In this 4 part strapless kitesurfing beginner tutorial, we’ll cover:
- Strapless waterstart technique
- Riding Stance – how your foot position affects the boards speed and turning
- Carving Turns – getting to grips with the basic heel to toe and toe to heel carving turns, and how to increase speed and power through the turns to master the perfect carving turn.
- Tacks and Gybes – how to switch your feet on the board to get into the best position for the next wave
INTRODUCING THE DIRECTIONAL STRAPLESS KITESURF BOARD
Directional kiteboards are surfboards designed specifically for kitesurfing in waves. They are shaped to be ridden in a single direction, just like a regular surfboard, but their construction is generally a little heavier and more robust than a standard surfboard due to reinforcements underfoot to prevent damage such as heel dents which are more likely with the additional force of riding with a kite.
Though surfboards are intended to be ridden in waves, they can be fun on flat water too. Kitesurfing can be done with straps, generally in large waves, or strapless, in both wave riding and strapless freestyle.
Strapless kitesurfing has become the more popular discipline and, at a competitive level, the GKA Kite-Surf World Tour now has stops for both strapless wave riding and strapless freestyle.
STRAPLESS KITESURFING WATERSTART TECHNIQUE
The strapless water start is more challenging than a twin tip water start for two reasons; one, the lack of straps makes it harder to control the board position, and two, the increased volume of the board makes is harder to sink the heel side rail.
For these reasons, there are a few small adjustments to the twin tip technique. The fundamentals of a water start stay the same; knees bent, head and shoulders forward as you dive the kite and stand up.
#1 Start with your kite at 12 and fly the kite with your front hand.
#2 Sit back in the water and use your back hand to grab the toeside rail of the board to pull the board towards your heels. You may grab the toeside rail either behind the back foot or between your feet depending on your flexibility.
#3 Adopt a wide stance, with your feet wider than shoulder width apart on the board. For now, you can put your back foot in the centre of the tail pad. If your board has insert holes you can use these as a guide for your foot placement.
#4 Push into your heels to sink the heel side rail slightly and sheet the bar in halfway to pull yourself towards the board.
#5 Release your back hand and dive the kite to stand up and ride.
Now that we’ve covered the basic skill for how to strapless kitesurf, let’s take a look at what we’re doing with our feet on the board and how it affects the way the board rides.
STRAPLESS KITESURFING STANCE
The standard twin tip stance requires us to drive hard through the back foot and heelside rail to ride upwind, but this technique transfers as a riding mistake on a surfboard.
When riding a surfboard, weight distribution (known as trim) should be more balanced to keep the board in a position where it can accelerate. If weight is distributed too far into the back foot, you will get a lot of water displacement and a lot of drag from the board. The ride will feel sluggish and directionally unstable as the board wants to pivot on the area with the most pressure. Depending on the shaping of the board, the ideal nose to tail trim spot will be easy or difficult for a beginner to find. The larger the flat section underneath the board, the easier it is for a beginner rider to get the board planing well. A board that has more rocker and less flat section will be more challenging to trim.
The way in which you trim the board through its length is not the only stance change to occur when moving from twin tip to a surfboard. The technique you use to control direction also differs due to the increase in fin size and the volume and rail thickness of the surfboard. It is not necessary for you to drive the heelside rail as aggressively as you would do with a twintip. Instead, you should focus on keeping the board flatter for better stability through the volume of the board and should concentrate on pushing through the back foot into the fins. If it helps, imagine trying to exert a force between your ankle and your toes into the fins by pushing down and forwards.
In addition, to make it easier to ride upwind, you may move your front foot slightly towards the heelside rail and open the foot angle to point your toes more towards the nose of the board. This will open your hips more and make it easier to drive the board upwind. This position will, however, make it harder to carve the board from heel to toeside which is easiest when you maintain a central front foot position.