How to turn: Changing direction when kiteboarding

The sliding transition is the first, and easiest, way of changing direction when kiteboarding. This is the first method you'll learn for how to turn when kiteboarding. It will also form the foundation to other methods of changing direction.

Once you can ride prolonged distances and come to a controlled stop it is time to learn how to turn. The key benefit to a turning without stopping is that you are able to stay dry instead of dropping yourself into the water at the end of each run. Additionally, you will be able to keep your upwind position instead of drifting downwind while your prepare yourself for your next board start.

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A NOTE ON SAFETY

Changing direction when kiteboarding requires awareness of other people around you. If you are not checking who is around you, you might cause a crash.  It is important that we look over each shoulder to know that no one is following behind us or riding with their kite above us as we decide to turn. Think of it like doing mirror checks when driving a car. 

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As you approach the turn, look over your rear shoulder (for a rider on your tail), then look over your front shoulder (to see upwind if someone is flying their kite above you). It is your responsibility to make sure it is safe to turn.

HOW TO TURN WHEN KITEBOARDING?

The sliding transition can be broken down into 3 components:

  • Controlling the kite
  • Controlling the kiteboard
  • Your Body Position

For anyone who has ever snowboarded before, the board movement should come easy as turning the kiteboard upwind is very similar to performing a falling leaf while riding on your heel side edge of your snowboard. Don’t worry if you haven’t snowboarded before though; the technique for changing direction when kiteboarding is simple enough to grasp once you focus on these steps.

#1 Controlling the kite

As you begin to slow down with the board, slowly steer the kite around the edge of the window towards 12 (zenith). This will provide a small amount of lift to stop you from sinking into the water. Sheeting in the bar a little at this point will also prevent sinking.

It is important in this manoeuvre that the kite moves around the edge of the wind window and does not cut directly to 12. Cutting directly to 12 may generate more power than desired pulling you forward and off the edge of your board.

As you reach a stopping point, and before you sink into the water, dive the kite in your new direction of travel to regain speed and continue riding.

#2 Controlling the kiteboard

As you ride along, push hard into your back foot to turn the board upwind. This will cause you to slow down which is vital to a successful and controlled transition. If done with enough force you will be able to turn the board completely upwind. This will put your back foot in the new downwind position meaning you are ready to ride the opposite way.

As you dive the kite in your new direction of travel, push through your new back foot to control your direction and speed.

#3 Your Body Position

As you ride along, push hard into your back foot to turn the board upwind. This will cause you to slow down which is vital to a successful and controlled transition. If done with enough force you will be able to turn the board completely upwind. This will put your back foot in the new downwind position meaning you are ready to ride the opposite way.

As you dive the kite in your new direction of travel, push through your new back foot to control your direction and speed.

10 STEPS TO PERFECT TRANSITION (TURN)

  1. Slow down by edging your board into the wind.
  2. Turn your shoulder upwind and press harder though the back foot.
  3. Try to position the board almost entirely upwind.
  4. Steer the kite slowly towards 12 (zenith). 
  5. As the kite reaches 12, sheet in the bar a little to support your weight and prevent sinking.
  6. Change your body position to suit your new direction of travel.
  7. Move your weight from your back leg into your front leg and rotate your body to look in your new direction of travel.
  8. Your old front leg is your new back leg and should be pointing downwind.
  9. Dive the in the new direction of travel to regain speed.
  10. This dive will be a little less powerful than used to waterstart. If you hesitate on the dive you will sink into the water.
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KEY POINTS

  • Check it’s safe to turn first! – It is your responsibility to avoid collision; do your “mirror checks”.
  • Slow in, fast out – Control your power and speed through the manoeuvre; going in too fast doesn’t work.
  • Timing of kite and board – aim to synchronise the movement of your kite towards 12 and turning the kiteboard upwind. 
  • Rotate upwind to point downwind. If you don’t turn the board far enough into the wind as you slow down, the board won’t be pointing enough downwind when you dive the kite to ride out of the turn. This will cause you to fall over your edge.
  • Use the “Pause Position” to reposition your body for your new direction of travel.
  • Shift your hips to transition your weight. If done right you will move your hip into alignment with your new back knee and foot.
  • Strong dive to ride out. If you hesitate or don’t commit to diving the kite you will sink; equally, be careful not to dive too aggressively. Remember you are already above the water so you don’t need as much power as a waterstart.

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Jen is a co-founder of thekitespot.com. When Jen isn't researching locations or writing articles for the knowledge centre, you'll find her managing The Kitesurf Centre in Camber Sands, UK, or writing equipment reviews for The Kite Mag. Jen rides and coaches most kitesports disciplines but her favourite are waveriding, freestyle and hydrofoiling.

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