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Kitesurfing Tips

This page describes some tips for equipment and techniques that you may find useful for kitesurfing (if you have any other tips to add, please contact us):

  1. What is a 5th line?
  2. How to rig and use a 5th line?
  3. Volume versus planning surface
  4. Rider weight and height versus board size
  5. Rider weight versus kite size
  6. Kite size versus board size
  7. How to retrieve your board
  8. What kite to use in light wind
  9. What kite to use in strong wind
  10. Build a foil/sled depowering system
  11. Use a wakeboard for kitesurfing
  12. Cold weather kitesurfing


Ice board made on Jan 6, 2007!
Photo by Steve Slaby

What is a 5th line?

A fifth line is a line connecting the center of the leading edge of a 4 line inflatable for 2 main reasons:

  • Facilitate the flipping of the kite on its back for relaunching (the 5th line is essential for relaunching of the traditional inflatables on snow)
  • To disable the kite by connecting the safety leash to the fifth line instead of one of the other 4 lines.

How to rig and use a 5th line?

To rig a 5th line, your inflatable must have a connector at the center of the leading edge:

  • From that connector, connect a single line bridle as long as the radius of your kite (around 1/2 of the wing span in flight).  Make a few knots at the end of that 5th line bridle to facilitate length adjustment
  • Connect the 5th line bridle to a standard flying line
  • At the bar end, connect the 5th line to a 5th line leader line
  • The 5th line leader line can be simply connected to other leader lines above the trim strap if you only want to use the 5th line to assist relaunching of the kite.  To flip the kite on its back in the water, just pull on the 5th line leader line.
  • If you also want to use the 5th line for safety, connect the 5th line leader line to your safety leash
  • Test fly your kite and adjust the whole 5th line set up appropriately (try not to have it too short or too long).

Volume versus planning surface

Contrary to windsurfing, the volume of a board has little role in kitesurfing.  This mean that as long as you have enough power from the kite, you can be on a board as thin as possible.  It's the planning surface of the board that is important in such case.  In light wind, all kites are very sluggish and not likely to behave properly when you turn it around to jibe.   Depending on how fast and powerful your kite is in light wind, you will need a larger board with a larger planning surface to retain the planning. 

Rider weight and height versus board size

Contrary to windsurfing, rider weight has some role but not as dominant in determining the board size (especially in powered up situations).  Similar to snowboarding, the height of the rider is more important in selecting the proper board size. A good directional board is around the rider height and a good bidirectional board is 1' to 2' shorter.

Rider weight versus kite size

Given same level of experience and capability, rider weight is approximately proportional to kite size.  A rider twice as heavy as another should use a kite twice as big.  A beginner should use a kite smaller than an experienced kitesurfer.

Kite size versus board size

Contrary to windsurfing, in kitesurfing, there is no restriction on how big or small a kite you can use with a board. This means that you can use all of your kites with only one board.  So your main board should be a small board (around your height for a directional board and your chest or chin height for a bidirectional board).  The only time you may want to use a larger light wind board is when you are not fully powered up even with your largest kite.

How to retrieve your board

If you are separated from your board, you normally end up more down wind of your board.   To be able to retrieve your board, you have to drift down wind slower than your board (or go slightly upwind).  The best way to do that is to control the kite with only upper hand to move it to one of the wind window edge and use your lower hand and your body as the keel (lower hand in the water and legs straight in a "super man" position side way in the water) - in other words, your body becomes the board to resist down wind drift.  In that position, your body will drift down wind slower than the board and you just wait until the board drift by you to retrieve it.  Furthermore, many kiters can body-drag upwind using this method.

Modern kitesurfers normally don't use board leash and normally body-drag upwind to retrieve the board.

What kite to use in light wind

High performance foil or flat LEI are probably the best types of kite to use in light wind due to their higher power/size capability.

What kite to use in strong wind

Low to moderate AR traditional or flat LEI are probably the best types of kite to use in strong wind.

Build a foil/sled depowering system

To build a foil/sled depowering system that can turn a foil in to a sled (e.g. to turn a 12.5 m2 foil in to a 12.5 m2 flat surface inflatable.) one needs a foil/sled bridle which consists of the exact duplication of the original primary bridle at each wing tip of the kite.  A "V" about 1.5 times the length (span) of the kite is connected to the duplicated primary bridles at the wing tips.

The center of the "V" is connected to a flying line which is connected to a center foil/sled leader line on the bar with a strap system similar to an inflatable 4 line set up (the bar now has 2 center leader lines: the original center leader line for brake/safety release and the new center foil/sled leader line)

In its neutral setting, the center foil/sled leader line has no effect on the shape of the kite (i.e., the kite is flying as a foil as it normally would).

When the center foil/sled leader line is shortened, the wing tips are curved down and therefore reduce the projected surface of the kite (the kite starts becoming more like a sled). The more the center foil/sled leader line is shortened, the less the projected surface of the kite.

For a complete foil/sled implementation, connect the duplicated primary bridles at the wing tips to the inner primary bridles for more foil/sled range or more wind range (one may have to duplicate more inner primary bridles to avoid interference with the operation of the original foil bridles).

Use a wakeboard for kitesurfing

Contrary to popular belief, it should be able to buy a cheap used wakeboard and use it for kitesurfing.  When buying the wakeboard make sure that it is long enough (about your shoulder or chin height) and have as little rocker as possible (less than 2.5 cm rocker).  The wakeboard can have either 4 fins (2 at each end) or 2 fins (1 at each end).  If you have never used a wakeboard, it best to use straps or sandal binding.  If you want to use high wrap binding, make sure you can get in or out of your binding easily.  When ride a wakeboard remember that it is very loose and the edge of the board is all you have for traction.  When ride a wakeboard, try to keep the front leg straight to steer the board and the back leg bent.   The edging pressure of the board should normally be balance between 2 feet (if you press too hard on the front, the board will sink when underpowered and if you press too hard on the back, the board will slip and slide).

Cold weather kitesurfing

Cold weather kitesurfing is a "very extreme sport", so "be careful out there".  Use the following tips for cold weather kitesurfing:

  1. Its is much harder to relaunch a kite in cold water
  2. It's may be too cold to body drag upwind to retrieve your board. 
  3. Wear appropriate clothing (dry suit or very thick steamer 5mm or more)
  4. Wear warm clothing underneath your dry suit
  5. Pour warm water into your steamer, shoes and gloves before getting into water
  6. Always kitesurf with someone in cold weather
  7. Wear a "warm" helmet and warm, thin gloves
  8. When your body starts to shiver, pack it in

 


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