The fact of the matter is, using a surfboard with a kite can be quite tricky. Straps do certainly make the entire endeavor much more user-friendly, especially when learning. However, they can also feel as if they cheapen the experience for some kite surfers, detracting from the natural surf feel. Strapless riding delivers an utterly new and different experience, and the first few attempts to transition over from a twintip can be quite disheartening. Once you catch that first wave, however, those trials and tribulations suddenly become completely worth it.
One of the first walls encountered in strapless riding is making it past the beach break. Everybody who has kitesurfed in wavy conditions understands how tough it can be to make it past a large break, even on a twintip. Approaching that same obstacle while riding without straps adds an entirely new degree of difficulty to an already challenging situation. Fortunately, by keeping a couple of things in mind as you approach the surf, your chances of success can go up exponentially! To get you to that point, the tips below are designed to get you past the break, and ready for that first wave face.
Obviously, the best conditions to begin in are the days with smaller waves that are spaced apart to build capability and confidence, and then later moving up to larger breaks. One of the first critical things is to make sure you are approaching the break with a good amount of power in the kite. You will want enough speed and power to make it over the crests of the waves while continuing to have forward momentum. If you stall out in the break zone, you are likely not going to have the time and space to build up board speed again, resulting in a wipeout. When a crash does happen, it becomes critical to first get out of the way of the surfboard. Between the pointed nose, fins, and hard shell, your surfboard is quickly weaponized by the breaking wave, and any form of collision can carry serious consequences. If you lose control, sending the kite will launch you out of the situation and help distance you from the board. Also, make sure to keep the kite in the air! Crashing your kite in the surf not only makes relaunch extremely difficult, but the waves can easily rip apart your kite, or worse, roll you into your lines (which is why it is essential to not only have a hook knife on your harness, but know where it is). Once disaster has been averted, you will want to recover your kiteboard as quickly as possible. Neglecting to find your board will at the very least will result in it being carried back to shore, and at the worst have it churned around and broken or lost.
Another important tip is to navigate the surf and look for areas where the current and break is less exaggerated. There is generally an area where the crest of the wave is largest, and then decreases in amplitude in either direction. If you can find a spot with destructive disturbance, or where differing waves directions and heights cancel each other out, that is an ideal location for riding out. Picking spots where currents are less pronounced will also allow you to maintain greater board speed, and make the recovery process much easier if you happen to lose your kiteboard. If you manage to hit a wave that has just broken, it helps to flatten out your surfboard and shift your weight to pop the nose up. This will help in reducing friction and to avoid catching an edge. Bringing the kite to the 12 o’clock position will also help by generating extra lift.
When riding into waves with a pronounced face, it helps to let the kite out slightly to keep from jumping over the wave. You will want to bend your knees to stay planted on the board after clearing the wave and prevent lift. Once over, make sure to power the kite up again immediately. It also is advantageous to flatten the board ever so slightly and turn the nose slightly downwind to maintain board control.
Most importantly, practice is essential. Smaller waves are great for experimentation, and allow you to find the technique that works best for you. Once you can effectively make it past the break, it is time to focus on the next skills – performing the gybe (jibe), and actually surfing the wave!
Article by Jake Mitchell
Weight: 180 pounds
Years Kiteboarding: 3