How to upwind body drag in kiteboarding

If you're going to kitesurf in above chest-deep water, the upwind body drag is an essential skill that you will need in a case of losing your kiteboard. Upwind body dragging technique while kiteboarding is an essential move every beginner have to master before they finish their lessons. If you tried some other wind or watersports like sailing or windsurfing, you might hear this term before. Upwind body drag is initiated by using a kite (or sail) to pull your body to tack upwind.

No matter your kiting level you will, at times, become separated from your kiteboard, and you will need to get back to it. If you are kiteboarding in a perfectly flat and bellow waist-deep water, then learning this skill may not sound like the main priority for you. Nevertheless, if you want to call yourself an independent kitesurfer and want to venture out and explore all capabilities of this sports, then the first skill you will need to learn and learn it very well, is the Upwind Body Dragging technique.

Whether you are a beginner or you are busting out some tricks, maybe just exploring other disciplines in kitesurfing; Upwind body drag is a skill that you will use almost every time you will get out on the water.

WHY SHOULD YOU LEARN HOW TO UPWIND BODY DRAG?

At the start of your learning, you most likely will spend a good amount of your time in the water losing your board. Whether you are trying to stand-up on the board (and falling face-first), or even putting the board on and accidentally pulling on the bar and being dragged downwind – you will lose your board. 

Upwind body drag is a technique that we use in kiteboarding in every session, and while learning this skill, you will improve your kite control and understand more about the essential elements for this sport – water & wind.

Also, spending some time in getting good at the upwind body drag will save yourself the embarrassment on coming back to the beach and telling your buddies you lost your board.

Now you may say, ‘I can already kitesurf and haven’t lost my board further than I can reach it’. Well, I hate to break your dream for you, but if you kitesurf anywhere with:

  • above waist water,
  • in a tidal area,
  • with even small waves present,
or you are:
  • trying some new tricks (even some tiny jumps),
  • want to learn to ride a directional board or maybe a hydrofoil,
  • or if you want to progress with your riding, 

you will be challenged to perfect your upwind body dragging skills.

Should I use a board leash?

Up to you… but unless you have a physical difficulty stopping you from learning to upwind body drag, we would not recommend it. Beyond the risk of being struck by the board, there are enough incidences of leashes tangling around kite lines, you or other objects while in flight.

You are more than welcome to read all the opinions about this matter in a recent post in one of the kiteboarding groups on Facebook and watch this video to understand why we do not recommend it. Upwind body drag is not a hard skill to learn; you can nail it in a few sessions you just need to understand how to do it correctly.

HOW TO UPWIND BODY DRAG

Believe it or not, as a kitesurfing instructor, I see a lot of seasoned kitesurfers that do it incorrectly. If you follow this exact technique and do it correctly, then you should be able to reach your board in 2 tacks. 

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Start with your kite at Zenith or 12 o’clock with your body facing downwind so you can orientate yourself to know downwind, upwind and cross-wind directions. 
  2. Position your kite at 45º (10 o’clock if going left, 2 o’clock. if going right). Keep the kite still* with one hand (top hand on the bar**) and sheet the bar in only enough for a gentle pull through the water. *At this stage, it is crucial to keep the kite still (moving the kite will mean that the kite will move closer to the power zone, therefore, pulling you downwind). **Keeping your steering hand close to the middle of the bar to prevent oversteering the kite.
  3. With your free hand, we’ll call this your leading hand, extend it forwards and stretch your body forward when lying on your side (like a superman) making a straight line between your fingers and toes.
  4. You want your body as straight as possible and Then start slowly pointing your stretched hand away from your kite and lines till it reaches a maximum angle of 45º between your hand and the kite lines.
 

To change direction and reach in the opposite direction, bring the kite slowly to 12 o’clock being careful not to generate power in the kite. Tuck your knees to your chest then stretch out in your new direction of travel. Lower the kite to 45º on your new side and repeat the mentioned steps 3 and 4.

Continue to upwind body drag until you are upwind of your board then allow yourself to drift down to it. And remember, you will know if you are good at it if you can reach your board with only two tacks. And yes, your core muscles should hurt after doing it.

upwind-body-drag-thekitespot.com
The Upwind Body Drag

3 COMMON MISTAKES

#1 Constant movement of the kite

If the kite is moving, it will pull you downwind. End of story. Keep the kite steady at the cross-wind angle as mentioned, with the bar in, and you will feel the gentle and gradual pull that will carry you cross-wind.

#2 Pointing your body too much upwind

We cannot upwind body drag over 45º into the wind. 

To make sure you are not reaching out too much, start with your hand pointing toward your kite and then gently move it upwind, if your kite is steady and the bar pulled in, you will feel a gentle pull of the kite – Perfect. If you feel like the pull is receding, that means you are reaching too much, to fix this move your hand closer to the kite.

If you are still learning and get confused about wind directions and terms like Upwind or Downwind, then you should read this article explaining the winds and how to read the wind directions for kiteboarding.

#3 Tacks too short

Go at least 20m past your board in each direction. Short reaches won’t be productive as you will lose ground through many direction changes. 

  • Go to one direction till you catch the sight of your board when looking through your opposite shoulder (I also do it just to avoid the running water splashing on my face).
  • Once you change your direction, you should be able to tack even upwind of your board, making it very easy to put back on your feet.
upwind-body-drag-kite-body-position
Body Position while Upwind Body Dragging

BODY DRAGGING WITH A BOARD

Losing your board isn’t the only time you will use an upwind body drag. It’s also a handy skill to know to move away from hazards or getting past a shore break in a deeper water location or for the sessions at a higher tide. It’s especially useful for beginners wanting to get further away from the shore while practicing to ride upwind.

You will need to do this while holding onto your kiteboard. 

1. Put your kiteboard in front of you and hold the handle of your board with your palm facing up. If you have no handle or body dragging with a directional board, then hold onto the foot strap or the edge of the board.

2. Rest your elbow on the heelside edge of the board and your chest and belly on the nearest foot strap. The heelside edge of the board should now be submerged. 

3. Point the kiteboard at the same upwind angle as your body and position the kite to pull you slowly upwind. 

  • If the board is going behind you or you feel pressure in your shoulder, you are reaching too far with the board. Pull the board closer to your body to have more control over the board.
 

If you feel like you may need to polish this still a bit more, it is nothing wrong to get out in the water with your board and push it upwind of you, then practise this manoeuvre, or do it with the board, like you are trying to get further away from the beach.

LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK 💬​

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Samina is a co-founder and managing director of thekitespot.com. Samina was so inspired by kitesurfing and so passionate about it that she gave up her career in London to help others get into this awesome sport. She now handles the daily running of thekitespot.com and shares her knowledge and travel experiences throughout the many articles and location guides available on thekitespot.com website.

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