pumping your kite should typically be one of your last steps before getting out. The less time your kite spends being whipped by sand and hard wind, the longer it will last.
Also, the lower the chance of something happening to it, e.g. getting blown away, someone’s lines cutting into it, or someone’s board flying through it.
When I arrive at the beach, I take my kite bag, harness, bar and pump out of the car, immediately put on my wetsuit, then go down and set up my lines. Only then do I pump my kite.
6. Walk upwind for extending your lines
There are typically 2 ways to extend your lines in the sand/grass: unroll the lines while walking towards the wind (upwind) or with your back to it (downwind).
The advantage of walking upwind (line tips are upwind from the bar) is that you’ll be connecting your lines to the back of your kite (trailing edge), which allows you to quickly see if the bridles are clearly set up.
However, unrolling your lines walking downwind will make it MUCH easier to keep your lines from tangling, particularly in strong wind. I always choose this option -even though it means connecting from the leading edge, front side of the kite – unless I have space constraints.
A side benefit of unrolling with your back to the wind is that you can run the lines nice and smooth through your fingers and easily feel any knots or cuts on them.
7. Choose the right line settings
Many kites have different knot settings for adjusting power. On my Cabrinha kites, there are 3 knot positions where the steering lines connect. This allows me to increase or reduce the amount of power in my kite based on current wind.
I don’t like being overpowered, particularly when riding strapless, so I can choose a smaller kite and shorten the back lines slightly by connecting them to the knot closest to the kite.
This will pull the trailing edge down a bit more and lift the leading edge, opening up the kite to the wind and giving it a bit more power. As a beginner, be sure to test the settings on your kite.
8. Brace your spine when pumping your kite
Pumping your kite can be hard on your back! To avoid straining yourself, when pumping, make sure you push your hips backward and bend at the hips, not your spine! Brace your lumbar muscles, and bend your knees very slightly. As a beginner, you will thank me for this tip!
If you do it right, pumping your kite can double up as both a warmup and a stretch. It gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing. By pushing your hips back and tensioning your abs and lower back, you’ll also get a good stretch in your posterior chain – glutes, hamstrings, calves.
See the Foundation Training section of my post on kitesurfing with a bad back – important stuff!
9. Flick the leading edge for pressure
When pumping your kite, you may wonder how much pressure is enough – or too much. Some beginner kiteboarders have pumps with a built-in pressure gauge. I don’t have one, and would not trust it to be honest.
The way I do it is to flick my leading edge and listen to the sound. Your kite should be well inflated to keep it from bending, especially for heavier riders. The sound from flicking it should therefore be relative high pitched. After a while, you’ll recognize the sound of a well-inflated kite!
10. Always close your struts
If you’re leading edge bladder leaks or blows up while riding far at sea, the struts will be your best friends as they’ll keep your kite afloat. You may even be able to sail your floating kite back to shore. So be sure to close the separate strut valves after pumping the kite.
Note: over time, the struts may get harder to deflate after riding as the rubber tubes get softer and stay pinched even after opening the shutter. You can easily and cheaply replace these rubber tubes – new kites often come with replacements.
11. Pull out your front bridles before connecting
Sometimes when I’m in a rush, I will connect the front lines to the leading edge bridles without completely pulling them out in front of the kite. As I’m about to launch, I then realize one of the bridles has remained caught somehow, so I must have the person put the kite down to fix it.
As a beginner kiteboarder, you can save yourself – and you launch helper – time and hassle by checking that your front bridles are all clear before launch.
12. Do a few stretches and squats
You’re all set up, kite pumped, harness on, lines ready… Before you run and grab your bar to hook it up to your harness, do a few squats and posterior muscle stretches! You’ll thank yourself for it after your session. Good stretching works miracles and helps me avoid back issues.
13. Get your board out of the way
Beginner riders often leave their kiteboard lying in the sand somewhere between their bar and kite before launching. It’s not uncommon for the lines to catch the board when launching, which then may drop on someone’s head.
You should always have the half circle that has your bar as its center point and your lines as radius completely clear. What I typically do is pick up the board and position it in the sand upwind from the bar. That is, when holding the bar and facing the kite, the board is behind me.
When using a surfboard, I like to place it downwind next to the water before launching – it makes it things easier for me after launch.
14. Check your harness and kite leash
This may sound obvious, but I always double-check my harness before launch. In the past I’ve forgotten to lock the spreader bar or secure the chicken loop correctly with the rubber finger.
This can quickly result in really bad situations where your spreader bar or chicken loop goes loose.
Also, if your bar has a safety leash, do not forget to put it on, or you may have to kiss your kite and bar goodbye! Hook up the leash to your harness in the front, not to your back handle! Trust me, you don’t want to get dragged backward in the water even by a flagged kite.
My Cabrinha kites use one of the kite lines as safety leash, so I don’t need to wear one unless I want to ride unhooked.
15. Tense up your lines before walking around the kite
If you’re on a huge sandy beach with tons of empty space around you, you can skip this one. If you’re like me, however, there’s always something lying around between you and your kite – bags, rocks, other people’s boards etc – as you’re ready to launch your kite.
After I hook up my chicken loop and prepare to launch, I always take a couple of steps back to tense up my lines a bit so that they’ll hover above the obstacles. In this way, as I walk around my kite to position myself for launching, my lines won’t get caught in anything in the sand.
16. Check your canopy is tense before launch
This one is probably taught by kite schools, yet I see a lot of beginner kiters ignoring it. As you’re all set up for launch and a person is holding your kite up ready to let go, always check your canopy to make sure it’s tense enough before giving the OK signal.
If your kite is still flapping a bit, it means you need to step slightly further upwind. If you ignore it and have the person let go anyway, your kite is likely to bounce around first.
Getting into the water
17. Adjust your trim for walking
In some places, kiteboarders have a lot of ground to cover walking with their kite up in strong wind to get to the water. As a beginner, be sure to trim your kite as much as necessary to avoid getting lofted or dragged while walking to the water.
Conversely, if the wind is weak on and near the beach (even though it’s stronger out at sea), un-trim your kite until you ride out into the stronger wind zone.
18. Walk with your kite below 12:00
This is another thing newbie kitesurfers tend to do: walk on the beach with their kite in zenith position. In strong or gusty wind this is a hazardous practice as it’s easy to get lofted up and lose control. Always try to have your kite positioned between 9 and 12 (or 3 and 12).
In very crowded spots, e.g. in the summer, you may be forced to keep your kite at 12:00 to avoid touching other kites. As soon as you can, try to lower your kite in the opposite half-window from the kite that’s closest to you.
19. Wait for other kiters to leave
As you’re about to walk into the water, you may come across other kiteboarders riding close to the shore, some getting ready to turn around and ride back out, others getting out of the water.
Crossing lines with another kiter near the water is way common among beginners. Always wait for these kiteboarders to either walk in or ride back out, with your kite turned inland so as to not get in their way.
20. Beware of bad underwater surprises
I’ve had my fair share of stepping onto weeverfish, sea urchins, big rocks, stones, or sharp reef with my kite up and my board in my hand. Be cautious of where you step – won’t help much for weeverfish though – and get your feet off the ground as soon as you can.
21. Dive and drag past the shore break
Doing your waterstart in strong shore break is hard when you’re a rookie kiteboarder. As you step into the water with your kite up and your hand grabbing your board, try to move your kite slightly lower seaward to generate a slight pull.
With the help of your kite’s low pull, dive through the first waves, and body drag past the shore break.
22. Adjust your trim before diving the kite
I mentioned previously that you should use your trim to make walking to the water with your kite up easier and safer. Once you’re in the waterstart position, however, make sure to re-adjust your trim before diving your kite into the power zone – this is another important beginner tip.
So if the wind is light close to the shore, remove your trim to have enough power to get up and get initial speed. If, on the other hand, the wind is strong by the beach, trim your kite to avoid being thrown off your board or faceplant.
23. Don’t start edging too soon/too late
Most beginner kiteboarders have a tendency to edge hard as soon as they get up and start planing. Edging too much and too early keeps you from picking up speed and can even stop you in your track and depower your kite.
Conversely, if you fail to edge after picking up some initial speed in strong wind, you may start going too fast right away, lose control and crash.
24. Edge in small touches
If you observe seasoned kitesurfers, you’ll notice they tend to edge in small touches vs continuously, particularly in variable wind.
Basically, as you ride, whenever you feel a strong gust coming in, you go all out edging your board as hard as you can, getting ready to release the pressure on your board when the gust ends. This way, you take full advantage of wind boosts and avoid losing momentum in lulls.
25. Head downwind before working the kite
Another common beginner kiteboarder mistake is to start working the kite (“8” patterns) immediately when the wind drops. Seasoned kitesurfers respond to wind lulls by adjusting their course first, heading a bit downwind without moving the kite too much.
Only when the wind lull lasts should you start working your kite to create more apparent wind and avoid it from stalling and your board from sinking. Moving your kite in 8 shapes will make you lose of lot of ground, so try to only do it if you have to.
26. Head downwind when crossing waves
Beginner kiteboarders often ride across incoming waves by smashing into them head on. This approach is not only high-impact on your bones and ligaments, it can also send you flying unwillingly.
Instead, head a bit downwind right before you hit the wave while raising your kite closer to 12:00 to generate a slight upward pull that will help you hop over the wave or whitewater.
27. Adjust your trim as needed
I know, this is the third tip on adjusting your trim, but this is worth mentioning for a beginner: trim your kite more or less based on the current situation.
For example, if you’re getting ready to ride down a wave, you may get some slack in your lines as you ride toward your kite. Release the trim to give your kite a bit more power to prevent it from stalling or even dropping.
As you get more experienced, you’ll learn to move your kite better and make more turns to respond in such situations.
28. Walk back while you can
As a beginner kiteboarder, if you feel you’re getting underpowered due to the wind dropping, don’t wait until you’re too far downwind to cut your losses, get out and walk back up.
If you drift for too long or keep riding out to sea hoping the wind picks up, you may end up in a bad zone downwind (rocks, reef, no wind etc). In any case, you’ll have a lot more walking to do to get back to your starting point – wind will often pick up when you start walking!
Dropping your kite
29. Wait for the wind to pick up again
If your kite is down out in the ocean due to a wind drop, the first thing to do is to wait for the wind to resume. Don’t do anything radical, like rolling up your lines or your kite, unless you’re pretty sure the wind is gone for good!
30. Grab a back line and pull
Sometimes, they may be a bit of wind left but your kite won’t relaunch, e.g. due to the current pushing you toward the kite. Try to pull one of your steering lines to steer the floating kite around you, positioning the lines in a different angle to the wind direction.
As a beginner kiteboarder, however, beware of the wind picking up and your kite relaunching without warning. If that happens, the line you’re holding and pulling on may badly cut your hand.
31. Forget about your board
One thing that often bogs down beginner kiteboarders after they crash their kite is worrying about their kiteboard drifting away. Holding on to their board keeps them from having both hands free – which are badly needed to relaunch their kite in low wind.
Another potential obstacle is if you’re wearing a board leash: be sure to untie your leash and set your board loose before any attempt to relaunch, else your board may relaunch with your kite! Recovering your board through body dragging is easy no matter how far the board has drifted.
32. Let the wind push you back to shore
If you fail to relaunch your kite, and assuming the wind is either onshore, side-on, or cross-shore in a bay, try not to panic and just wait for the (low) wind to push your floating kite toward the beach. Don’t part with your kite (unless of course the wind has turned offshore)!
Depending on wind direction and beach configuration, it could take you a couple hours to get back inland. As mentioned, having a good wetsuit on will keep you from getting hypothermia.
33. Choose the right area
Before jumping, carefully check that no-one is riding (or about to ride) downwind from you! Also make sure there are no rocks or buildings even far downwind, as you never know har far you may end up landing – e.g. getting lofted by an unexpected air stream.
34. Choose the right timing
Not an easy one for a beginner kiteboarder, but you should get a good feel for the wind before trying a big jump. If the wind is super gusty, you may hit a lull and drop like a stone after boosting upward in the air.
Conversely, you might get caught in a strong gust at the moment you pop off the water and get sent flying into outer space. I’m personally wary of jumping in highly unstable winds – doing so takes a good dose of experience and control.
35. Send your kite backward hard
A common mistake beginners make right before when jumping to send their kite barely past 12:00 into the opposite half window as they’re ready to pop. If you really want to jump, you need to edge very hard, then send the kite backward super fast and low while popping.
Check out my post on big air kites for more on jumping.
Getting out of the water
36. Trim your kite as soon as you get up
This is common sense but a lot of beginner kiteboarders tend to forget: in stronger wind, trim your kite completely as soon as you reach the beach and get up on your feet. As I mentioned earlier, walking with your kite up in high wind can be a hazardous moment, so depowering your kite before you do is crucial.
37. Keep your kite towards the water until clear
This is the reverse of my earlier tip on walking into the water: when exiting the water, check the area is clear of other kiters getting into the water with their kite up to avoid crossing lines. Until the zone is free, keep your kite low toward the ocean until the other kitesurfers ride away.
38. Put your kite on its ear if no-one comes
Again, in strong wind, you should avoid keeping your kite at 12:00 for a long time. If no-one is around to help you land your kite, and you don’t know how to self-land – which can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, lower your kite down to the ground with its ear on the sand, then try to grab someone’s attention.
39. Secure your kite after landing
Ask the person who helped you land your kite to either dump enough sand onto it to keep it from flying off, or to hold the kite with its ears up (no power) until you walk up to them, grab it and put it down yourself.
In both cases, unhook your bar from your harness as soon as the kite has landed to avoid getting dragged in case of a sudden, unexpected relaunch.
40. Roll up your lines before disconnecting
Practical tip for beginner kiteboarders: at the end of your session, right after your kite is landed and secured (either in low wind or with sand on top of the kite), you can start rolling up your lines on your bar immediately while walking towards the kite and disconnect them after you reach the kite.
41. Deflate your kite before getting dressed
Remember my beginner tip on pumping your kite last after completing all the other setup steps so as to minimize kite flapping time in the sand? Well, this is the reverse one: deflate your kite immediately after rolling up your lines, i.e. before taking off your wetsuit, getting dressed, and putting your stuff back in the car.
42. Deflate your center strut last
Post-session kite rolling tip: particularly in strong wind, start by deflating your leading edge, then the side struts closest to you. Leave the center strut inflated for now. Roll up both wings of the kite toward the center.
Only when the kite is almost fully rolled up should you deflate the main strut so you can fold it. The inflated strut acts as a bone that makes it easier to pack the kite.
43. Don’t fold your kite too small or tight
Speaking of folding a kite, some beginner kiteboarders are a bit anal about folding their kite as tight as they were in their packing state. Folding your kite too small or too tight can speed up fabric wear and tear. Try to pack and fold your kite as loose as you can.
I try to leave a slight bit of air in the struts (i.e. I don’t frantically flatten them out) to keep the fabric from folding too tight. Most kite bags are large enough to allow for loose packing. I sometimes use the long soft fabric case that comes with my Cabrinha kite for storage instead of the backpack.
44. Do the checklist before driving away
I once left a control bar in the sand, never to be found again. Several beginner kiteboarders I know left their kiteboard behind. To make sure this doesn’t happen, before leaving the beach I always go through the same mental checklist I do before hitting the beach.
45. Clean up and dry up your kite
Along with UV from the sun, sand and moisture are the worst enemies of your kite’s longevity. If, after your last session, you packed your kite while humid and with tons of sand, then kick yourself in the butt and clean it up at home.
Unfold you kite, let in dry in the (low UV) sun, and clean the fabric with a small broom. If you’ve soaked your kite in seawater, you can also pump it up and rinse it with clear water. Avoid rubbing the fabric, however, so as not to remove the coating.