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Jump!

If light air is what makes you interested in kitesurfing, it's jumping that will make you hooked.  You don't need any wave, boat or wake; just water or snow at your local beach or playing grounds and some decent wind more than 10 knots.  Once you have learned how to jump you may not want to be in any wave or big chop as ordinary flat water can get you go faster and probably jump higher.


Jump!
Photo by Steve Slaby

Flat water jumping will even the playing field somewhat by allowing all of the kitesurfers to have fun practicing advanced aerial moves without having to be at some of the perfect spots on earth with the perfect wind and wave combinations.

So how much wind do you need to jump?  Personally, I have never been able to jump decently (more than 5')  in 5-10 knots wind (couldn't jump at all from 5 - 7 knots).  I have done a number of 10' floaty jumps in 10-15 knots;  however, it's 15+ knots that allows for 20' - 30+' jumps.

Jumping Equipment

The following equipment and conditions are recommended for jumping:

  • A fast and powerful kite that you can control the power easily on the water such as a flat LEI, a 4 line inflatable, or a foil with depowering system.  The ability to control the power is important as it makes you be more confident to kitesurf in a more powered up conditions.  Generally the classic inflatable kites are easiest to jump due to the "Sled Boosting" effect; however, most of the newer Flat Inflatables (SLE Kites) also have comparable "Sled Boosting" effect.
Hung's current jumping kite: Best Waroo (Flat LEI) and KiteLoose Patriot
  • A small board (with no sharp edge or point) that you can easily control with your 2 feet while being air born.  If it is a bidirectional board then it should be 140cm or less.  If it is a directional board then it should be around 10cm shorter than your height or even shorter.  The board should be as thin and as light as possible.  This does not mean that you can not jump with a larger light wind board; it's simply easier and safer to jump with a shorter, lighter board. 

Hung's current bidirectional and directional jumping board

  • 15 - 20 knots of wind. You can jump in much less wind as long as you are powered up; however, it simply easier to learn flat water jumping in 15 - 20 knots (I have done a number of 10' jumps in 10 knots winds; however it's 15+ knots wind that makes 20'+ jumps easier)
  • A helmet to protect your head and a wakeboard impact vest to protect your body during the numerous "crashes" which likely to happen when you first learn jumping.
  • If you kitesurf in a colder climate, wear a wet suit thicker than you normally would (as you will be in the water more often;  furthermore, a thicker wet suit will protect your body better during the "crashes")

Flat Water Jumping Technique

Similar to windsurfing, it is very easy to jump in wave.  You only need to approach the wave with some decent speed.  The momentum of the board will get you air born once you pass the lip of the wave.  In the case of kitesurfing, you need to move the kite up (70 to 85 degrees vertically) when approaching the wave otherwise the down wind force of the kite will make you jump horizontally more than vertically.   If you move the kite up just before hitting the lip of the wave, the upward momentum of the kite will make you jump much higher than a windsurfer on the same wave.

The Theory

Flat water jumping is much more complex than wave jumping.  As there is no ramp to send you skyward, you need a very strong force to lift you out of the water.   To jump in flat water, you simply send the kite upward/backward (85 degrees vertically backward) while continue to move your board forward.  When that happens the combination of the following forces will send you skyward:

  • The upward component of the force of the kite will eventually send you skyward; however, this is a transient force and by itself is often absorbed by the lines and not enough to lift you out of the water.
  • The backward component of the force of the kite acting in conjunction with the forward momentum of the board will create a very strong transient force causing a very high tension on the lines to assist the upward component of the kite to lift you out of the water.  The faster you move forward and the faster the kite move backward will create stronger line tension; in such case, the upward component of the force of the kite can be utilized more to send you skyward. Also, the faster you move forward, the more you can send the kite upward (you don't need as much backward force) to jump higher. In stronger wind, you can move much faster that is is why you can also jump much higher.
  • The force of the kitesurfer edging the board to resist the down wind component of the force of the kite (did somebody mention to you that kitesurfing is 3D?) to continue to move the board forward and then suddenly release the edge (when the line tension is high enough), flatten the board and extend the legs to jump

Once being air born, the kitesurf need to move the kite from 85 degrees vertically backward to 70 degrees forward.  Such movement will create a "pendulum" effect that will sustain the air time of the kitesurfer and also prepare the kite for landing.

The Practice

To jump, you need to be in a powered up situation where you can lock the kite in at 60 degrees vertically or making a small sine wave between 45 to 75 degrees vertically.   If you have to make a larger sine wave, you simply don't have enough power to jump.

  • While moving on a beam reach very fast with the kite locked in at 60 degrees vertically, turn the kite upward/backward to 85 degrees vertically in the backward direction (the stronger the wind, the higher you can send the kite - i.e. closer to zenith).  Once you have checked that the kite is moving toward the right direction, continue to look forward and move the board in the same direction (don't look at the kite as that will make you go down wind and loosen up all the line tension necessary for jumping).  You must have the feeling of "I am going crazy" as you have sent the kite through the power zone while moving fast forward and not looking at the kite.
  • Once you feel the line tension is strong enough (the same feeling when you are overpowered), flatten your board and extend your legs (simulating a very light jumping action) to jump.  This will be your last contact with the water so it is also the time you may want to create any needed momentum to do the trick you want (table top, backward/forward loop/spin, etc.).  When to release the edge and jump is dependent on how fast you are moving forward and the kite is moving backward.  In the beginning it helps to start counting (one, two three, etc.) after you have sent the kite backward/upward.  You will find the right time to release the edge after a couple of trials.  If you release the edge too soon, you will slide down wind instead of jumping.  If you release the edge too late the kite will probably yank you right out of your board.
  • Immediately after being air born, move the kite forward to zenith (and then slightly forward) to create the "pendulum" effect to sustain your air time and prepare for landing.
  • Do whatever trick you like to do (grab, table top, spin/loop, etc.).
  • Try to move the board in front of you for landing. Flex your legs upon landing to absorb any shock.  Read the Landing section before trying to make any high jump.
  • Move the kite forward/downward to get going.

When you first learn flat water jumping, remember to keep your inputs small such that you don't over turn the kite which could lead to some drastic situations (too backward a jump or too fast a landing)

Let's take a look at a photo sequence of a very basic flat water jump.

jump1.jpg (15109 bytes)

jump2.jpg (14563 bytes)

jump3.jpg (15176 bytes)

The kitesurfer has sent the kite backward / upward (notice the direction of the lines), while continue to edge the board and face forward to keep moving the board in the forward direction.

The kite has started lifting the kitesurfer.  The kitesurfer is on the way going up and is moving the kite to zenith.

The kitesurfer is on the way going down and preparing to land.  The board is nicely in front of the kitesurfer and he is moving the kite slightly forward for landing.

These photos were taken by Jan Pina for the Kitesurfing School web site.

How To Land Smoothly

Read the Landing section to learn how to land smoothly once you can jump consistently.

 


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