How to do a Backroll

Kiteboarding Tricks - The Backroll

Now that you have started to become comfortable in your kitesurfing ability - that is, you can ride upwind, transition to toe-side, and have successfully landed some small jumps - it is time to start adding some tricks to your kiteboarding repertoire. Fortunately, in the continuum of kiteboarding tricks, the backroll is easily achievable, and more-so feels incredibly satisfying to land. It is also a foundational trick that later moves of varying complexity will build off of and be built around, including transitions, double and triple rolls, grabs, unhooked inverts, kiteloops, and mobes. While it may seem daunting to the new kiteboarder, if approached correctly, the backroll will likely take you only a few sessions to be comfortably landing and riding away from.

The first step is to always put a little research into the maneuver you are seeking to attempt. For more visually-oriented learners such as myself, I use videos as an auxiliary experience to better frame the trick.

The below video does a great job of breaking down the component pieces of the trick:

The Progression Kiteboarding video series also does a fantastic job of compartmentalizing the back loop, or more colloquially termed back roll.

And finally, one video for inspiration as to what your backroll may someday evolve into:

Once you have watched the videos a few times and begun framing the trick in your head, it is time for the actual trick breakdown.

When attempting your first backroll, look for conditions that you feel comfortable in. Personally, I prefer some small chop, as it provides a ramp to not only give an extra boost, but helps with timing. You will want wind speeds that give you enough power to throw small jumps, but nothing that feels overpowering. Ideally, a backroll is done while keeping the kite in the same spot, but slightly sending the kite the first few times can help give you some extra time as you work on your rotational speed.

  1. When ready for the back roll, fully commit mentally. Visualize the trick in your head, most importantly with you landing and riding it out. Chances are if you don't think you are going to be successful, you're not going to be.
  2. When going into the backroll, set your kite at 10:30 or 11 in the sky. Bring your hands close to the center of the bar, as this will help prevent you from over-steering the kite. Now, pick a small piece of chop and approach it with moderate speed.
  3. As you ramp off of the chop, carve hard upwind with your board. Apply added pressure to your back foot, which will cause the nose of your kiteboard to lift up. While doing this, pull in on the bar, which will direct the kite to noon and give you extra lift.
  4. Now, for the most critical part of the trick. Turn your head aggressively back over your shoulder. This will initiate the roll as your body instinctively follows. While doing so, tuck your legs in to speed up the rotation.
  5. Spot your landing. This will help stop the rotation, and allow you to concentrate on riding away from the trick. Lower the landing gear, aka your legs. As your board comes in contact with the water, dip your kite to power it up and ride away from the trick.
  6. Whether successful or not, repeat the trick another 4 to 6 times to help build both muscle memory and confidence.

backroll kiteboarding trick

If you are still not having much luck landing the trick, go back and watch some more videos. Think about what you are doing differently and concentrate on that next attempt. Ask your fellow kite surfers to watch you and critique your form. Before you know it, you'll be riding away from the backroll every time! Thinking back on my first backroll, it was one of the most memorable experiences I've had in kiteboarding. It opened up a whole new side of the sport, and gave me the confidence to keep trying new things. Paraphrased from now Best Kiteboarding team rider Chris Bobryk, a former West Michigan kitesurfer, "If you're not getting your kite wet, you're not learning."

Jake Mitchell
Age: 23
Years Kiteboarding: 3
Favorite Backroll Variation: A high, powered double roll