Kiteboarding: Essential Tips For Your Backroll Progression

Kiteboarding: Essential Tips For Your Backroll Progression

Hey, what's up guys? Blake from MACkiteboarding here, and today we're learning a super fun trick, which is the backroll. This is a game-changer once you can ride upwind and have your jumps down. This is the next step, where you're doing a sort of back flip. From there the possibilities are endless, so I'm really excited to teach you this.

Step One: Kite Position

The first step in a backroll is understanding the kite's position as you're going into it. There are many ways you can do a backroll, but for the first one you want a little lift of the kite. Send your kite from 45 degrees up to 12 o'clock. That'll lift you up in the air, and then as you come back down you're going to redirect it back to land smoothly, riding downwind.

The backroll combines a lot of variables while sending the kite and rotating around. It's different than the jump, where you're facing your landing. That's the trickiest part: just flying the kite and keeping it still as you're rotating around. I remember, as I was learning my first backrolls, I didn't have anyone to teach me. I was just going out and trying it, and every time I'd pull on my back hand, and I would go one way and the kite would go the other. So the most important thing here is keeping your kite straight up at 12, and then going back in the direction that you're landing and not sending it, otherwise as you're going around to the other side of the window, you'll stop your rotation and then the kite will go to the edge of the window and you'll fall.

Understand the kite and where it needs to be in the wind window. If you're going to the left, move the kite from 45 degrees, up to 12 o'clock, and then back to the left. If you're going to the right, you want it at 45, go up to 12, and then as you're coming down you're going to pull it back down to the right, into that landing, and ride away. So kite position is key. You don't want to have the kite moving too fast because it goes up quick, then it usually goes too far over into the wind window. The biggest thing to focus on here as you're doing this trick is just trying to keep the kite right at 12 and not move it too much, which means putting your hands in the middle of the bar, which will make it not move as quickly. If your hands are far on the back and you throw a backroll, you're just naturally going to pull hard on the back hand and the kite will go over to the other side, which makes the crashes a little bit more interesting.

Step Two: Speed

Step number two is to take a slow to moderate speed. Going into a backroll, it feels like you'll need a lot of speed and a lot of power to send you up to get enough rotation to get around. But in all honesty, if you take too much speed, your pop will rip you off your edge, so the slower speed, the easier it'll actually be.

It's not really a flip; it's more of a roll, so instead of thinking of doing a back flip, you're more doing a 360. You're attached at your harness so you're spinning around, and so slower is better. Just take it nice and easy. Even if you fall, it's easier to fall when you're going slow; it's not as consequential. So just take a little bit of speed, cruise into it, fall a few times. You'll get more comfortable, and then you can up the speed a little bit as you go, but take it easy and don't go into it full speed sending the kite. That's when things get a little hairy.

This also allows the kite to travel up to 12 o'clock easier. Because you're cruising along, as the kite goes up you have a little bit more time to react. When you're moving fast, everything happens a little bit quicker, so just remember to take it easy, take it slow, work your way up little by little, and then, once you get this dialed in at slow speeds, you can take it to high speeds and get that dialed in as well.

Step Three: Pop & Tuck

Step number three is to pop into the wind. You're going to be doing this as you send your kite, and one thing about sending the kite is that you don't want to have the bar pulled in as you send it. If you pull in on the bar as you send it, the kite is catching all the wind and as it goes up and it's going to pull you off your edge. So you want to have the bar sheeted out, steer it up, and as the kite is traveling up, that's when you're going to start edging into the wind.

Sheet out, steer up, as you're steering up the kite's moving, and that's when you're going to move yourself and go into the wind. The timing of the kite being sent, as well as you edging into the wind, is a very important part of this trick. If you send the kite too early and you pop late, then you're not going to get the height, and if you pop too early and the kite isn't there to catch you and lift you up, then it's not going to work out right and you're going to pop without any lift. It's all about the kite and the pop, and once you get that down, then it all comes together and pulls you around. Of course, there's the landing part, but we'll get to that.

As your kite reaches 12 o'clock and you've twisted your shoulders and your body into the wind, that is when you're going to pop. The kite's sheeted out, you're sending it up to 12 o'clock, you're edging into the wind right as it reaches 12 o'clock, and that is when you pull in on that bar to give you the lift of the kite. As you pull in on the bar, lift your front knee at the same time while leaning back, which then pops the board out of the water, sending you up into that rotation while the kite lifts you into the air.

If you don't pop very much, the kite will lift you but your body won't turn as much. Leaning back and pulling up on that front knee will initiate the spin and the turn of the backroll to get you following through in that whole rotation, rather than a light pop where you have to do all the work of twisting your body around. Sending your shoulders into it allows your body to follow. If you pop but don't twist with your shoulders, you can start the rotation, but your body is closed and it won't continue around. So it's very important that you twist with your shoulders and your hips, bring your knee to your chest, and just keep following through with that until you're all the way back around.

Step Four: Spot your landing

Step number four is to spot your landing. After you've sent the kite, you've initiated your rotation, your pop, and brought your knee to your chest, you're going to be coming around. Right about as your back is to the kite, you're going to be able to see your landing. Look at the point in the water downwind of you where you're going to be coming around. Keep your eyes on that, and then that'll pull you into your landing so you get the whole rotation around.

If you stop looking, then your rotation is going to stop and you're going to go onto your back, so follow through, spot your landing, look around, get where you're going to go in your eyes, and then you have a better idea, as you're coming down, whether you're going to make it around or not. If you're not making it around, then you can kick off your board or send the kite up and try and pull in to soften the landing, or release the bar; whatever is best for the situation. A lot of times, releasing the bar will dump all the power in the kite and you can just cannonball into the water. If your kite's up high, you can pull in and try to get the kite to lift you up as you come down, but if you spot your landing you'll have a better idea of what's going to happen as you're coming down and whether you can go through with it or need to bail and try again another time, so spotting your landing is key.

Just like with any trick, you always want to see where you're going to go and when you're going to land, and closing your eyes is about the worst thing you can do, which is something I used to do when I did backrolls because I fell so many times. I never really knew if I'd land it or not, so I'd close my eyes and just go for it. So keep your eyes open and spot your landing. This will be very important in the process because it's one thing to do a backroll, but it's another thing to land it. If you can spot your landing, you have a good chance of getting the board under your feet and riding away.

Step Five: Redirect Your Kite

Step number five is to redirect the kite as you come around. Now that you've spotted your landing and see where you're going into, you're going to pull back in on your front hand, then send the kite down to pull you into the landing. If you keep the kite above you, it'll lift you up, your legs will be straight, and your body gets taken up so you're stretched out, and it's a lot easier to get off axis on this point. You want to send the kite down to pull you into the landing, rather than stretch you out and drop you down. Just give a little tug on your front hand, which will then send the kite from 12 o'clock into the direction that you want to go, which will then pull you smoothly into your landing with your board underneath you, your shoulders over your knees pointed downwind, and you'll ride away.

It's very important that you don't lean back as you're landing. If you lean back as you're landing, the board gets out in front of you and the kite's pulling you forward, so you'll either fall onto your butt or you'll get pulled onto your face. Send the kite, but don't pull so hard so that it goes down low. You want it to go from 12 o'clock to 45 degrees to just pull you nicely into the landing without too much of a pull, but enough to get you in the direction that you need to be going.

As you redirect the kite, get your shoulders over your knees with your body facing downwind. You want the kite to pull you forward so that you're stacked over your board, and to bend your knees on impact so you can absorb the landing and land flat, slightly downwind, and ride away. The hardest part is getting those smooth, clean landings once you get the rotation around, but the biggest thing to remember is to redirect your kite and not keep it above you. Just like a jump, if you keep the kite above you, it can swing you under or it can just drop you out of the sky, so you want to give that kite a nice little tug on the bar to get it going in the direction you want to ride and pull you into it nice and smoothly. Get your weight over the board, bend your knees to absorb the landing on impact, go slightly downwind, get control again, and then ride the other way.

Step Six: Spin Your Bar

Step number six is to untangle your lines. The reason this happens is that you're making a 360 around the bar while the kite is staying in one direction. The steering lines get crossed over the center lines. It's not a big deal and you can still fly the kite with it like that, so I'd suggest that you first get control after your landing. Continue riding for 10-20 seconds until you feel comfortable. Once you get there, put the kite up to 45 degrees and then you can release the bar and it'll untwist itself, or you can give it a little spin to untwist it. Grab the bar again, pull in, and continue riding and go for another backroll.

The other thing that happens when you're doing a lot of backrolls, say, to the right, is your center lines will get twisted all the way up. Just remember to unspin it at the bar. Most kites nowadays have the unswivel where, above or below the bar, you can untwist it so that your center lines aren't getting all tangled up to the kite. That's an important thing and it's actually quite an easy step, but it's something that is part of doing backrolls, especially when you're doing them all in one direction.

I hope you guys have a great time out there with not too many falls. Just remember to have fun with it. If you start falling a bunch, just take a break, go back to some basics, watch another video, and go out the next session. Just have fun and enjoy it. It's never bad to just let go of the bar and cannonball in. It's a fun process. I hope this takes you to the next level of kiteboarding. We'll have many more videos based off of the backrolls. See you next time, thanks a lot, adios.

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17th May 2023 Blake Olsen

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