Top Ten Mistakes in Kiteboarding:
Most mistakes in kiteboarding are easily avoided. People make mistakes because of bad training or lack or training. Even people who’ve been kiting for a long time will have bad habits that will make them look like a beginner. Here is a list of the top ten mistakes in kiteboarding, by professional kiteboarding Instructor David Dorn.
1. Kite Overpowered: Most people underestimate the power of the kite. This is usually because they do not understand that kite generates way more power when it is dynamic (moving). The kite can easily generate up to four times the power of when it is static (not moving). So once the board is moving or you power stroke the kite the power increases exponentially. So be cautions when selecting the kite size, it is usually better to start out a little small and be underpowered, than to have a kite too big and out of control.
2. Can’t Depower: many people who ride new gear or buy stock equipment, often skip the step of tuning the kite to the rider. Every kite needs to be customized to the individual rider. Just like you move the seat forward or back when you drive someone else’s car. You have to do the same process when setting up the kite for yourself. Remember that a stock kite setup is a one size fits all. When it arrives on the factory settings, it has not been setup with anyone particular in mind. Manufacturers just try to cover the average range of users. Especially for women, children or smaller riders it is vital that they trim the kite so that they can fully depower it when riding. If you cannot depower the kite, it is like driving with the foot stuck on eth gas pedal. To effectively trim and depower the means not only using the depower strap, but also setting the steering lines at the bar, or using longer settings on the kite’s bridle.
3. Bad Weather: the most overlooked and misunderstood kiting factor is the weather. You cant change it, and you can’t control it. So you must make smart assessments before you decide to launch. If you are caught out when bad weather strikes, it might be too late. You may have to ditch your kite, or pull the safety before it is too late. Sudden gusts on storm fronts can easily exceed 60mph which is totally uncontrollable. This is when it gets really serious and bad things happen. Most serious kiteboarding accidents these days are caused by weather related problems.
4. Cant Self rescue: The self rescue is a life saving technique. Get your local kiteboarding instructor to show you how to do this. This is the most important skill you will ever learn. Don’t just guess at it, learn how to do it right. And practice it in controlled conditions (smaller kite, light wind with someone watching, not too far from shore, or too close). Because when things go bad, this is how you are going to save yourself.
5. Safety System malfunction: The control system of the kite includes: the bar, and lines and quick releases, and leash. The leash and quick releases make up the safety system. The safety system is an essential part of the kites control system. It is how you control the kite when you have a problem. Of course you need a kite leash, because that is for everyone else’s safety, but your safety system has to allow you to kill the kites power, but keep you in control of the kite. Letting go of the kite does not count, because you are not controlling the kite. And your loose kite is a hazard to others. The safety system has to be understood, learned, and regularly checked. Many people do not check their safety system or test the quick releases, so when it is time to need them they don’t always work. Just like you need to test the brakes in your car, you also have to test the quick releases every time you ride. Do a preflight check, including opening each of the quick releases, and re-attaching them.
6. Slack Lines: The enemy of the kiteboarder is slack lines. Why? Because slack lines let the kite get tangled, and they can wrap around the bar ends, or the kite’s wing tips. Don’t forget that line tensioning is how you control the kite, so essentially you have no control when the lines are slack. So always be aware of getting slack lines. Swim backward if necessary to keep some tension in the lines. More experienced kiters will see when the lines are about to go slack and sheet in the bar to keep tension on.
7. Line Tangles: This is caused by slack lines, and when the kite rolls over, but also how you manage the bar. So be aware of the lines at all times, don’t drag them around or along the beach, don’t let sticks and leaves get caught in them. And check them all the time. Line tangles can be avoided by good line management practices. But eventually unavoidable line tangles will happen. The key to untangling your “birds nest or spaghetti”, is to relax, and take your time, get your buddies to help, shake out the lines keep them attached to the kite will usually make untangling faster. Shake an separate the lines. Work on one small section at a time, and as a last resort you can disconnect each line and unthread it one line at a time.
8. Bad harness: Part of the kite control system, is the harness. The harness has to fit well, and be adjusted or you will have sub-optimal kite control. If your harness gets loose while riding, drop your kite in the water, while you fix your harness. Get it properly positioned and tightened. Usually tighter is better. Harnesses tend to loosen during your session so you may need to cinch it up a few times during the session. Waist harnesses are particularly notorious for sliding up towards your armpits, this puts the kite bar way out of position and prevents you from sheeting out adequately. Old harnesses should be replaced with newer ones, new harnesses are stronger, more comfortable and work better. Fit is important. Many people will be better off with a seat harness, because they ride up less, and stay in position better.
9. Over steering: The saying “less is more” applies to steering the kite. When a kite is properly tuned it only takes a few inches of bar movement to steer it. The control input needed is very subtle. A kite also needs time to react to the control input, so the rider needs to understand the steering response of the kite they are using. Most people will tend to overseer with big movements that are unnecessary and are inefficient. If you over-steer unnecessarily you actually disrupt the airflow over the kite, and could lose power, especially in light wind. Knowing how much to steer and when to steer is part of kiteboarding, remember less is more.
10. Bad Grip: The way you hold your bar with determine how much bar Control and kite control you have. Too many people have weird and whacky ways of holding the bar that are just plain ugly. As an instructor it hurts my eyes when I see the way some people hold the bar. Generally your hands should be close together, and keep each hand on the corresponding side that it is meant to go on. Not crossed hands please. There are numerous safety reasons as well as practical reasons for doing this. Bad grips are usually a sign of a self taught person. (But sometimes it is the result of a bad lesson***). Don’t just copy your buddies grip, check out the correct techniques and good grips in the IKO training videos and get tips from a professional kiteboarding instructor.
Aloha and happy Kiteboarding,
David Dorn is the training master for the International Kiteboarding Organization, and owner of the Action Sports Maui kiteboarding school in Hawaii.