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Kitesurfing Equipment Tuning | How To Finetune Your Kiting Gear

Kitesurfing equipment tuning is essential in this sport as in any other. In kiteboarding, various components have to be tuned differently depending on the condition and the kiteboarder’s skill. 

Table of Contents

Following are the main components that need to be tuned:

Trim Your Kiteboarding Kite

It can be tuned to turn or fly either faster or slower. Different kites have different aerodynamic characteristics and therefore have different trimming techniques and effects. Your vendor should be able to tell you more about how, why, and when to tune your kite equipment. 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
  • To fly slower:
    1. While learning
    2. In very strong wind
  • To turn faster:
    1. In light wind
    2. When using a shorter control bar
  • To fly faster
    1. In light wind
    2. If you prefer to use longer lines (40 m)
  • To resist luffing and nose-diving
    1. In gusty wind

Trimming 4 line Inflatables

Most traditional 4-line inflatable kites have multiple connection points (usually 2) for the front- 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.
  • Use the “front-most” back attachment for slow turning.
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.

Kite Tuning Flat Inflatables

Most of them have fixed connection points for front lines. In some cases, one can tune the front bridle but it is often complex and very specific to each kite.  For back-lines, some use 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. 

Kite Foil Trimming

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 needs 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), it can be made “unluffable” even in a very gusty wind (the power steering lines are acting as an “automatic” brake to prevent it from over-flying).

4 Line Foil Tuning

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

Adjust 4 Line Inflatables

If you are using a 4-line inflatable, you can tune the angle of attack by shortening or lengthening the front leader line. Less angle of attack means less pull and the kite flies faster; however, it’s slightly harder to turn. More angle of attack means more pull and it flies slightly slower.

You should tune the neutral angle of attack of the kite such that when it is flying straight above, the back-line will get loose when you hooking into 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 it 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.

Setup Flat LEI Inflatable Control Bars

The trim strap and the chicken loop are much longer compared to the traditional bar as shown in the following diagram:

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

Kite Foil Tuning

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

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

Some foils 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. 

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 with a pair of 4-line handles, you can trim 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 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. 

Adjust Kite Line Length

You can use longer or shorter line length. Use the following general guidelines to select the right line length:
Line lengthSituations         
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 lengths 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 lengths with your kites. 

The only disadvantage of using too short (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 lines is difficult as it’s hard to generate enough power to lift you up using such a short line).

Kiteboard Selection

If you have more than 1 kiteboards, use the following general guidelines to select the ones that is more suitable for the condition:
SituationBoard         
Strong windUse a bidirectional board
WaveUse a smaller directional board
Light windUse a larger directional board or skim board

Bidirectional Kiteboard Footstrap Setup

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

  • The straps 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).

Directional Board Foot Strap Tuning

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. The 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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