Using a Trainer Kite to Learn to Kiteboard
A trainer kite is the most cost effective method of getting into kiteboarding for 2 reasons:
- You will progress much further during your kitesurfing lesson (anywhere from $50-$100 per hour). With kite flying skills under your belt, your instructor will able to move you to a full sized kiteboarding kite much sooner.
- You will save your new kitesurfing gear from unnecessary wear and tear during your first days of learning to ride. Do you want to crash a $100 kite or a $1000 kite?
Spending at least 4-10 hours on a trainer kite prior to a lesson will allow you to advance at a much faster pace than coming in with no kite flying experience. Remember that learning to kiteboard (your initial 8-10 sessions) is 80% kite flying. Every hour you spend flying prior to trying to put a kiteboard on your feet will double your chances of getting up and NOT crashing your kite in the water. Snowkiting and Land kiting can be learned in one tenth of the time that water kiting can be learned. A basic trainer will get you started down this road.
Making the most of your trainer kite for learning to kiteboard
First pick out a good field or beach to fly at. The bigger and more open the better. Remember that if there are trees or buildings between you and the wind, the kite will not fly properly. A small field in the middle of the city does not usually work well unless there is a good tunnel effect for the wind to come through. Frozen lakes work excellent, but you will need to walk a little way into the center.
Now, take your trainer kite out of its bag and lay the trainer kite on the ground with the bridle lines facing up and the trailing edge facing the wind. Place sand on the trailing edge so the kite does not blow away, or have an assistant hold the back of the kite with the leading edge facing up into the wind (make sure they do NOT let go). Unwind the lines from the bar, walking into the wind, and then walk between them to the kite to make sure there are no knots or twists prior to launch. Untangle the lines as needed. Go back to the bar and attach your safety leash if needed. Pull firmly on the bar and the kite will launch. Flying a trainer kite is just like riding a bicycle; pull left and the kite will turn left, pull right and the kite will turn right. Wherever the leading edge is pointed (like the front wheel of your bike) is where the kite will go.
Things to remember:
- You will crash your trainer kite! Just walk over and set it back up for re-launch. Try not to crash it directly down wind as it is possible to blow seams out of a kite if crashed directly into the ground at 50 miles per hour. Yes, they can move that fast.
- Wind is like a road; sometimes it's bumpy and sometimes it's smooth. Your kite may behave well one day and fly terribly the next. Most likely the wind is much different.
- Be careful in high winds. Even small trainer kites develop a lot of power. Our favorite trainer, the 3.6 meter Beamer, will allow a 200lb person to jump 6-10 feet forward when the winds are over 18mph. Always leave yourself room for evasive action (3-5 line lengths).
- If you have someone helping you launch the trainer kite, make sure they move immediately after launching. Also, be nice and share your kite with them.
- It takes most people anywhere from ½ hour to 3 hours to learn to fly a trainer kite proficiently. Don't expect to be a great flier in 5 minutes.
- Twists in the lines. All kites will still fly exactly the same even with a twist in their lines. To untwist the lines, either fly a complete loop in the other direction, or spin your body quickly around. Most kites can fly with 2 or 3 loops before the lines begin to bind up.
Advanced trainer kite techniques to improve kiteboarding skills
Now that you can fly your trainer kite, here is a list of things to practice to allow your skills and muscle memory to develop more fully. The more time spent on these skills, the less time you will spend swimming and the more time you will spend riding.
- Power Stroke: The power stroke is the key to getting up on a board and riding. The goal of these motions is to develop your muscle memory of turning the kite around prior to crashing on the land or water.
As you work on the power stroke, work to keep your center of gravity behind your feet and not to get pulled forward into a running position. You should slide forward on your feet.
Take your trainer kite to the noon position in the wind window. Fly the kite down to the 3 o'clock position and then fly directly back to the noon position. Now move the kite to the 11 o'clock position and fly to 3 o'clock. Now work on doing this from noon to 9 and 1 to 9. You need to be able to fly the power stroke with confidence, in both directions, without thinking about turning the kite back up in the sky. Now that you can fly the power stroke while keeping your feet under you it's time to...
- Practice your board starts. This will develop your muscle memory for leg and hip positioning for getting up on your board. The goal of this practice is to make sure you point your board downwind when trying to get up and ride.
Riding to your right side: Put your kite in neutral (hovering straight above your head), sit down on the ground, extend your right leg forward and bend your left leg in a little bit. Now send the trainer kite into a power stroke toward your right side. You should stand up (if you have enough power) on your right foot with your body turned at about a 45 degree angle to the wind.
Now move your trainer kite to the 1 o'clock position for your power stroke; notice how your hips and body naturally point your leg more down wind. One of the number one problems for new kiteboarders is not keeping their kiteboards pointed down wind when attempting a water start.
Now work on your left side.
If you decide to learn to snow or land board, make sure to use the same technique of pointing the board downwind.
- Moving with the trainer kite. Run, ski, snowboard, buggy, land board or roller blade.
Now that you are flying well, start running with the kite in the direction the kite is flying. You will notice different dynamics in the kite as you move. When you are kiteboarding, you are always moving with the kite and need to learn how to control the trainer kite during this movement and take advantage of the apparent wind you are generating. Use any of the vehicles listed above to help work on this. Remember to wear padding and a helmet.
- Fly the trainer kite in high winds and very aggressively. The more you get used to being pulled around, the better you will do when hanging on to a large power kite. Try spinning your body under your bar, fly while looking backwards (yes, this will happen to you in the water), fly with your eyes closed, and if it's really windy do some little jumps as you send the kite up the middle of the power zone.
- Fly one-handed. If you can hold the bar in one hand and fly with one hand, this is a skill that will build your confidence and get you used to hanging onto the middle of the bar.
- Add a harness and bar loop.
To get the full advantage of a trainer kite, get a harness and add a fixed loop to the bar. Now you can begin to practice flying while being "hooked in" and work on kite control with one hand. This is a skill that is an absolute necessity for learning to kite in the water. You will need to fly one-handed while carrying your board to the water and trying to put it on your feet.
Another great thing about adding a loop and harness is that you can snow or land kite for hours once you get hooked in.
If you spend the time learning these things prior to a kiteboarding lesson, you will be trying to get up on the board in no time. Remember, 80% of learning to kiteboard is learning to fly your kite!