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Kitesurfing Equipment Tuning

Equipment tuning is essential in kitesurfing as in any other sport.  In kitesurfing, various kitesurfing components have to be tuned differently depending on the condition and the kitesurfer's skill. Following are the main components that need to be tuned:

Kite Tuning

A kite can be tuned to turn or fly either faster or slower.   Different kites have different aerodynamic characteristics and therefore have different tuning techniques and effect. Your kite vendor should be able to tell you more on how, why and when to tune your kite. For whatever reasons they can't, use the following general kite tuning guidelines:

  • Tune the kite to turn slower:
    1. While learning
    2. In very strong wind if the kite is too nervous
  • Tune the kite to fly slower:
    1. While learning
    2. In very strong wind
  • Tune the kite to turn faster:
    1. In light wind
    2. When using a shorter control bar
  • Tune the kite to fly faster
    1. In light wind
    2. If you prefer to use longer lines (40 m)
  • Tune the kite to resist luffing and nose diving
    1. In gusty wind

Traditional 4 line Inflatables

Most traditional 4 line inflatables have multiple connection points (usually 2) for the front lines and back lines.

  • Use the "front most" front attachment for more depowering capability
  • Use the "back most" front attachment for more power on the harness line (chicken loop line)
  • Use the "back most" back attachment for fast turning of the kite
  • Use the "front most" back attachment for slow turning of the kite

Overall, use the connection points further apart for more control and wider wind range.  Use the connection points closer together for more stability and lesser bar sensitivity.

Flat Inflatables

Most flat inflatable have fixed connection points for front lines.  In some case, one can tune the front bridle but it is often complex and very specific to each kite.  For back line, some uses the same method as traditional inflatable (forward and backward connection points).  For some flat inflatable, one can tune the power of the kite: connect the back lines closer to the kite for more power and farther for less power. 

Foils

Most 3 line foils have both of the front lines attached to the ends of the bar and the brake lines attached to the center of the bar.  Such arrangement normally need a power steering line that attaches each front line to its corresponding trailing edge.  By tuning this power steering line properly (when the kite is flying straight overhead, the power steering line should have no tension nor slack), the kite can be made "unluffable" even in very gusty wind (the power steering lines are acting as an "automatic" brake to prevent the kite from over-flying).

4 line foils or Arc with 4 line control bar normally use the same tuning method as traditional 4 line inflatables.

Control Device Tuning

Traditional 4 Line Inflatables

If you are using a 4-line inflatable, you can tune the angle of attack of the kite by shorten or lengthen the front leader line.  Less angle of attack means less pull and the kite flies faster; however it's slightly harder to turn the kite.  More angle of attack means more pull and the kite flies slightly slower. You should tune the neutral angle of attack of the kite such that when the kite is flying straight above, the back line will get loose when you hooking in to the chicken loop and fully extending your arms (your hands are holding the control bar).  Both front lines and back lines should be in full tension when you are not hooking in the chicken loop and the kite should be a bit "flared out" (the front leading edge looks larger than the trailing edge).  You can adjust the AOA of the kite using the chicken loop or via a trim strap.

Flat Inflatables

For the new Flat LEI, the trim strap and the chicken loop are much longer compare to the traditional bar as shown in the following diagram:

Flat LEI bar

Since a flat inflatable control bar has lots of depowering range, you don't have to tune it as frequent as a traditional control bar.

Foils

Similar to inflatable, modern foils have the ability to change its AOA, thus use the same control bar as 4 line inflatable and require similar tuning.

For foils using 3 line with a bar, you can change the "camber" of the kite by adjusting a strap while sailing thus change the characteristics of the kite.  Such arrangement increases the wind range of the kite.

Some foil can have an optional 4th line which one can be adjusted to change the shape of the kite (neutralize the middle section) to reduce the pull of the kite. 

You can also use a foil/sled depowering system that can turn a foil into a sled.  More information about the foil/sled depowering system can be found in the Tips section.

If you are using a foil kite with a pair of 4 line handles, you can tune the "camber" of the kite while you hold the handles in their neutral position (the "neutral  camber"). You can decrease the neutral camber by connecting the main lines to the closer knots and back lines to the farther knots on the lines that attached to the handles. You can increase such camber by connecting the main lines to the farther knots and the back lines to the closer knots on the leader lines on the handles. You should tune the neutral camber of your 4 line kite such that when you hold the handles in their neutral position, the kite should fly forward with full power - the front lines are in full tension and the brake-line is slightly loose.  Increasing the neutral camber will make the kite generate more pull. 

Lines

You can use longer or shorter line length. Use the following general guidelines to select the right line length:

 

Line length Situations
Short (15m - 20m) If the wind is strong or if you kitesurf in wave
Medium (20m - 25m) For most condition
Long (30m - 40m) If the wind is light

Using different line length increases the wind range of your kite.  The standard line length is 20m - 25m as such line length is best for all-around kitesurfing (going upwind, jumping, moving the kite to generate more power, etc.).  By using 15m lines, you can add another 10 - 20% to the upper wind range of the kite and by using 40m lines, you can add another 10 - 20% to the lower wind range of the kite.  So be adventurous and use different line length with your kites.  The only disadvantage of using too short lines (15m) or too long lines (40m) is that it would make jumping harder as you have to change the timing you normally use with 20m - 25m line (also jumping with 15m line is difficult as it's hard to generate enough power to lift you up using such a short line).

Board Selection & Foot-strap Tuning

If you have more than 1 kiteboards, use the following general guidelines to select the ones that is more suitable for the condition:

 

Situation Board
Strong wind Use a bidirectional board
Wave Use a smaller directional board
Light wind Use a larger directional board or skim  board

Use the following guidelines to tune the traps on your bidirectional board:

  • The traps should be the same distance to the center of the board.
  • Use a wide stance (the distance between the straps is larger than shoulder width) for more control of the board (for tricks).  This setting is also useful for larger board.
  • Use a regular stance (the distance between the straps is around shoulder width) for more effective edging.
  • Use straps when you first learn kitesurfing with a bidirectional board (don't use binding even thought you are a wakeboarder).

Use the following guidelines to tune the foot-strap positions on your directional board:

  • Front foot-strap:
    1. Move front foot-strap more forward for easy planning (while learning)
    2. Move the front foot-strap more backward for easy turning the board upwind
  • Back foot-strap:
    1. Back foot-strap should be about shoulder width apart from the front foot-strap
    2. Move the back foot-strap more backward (wide stance) for easy turning of the board
    3. Move the back foot-strap more forward (narrow stance) for easy edging the windward rail of the board to go upwind.

 


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