Learning to kite can sometimes feel like your always at the bottom of a very steep learning curve, these 5 tips will help you get out on the water with confidence.
1. Think of the wind as a solid object
At first trying to read the wind is kind of like trying to read a book in a foreign language, to better your ability of how to read the wind try visualizing it as a solid object. If you could actually SEE the wind, not just feel it, what was it doing? Look further into it then which way the flags are blowing and think of it as a solid mass. Where is this mass coming from, what direction is it traveling and is there anything affecting its path? Being able to SEE the wind helped me get the right angles for launching, landing and flight in the wind window. Looking at the wind like this gave me the ability to see the whole playing field more clearly, where I was able to kite and where it just isn’t possible. It helped me pick out any wind shadows, something I wasn’t always aware of and wondered why I couldn’t re-launch my kite. Wind shadows are things that block out the wind out like a headland, sometimes a hotel or group of buildings, creating a no wind zone or “shadow”. Can you SEE the wind now?
2. Know before you go
Learning to read the wind forecast is something you will be doing for the rest of your kiting career so it’s important to develop the skill of checking & understanding the reports for yourself. The first step in assessing the conditions is to know before you go, check the local weather forecast and wind predications before you head to the beach. It’s OK to ask other kiters, but check for yourself to avoid relying strictly on second hand information. When you get to the beach evaluate the current conditions with the predicted wind forecast; has the wind come up yet to it’s full potential yet? Can you ride a larger kite for a couple hours before you put up a smaller kite? What size kite are others (similar to your height/size) flying? Remember to check any posted signs at the beach as kiting may be prohibited at that particular spot.
3. Make a set up routine
After my introduction to kiting and it was time for me to strike out on my own it took awhile for me to feel like I was actually setting my kite up correctly. Should I run my lines out this way or that way..I guess that’s upwind or downwind.. which way do I set up the bar?
What helped me feel confident I had it right was systemizing my setup, doing it the same way every time. I put my swimmers on, wetsuit and harness, pump up my kite and then leave my harness on the canopy, L.E.I into the wind as I run out my lines upwind of my kite. Having that familiarity of that repetition helped me feel confident I was setting up correctly. Running the lines out upwind of the kite means the control bar will be positioned exactly as it will be used in flight: RED ON THE LEFT. It took all the second guessing out of feeling like i was attaching the lines to the wrong sides.
It’s good to make your own habits & routine to get your setup down or check out how to set up your lines for a detailed run down of how i like to set up so my lines so they’re perfect every time. Please remember to be courteous of other peoples equipment and try to find your own space clear of other people, their gear, any sharp objects that could damage your own gear and potential hazards.
4. Always fly the kite
As a beginner it’s especially important to focus on flying the kite at all times. Until you develop muscle memory and flying the kite becomes second nature you might not notice the extra pressure you pull on one side of the bar as you bend down to pick up your board. You especially don’t want to go for a drag while your still on land, some instances of always flying the kite that you may not necessarily think of but require extra care as a beginner are; launching your kite with control, picking up your board and walking out to the water. I took my eye off the kite one launch and thought It was fine, but it hadn’t quite reached 12 o’clock and drifted back-catching wind, pulled me off my feet and took me for a drag down a very rocky, crowded beach in front of everyone who was shouting “pull the safety”..I didn’t, my kite crashed just before a huge tree, nothing was damaged except my pride.. it was so embarrassing.
When your kite’s on the water and your working on re-launching don’t worry about your board, you can body drag back to that as soon as your kite is back up and flying. Even as you’re crashing think about where the kite is positioned and how to get it back under control. This is something advanced kiters do too, there is definitely an art to controlled crashing and that’s based off flying your kite. As you continue to put time in on the water you will develop muscle memory and flying the kite will become second nature, It just takes time & practice. A great way to get in more flying hours is with a trainer kite, they’re a fun way to practice and a great way to warm up as you wait for the wind to come up.
5. Learning from your mistakes
How can you learn from crashed attempts? Asking yourself “why did that happen?” gets you thinking about and troubleshooting the answer. It’s a great way to develop your understanding of how the kite behaves. Start with the question and then work backwards. Some examples could be:
Why did my kite drop out of the sky?
Why did i get pulled off the board?
Why did the kite crash when I was up and riding?
Follow this by working backwards to get to the answer. Usually it can be answered with, and a combination of; kite position in the wind window, board position and body position.
Here’s a few possible answers to the same questions:
Why did my kite drop out of the sky? -it drifted to far back in the wind window or maybe I drifted into a wind shadow
Why did I get pulled of the board? -I was overpowered in the kite and not enough edge control
Why did I crash the kite when I was up and riding? -I didn’t have the kite in the correct spot in the wind window.
It’s great when you have an instructor to help you through this process, and when your on your own remember that it’s practical problem solving, start with the question and work backwards to get the answer.