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Kiteboarding Terminology Dictionary / Glossary


Like many sports, kitesurfing has certain colloquialisms that can make it sound like an entirely different language. Below, many of the more common references have been translated, as well as some of the more technical terminology.

Air Style - Often referred to as "old school", Air Style is making a resurgence, focusing on hangtime, style, sliding, variation, flying, and most importantly, the show. Pioneers of the style include Toby Braeuer and Aaron Johnson.

Air time - The amount of time spent in the air while jumping, air time also commonly referred to as "hang time". Air Time Kite is also the name of our go-to company for kite repair and bladder and valve replacement.

Apparent wind - In plain speak, apparent wind is the kite's speed relative to the surrounding air. When kitesurfing in a straight line, the kite's apparent wind is a combination of not only the wind speed, but the speed of the kite and rider over the surface of the water. As the kite is highly steerable, apparent wind can vary widely depending on how the kite is being flown. Increasing power from the kite effectively involves generating increased apparent wind (e.g. diving the kite, riding the kiteboard faster, or riding at a greater angle into the wind).

Body dragging - Body dragging involves being pulled through the water without a kiteboard. This is an early step in the learning process, and is recommended before even trying to use a board. It later becomes an essential skill for recovering lost kiteboards while in the water.

Boost - To send the kite, generally steering the kite overhead aggressively, causing the rider to become airborne.

Bow kite - Bow kites have a flat profile, supported through the use of a bridle system. The shape of the kite lends itself to near 100% depower and high efficiency, resulting in a huge wind range.

C-kite - The C- kite is the original kitesurfing kite shape, having square corners and pronounced wingtips that form a deep C-shaped arc when flying. It gets its characteristic shape from its lines, which are attached at the four corners of the kite. In more recent years, a fifth line has been added to many designs for better depower and relaunch.

Chicken loop - A rubber loop attached to the middle line which has been fed through the control bar. The chicken loop is used to attach the control bar to the harness so the kitesurfer can produce tension in the lines, utilizing their entire body weight instead of purely arm strength.

Closed cell foil - A closed cell foil has screens in the air cells that let air in, but does not let it escape. Because the one way valves trap the air in the kite, a closed cell foil will hold air when crashed in the water, allowing for it to be relaunched.

Dawn patrol - An early morning session. Strong coffee is almost always advised.

Depower - The ability to reduce the kite's power, or pull, generally done by adjusting the angle of attack of the kite. Most kites and control bars now allow a rider to rig a kite for a number of different power levels before launching, in addition to powering the kite up and down "on the fly" by moving the bar closer and further away. Depowerability makes a kitesurfing kite much more safe and easy to handle. Most new kites can be depowered to practically zero power, giving them a huge wind range.

Donkey stick - See "security pin".

Downwind - The direction the wind is blowing towards, or to leeward. When an individual is facing downwind, the wind is at their back.

Downwinder - A great day out where a kitesurfer goes on a long journey downwind, with no concern for riding upwind. Coordination with a pick-up or drop-off vehicle is required to prevent getting stranded far downwind of one's starting point.

Edge - Creating by tilting the kiteboard with its edge into the water. Used to control the direction of travel and regulating power in the kite. Learning to edge properly is critical for tacking upwind. Edging is one of the fundamental skills of kitesurfing, and is one of the major ways kiteboarding is different from windsurfing or wakeboarding. While windsurf boards have daggerboards and/or skegs to steer the board upwind, lift and planing is provided by the board itself. Kiteboards actually combine both functions, as the bottom of the kiteboard lifts the rider and steers simultaneously. Kiteboard fins are generally much smaller, and are used to create extra leverage as the board drives through the water, but are not essential. Because kite boards have a small rocker, a deep edge can allow the board to act as a large low drag fin. Edging in wakeboarding is used for steering the board; whereas in kiteboarding not only does edging steer the kiteboard, but it is essential for controlling the kite and board speed. Releasing an edge and riding downwind towards the kite subtracts massively from the kite's power and helps control board speed as well.

Foil kite - Foil kites have no inflatable bladders like the more standard LEI kites, instead being composed of square cells of fabric that trap air and inflate the kite. In addition, the bridles are complex and have many attachment points so as the kite pulls the lines the kite holds the correct shape. Because of their light wind design and pronounced bow, foil kites tend to be very efficient.

Freeride - A style of kitesurfing that is devoid of jumping or tricks, but rather focuses on edge control and upwind riding.

Freestyle - A kiteboarding discipline that focuses on tricks that are further powered by use of kite to generate lift. This includes kite loops and big air.

Guinea pig - An individual who rigs and goes out first to determine if the conditions are rideable. This person is also sometimes known as a wind dummy.

Handlepass - While unhooked, passing the control bar behind a riders back while in the air.

Heel side - The side of a board on the edge where a riders heels are (opposite of toeside). "Riding heelside" is riding with heels down, and is the standard kiteboarding position.

Hindenburg - A reference to the Hindenburg Airship disaster of 1937. In kitesurfing terminology, a hindenburg refers to the kite stalling and falling out of the sky. Hindenburging can be caused either by lack of wind or by the kite advancing to a position upwind of the kitesurfer in the wind window, creating a loss of tension.

Hybrid kite - The hybrid kitesurfing kite was developed in order to merge the beneficial features of both C-kites and bow kites, generally coupling the depower and relaunch of the bow with the speed of the c-kite.

Kiteloop - One of the most powered-up moves in kiteboarding, where the rider loops the kite through the wind window. The power surge is intense and is akin to being yanked by a truck. Requires serious cajones.

Kitemare - A kiteboarding accident or mishap. Kitemares can also refer to severely tangled lines. Waking up in a cold sweat having not scored a session for some time does not constitute a kitemare.

Kook - Someone who approaches kiteboarding with too much earnest and overconfidence, often jeopardizing the safety of everyone around them through poor kite control and erratic jumps.

LEI - Abbreviated for leading edge inflatable. These kiteboarding kites have a hollow tube framing containing a bladder that is pumped full of air to give the kite its shape.

Lofted - To get lifted vertically into the air by the kite by a strong gust of wind. A very dangerous occurrence that has resulted in several fatalities when kiters on or near land have been dragged into obstacles. Modern depower technology has greatly helped reduced these occurrences, however special heed should always be paid to variable wind conditions.

Luff - When the air flow stalls around the kite. It may then stall and fall out of the sky. Like sails, a luffing kite has rippling and flapping panels. When launching the kite, if the kite is luffing, the rider should move farther upwind, or the person holding the kite should move downwind.

Mega loop - A kiteloop in which the kite is at the same height or below the rider, requiring a extraordinary amount of height, power, and courage.

Mowing the lawn - A riding style that results from conservatism or low wind, mowing the lawn refers to uninspired kitesurfing, generally involving little to no variation.

Open cell foil - An open cell foil has openings along the top of the kite to allow the air to flow through and fill the kite. These designs tend to be less expensive than their closed-cell counterparts. Open cell foils are not designed for water use, as when crashed they fill with water and are not able to be relaunched.

Overhead waves - Waves two or more meters (6 ft) from trough to crest.

Overpowered -The condition of having too much power from the kite. Is likely the result of an increase in wind, incorrect kite choice (too large for the conditions), or incorrect adjustment.

Pop - Extra jump gained through strategic use of just the kiteboard and line tension, pop is a essential building block for later tricks. Sometimes referred to as soda in the south.

Powered-up - When the kite's power increases because of wind gusts or the kite passing through the "power zone".

Power zone - The area in the sky where the kite generates the most pull, this is generally between 0 to 60 degrees arc from the center of the downwind direction.

Re-launch - a general term for getting the kitesurfing kite back into the air after crashing it (on land or water). A relaunch is generally unassisted and requires the rider to follow a kite-specific procedure , typically pulling on one of the steering lines to bring the kite to the edge of the wind window and up on its wingtip. As years of development have gone by, the more recent kites are much easier to relaunch.

Schlogging - Refers to riding extremely underpowered, where a kitesurfer has just barely enough power to plane. Remedies include switching to a larger kitesurfing kite or using a larger, more efficient kiteboard.

Security pin - The fabric or plastic strap attached to the chicken loop which the rider feeds through the spreader bar hook to prevent from becoming "unhooked".

Send it - To move the kite aggressively up through the power zone, generating lift.

Sheeting - Changing the angle of the kiteboarding kite relative to the wind.

Sideshore - Winds blowing parallel to the shore. Usually the most desirable direction for kitesurfing.

Side onshore - Wind blowing between sideshore and at a 45 degree angle towards the shore, also quite desirable for kiteboarding.

SLE - Short for supported leading edge, an SLE kite has bridles attached to the leading edge.

Spreader bar - A stainless steel bar that attaches to the rider's harness. It has a hook that holds the "chicken loop" when riding hooked in.

Stomp - To successfully land a trick.

Surf - A kite surfing riding style that employs the use of a surfboard to ride waves. Done either with straps or strapless, the goal is to allow the kite to drift to create an authentic surf experience.

Tack - The direction which is being sailed, normally either starboard tack or port tack. In a starboard tack, the wind is coming in from the rider's starboard (right-hand) side, similar to sailing a boat. In normal riding, the kitesurfer takes a heading which is as close to into the wind as possible, and in any event leads at some angle slightly upwind, sometimes as much as 45 degrees. Jumping, wave riding, and throwing tricks usually results in traveling downwind, so the net result is to maintain a constant position. Alternately, see "downwinder".

Tea-bagging - Popping out of and falling back into the water intermittently due to light or gusty wind or poor flying skills.

Teabagger - Used by jealous participants of alternative sports in reference to kiteboarders, comparing a kitesurfer to a tea bag dipped and steeped in a teapot. Refer to "tea-bagging" above.

Toe side - The side of a board on the edge where a riders toes are (opposite of heel side). Riding toe side is riding with your toes facing the water.

Underpowered - The condition of having insufficient power from the kite. This can be a result of insufficient wind, choosing a kite that is too small for the current wind, rigging incorrectly, having a kiteboard that is too small, the presence water current in the same direction as the wind, not riding fast enough, etc. A kitesurfer who is continuously diving the kite and sending it back up in a sine-wave pattern is usually underpowered.

Unhooked - When a kitesurfer is riding with the chicken loop not attached to the rider's harness, fully powering the kite. Unhooking is typically employed when throwing tricks or riding in the surf.

Upwind - The direction from which the wind is blowing; windward; into the wind.

Wakestyle - A kiteboarding style that uses seeks to emulate wakeboarding through unhooked, powered tricks with the kitesurfing kite kept low.

Walk of shame - The morose walk back upwind along the beach to where you originally started from, caused by either low wind or an inability to successfully drive upwind.

Wind window - The 120-180 degree arc of the sky downwind of the rider in which the kite can be flown. If the rider is facing downwind on a flat surface, like the ocean, the wind window consists of roughly all the area the rider can see, from the rider's peripheral vision on one side, along the horizon to the other side, and then directly overhead back to the first side. If the rider somehow puts the kite out of the window , for example, by riding downwind very quickly and sending the kite directly overhead and behind , the kite will stall and frequently fall out of the sky.

Yard sale - A botched trick attempt that generally involves an explosive crash, scattering your equipment all about.

Zenith - The location in the wind window directly over the kiter's head. This is the neutral position where kitesurfers can place the kite to stop moving or prior to movement.