Have you ever wondered why you have to spend so much time walking without a board or being body dragged by a kite before attempting to do a real waterstart in kitesurfing?
The answer to both questions is simple: the more you train with simple and potentially boring, but not dangerous, exercises, the more you will create automatisms that will allow you to master the most complex situations.
These two exercises are the basis of good riding and should be done repeatedly in order to get your first waterstat and first tack right.
These are two skills, in my opinion, that should be done on one side of the wind window, as the goal is to discover the feeling you will get once you are up on the board and riding.
Let’s look at them in detail:
What are the advantages of moving around on the spot without a board and what precautions should you take?
At this point, the goal is to generate the minimum possible traction that allows you to move properly and comfortably.
Moving with a kite means mastering :
- continuous and controlled kite movement;
- kite stabilization.
As you can see, I am referring to the basic pilotage movements you need in order to ride.
In fact, when we cruise, we keep alternating these two actions.
Learning how to move on the spot is like simulating the navigation by removing the complexity added by the board, of course by adapting the traction to your needs.
If you manage to do this exercise without a board in a relaxed way, everything will be easier in the next phase.
Walking with the kite will also allow you to reach a first stage of autonomy, that is to say to acquire the capacity to position yourself where you want on the spot, but especially to return to the starting point if you do not manage to go upwind (obviously if you practice on a spot in shallow water).
Here are some tips on how to proceed and mistakes to avoid.
- How to perform the exercise?
First of all, for the exercise to be done correctly, you will need to be able to get a steady pull. The kite must help you walk, without you being swept up and/or dropping the kite.
It is not the kite that decides where you go, it is your steering.
My advice is to alternate soft and coordinated movements, to give some power, with kite stabilization, to get more control and less traction, while continuing walking.
It is fundamental to be able to alternate them in a harmonious way.
The exercise must be done by moving the kite in a unique quadrant od the wind window.
- Common mistakes to avoid:
Lorsque le vent est faible, les mouvements doivent être plus amples et plus continus.
- If you simulate a crosswind or upwind tack, the exercise is easier. The faster you walk, the more apparent wind you will generate and the easier it will be to stabilize the kite.
- If you simulate a downwind, you will have no choice but to make very large movements in the power zone.
In any case, in light wind, you either move or you move the kite.
When the wind is strong, the exercise is easier, but the movements must be reduced. So in strong wind:
- Be careful not to lower the kite too low, otherwise you will feel too much traction and have trouble braking. In addition, the kite will travel a longer way back to the zentih, generating more traction.
- It is important to keep the bar in its “sweet spot”, which will allow you to manage your movements in a controlled manner.
- Be careful not to give too abrupt a command, the kite must have a linear curve and not rotate. The consequence of this mistake is often a moment of panic and the total release of the bar. The kite may then accelerate even more as it passes through the power zone and you risk being catapulted forward.
If you don’t feel in control, stop, then start again. Walking can be disorienting at first.
Moving with the kite in the air is very important to understand the wind window and to practice/simulate the different gaits.
It’s up to you to figure out how to adapt your steering to the direction you’re going.
What does body drag teach you, and what mistakes should you avoid?
The body drag is the technique that allows us to be pulled by the kite, without the board at our feet.
It is necessary to distinguish two types of body drag, which have each their utility:
on the belly, to go downwind;
on the side (upwind), for a crosswind gait or to go upwind.
The body dragging is usually taught when we need to learn how to generate a consistent pull with the kite and bring it into the power zone. In fact, it’s all about practicing how to handle the power of the kite.
Since it is a delicate moment, as any mistake can shake you considerably, it is good to practice it in the water without risking clumsy moves on the beach that would cause more damage, unless the wind is light and the equipment appropriate.
Body drag prevents the practitioner, who loses control, from running after the kite with the bar in his hands and risking injury to his lower limbs, or falling on hard surfaces.
In this type of exercise, the kite must descend into the power zone. It is up to you to decide whether the kite movement (often called the “8”) should be large (more pull) or small (less pull). The exercise should be adapted to your needs and the situation.
In all cases, you will descend downwind.
What to watch out for?
- Start with small but frank movements to avoid scaring yourself. Gradually increase your range of motion to generate more traction;
- Use only one quadrant of the wind window. If you are heading to the right, the kite must never go to the left, otherwise, you will lose your balance and you could end up on your back or be thrown forward and lose control completely;
- Make continuous movements, and try to link several movements (at least 3) in the same direction, before stopping at the zenith and going in the opposite direction;
- Stay tonic and always keep your shoulders parallel to the lines. The most critical moment is the first movement, if you don’t keep the right posture, you will lose your balance and end up on your side or back while losing control of the kite;
- Relax as much as possible. If you stiffen up, you will tend to hang on to the bar, which will have a negative impact on your riding.
The upwind body drag
The upwind body drag is mainly used to recover the board when lost or to return to shore in case you can’t get on the board. In fact, by using your own body as a drift, and keeping the kite stable at about 45°, you will be able to keep a crosswind or upwind gait.
In addition, this practice is useful in situations where you need to move away from the shore to make a water start, for example on a beach with a side-onshore wind orientation.
Thanks to the body drag, you will be able to move far enough away not to risk a water start too close to the shore.
What should you watch out for?
- First of all, you have to be able to fly the kite with one hand and stabilize it in the wind window you are heading for;
- Be toned. Your “front arm” (right arm if you are going on a starboard tack) should be extended and pointed as far as possible into the wind, and your legs should be straight (don’t kick your feet, the kite is pulling you). You should have your flank in the water (not your stomach, not your back).
- If you hold the kite too high, you risk losing your balance and ending up on your back, if the kite goes down too low, the control will be more delicate and you risk ending up on your belly, at the drops. One-handed stabilization is essential.
- Get into the habit of doing fairly long tacks to master the exercise. Doing short tacks when you are trying to recover the board is not appropriate. It is in the transitions that you risk being swept away by the wind and losing the progress you have made.
- To make a correct transition, stop at the zenith for a fraction of a second while gently raising the kite. The more abrupt the movement, the more you will let the kite take you downwind and ruin your previous efforts.
The upwind body drag is often neglected in the progression, and in some schools, it is replaced by the board’s leash. But be careful, if you don’t know how to do it, you will quickly find yourself in trouble as soon as you lose your board in deep water. So I strongly recommend you to practice until you feel comfortable!
It is in this part of the progression that your progression goes to the next level. By the end of these exercises, you will be able to control the kite in most circumstances, move around the spot as you wish (walking or being pulled by the kite), and generate controlled power.
The more time you spend on these elements, the easier and more effortless the water start will be. Conversely, if you speed up your progress, be prepared to experience “the superman effect” and be swept from side to side by the kite.
Keep practicing, you’re almost there!
THANKS FOR READING