Wave riding guidelines
1. Know your limits. Don't try it in anything bigger than waist height until youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re hot in easier (flat, choppy, hip high waves) conditions and can fly a kite in your sleep, big waves can hit with a force of more than 3 tons per square foot when they break.
2. Before you go out, sit on the beach and watch the waves for a while, especially if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re at a spot you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know. Remember that from the beach the waves will look smaller than they actually are when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re out there. Watch anyone out in the waves with a kite too as this is one of the best ways to learn.
3. Before going in ask locals for advice, a beach break is a lot friendlier than a shallow reef break. A wave will break in water roughly 1.3 times the height of the wave face, so this can give you an idea of how deep the water is. Some reef breaks can actually suck most of the water away from the waveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s path and this can be unnerving when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on the wave because it will hurt if you fall. Many great spots have sharp rocky shores, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your life and your equipment.
4. Avoid spots/days with waves that closeout (the whole bar crashes down simultaneously) especially big closeouts, they are nasty.
5. Check your equipment, which should be perfect, and warm up before you go in.
6. Always try to keep your kite flying and if it does go down relaunch as quick as you can. Be good at it in flat water before you try it in waves. In waves and in general a low AR kite is a lot faster to relaunch than a high AR kite.
7. Sideshore, side onshore and side offshore are best for wave riding, jumping and if thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing else, in that order. Straight onshore is much harder to go out in because the wind and waves will push you back towards the beach all the time, there will probably be a strong current in the same direction and you will have to kite upwind right away so only try it if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re powered up. Only go out in bigger waves (head high or more), if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re powered up properly or youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be a sitting duck in the lulls.
8. Unless thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s onshore wind, waves usually come in sets of 3-5 or more, (in onshore wind it will probably just be a mess), if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your first time in serious waves or youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to try anything flash, wait for the last wave of the set to do your thing. This way if you goof it you should (hopefully) have enough time to get your act together before the next set hits you. If you fall on the first wave of a set youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll get pounded by the rest of the set and be wiser for it.
9. You can jump the waves as you go out and surf them as you come in. As you ride down the face of a wave you pick up speed and the kite will pull harder due to the increased apparent wind and also because, as your your board speed increases the kite moves back into the center of the power zone. The best way to deal with this is to keep the kite moving and lead all of your wave moves with the kite. It can also help to fly the kite a little higher than you normally would, 45 degrees or higher, but this also depends a lot on the wind conditions. For wave riding you can use a longer board/smaller kite than what you would in the same wind on flat water, without being underpowered, this lets you ride the shoulder of the waves without getting overpowered.
10. To jump a wave you can just hit the section as it breaks while keeping the kite fairly high, so the kite is in a position to lift, not pull horizontally. Ralley of the wave as you would on flat water. When you do a ralley the kite naturally moves up so the force of your ralley gives you height, and then the kite just rises to neutral and glides. No kite movement required until you land. You can go really big but safely and land softly. If you are hot and your timing is really good you can whip you kite hard back up towards zenith, (like when jumping on flat water), just as you hit the lip, but be carefull because this can get you mega high air time and your kite flying will have to be perfect for safe landings. You are going to jump higher off a wave than you have been off flat water, so be patient in waiting until you are the apex of your jump (as high as you are going to get) before you crank the kite back in the direction you were originally going. If you get it wrong you can even end up jumping higher than your kite which is not a good idea. The most important thing is to take it in stages and not try to go too high before youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re used to jumping off waves.
11. You can jump a lot higher in waves than in flat water, so watch your landings. When in the air look to see when and where youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be landing. Landing a high jump with your board flat is the easiest way to break your board or ankles. Use the kite to slow your descent, try to land on the back of the board and use your legs as shock absorbers. Be careful if jumping near the shore because the backwash of a wave, especially a big one can drag a lot of water off the beach and any left behind may be a lot shallower than you think. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re too close to the beach when landing a jump, kick your board off and land on your feet.
12. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t panic in a wipeout, try to be aware of where your equipment is, a last look before you go down is good if you get the chance. When you do fall, try to fall over/through the wave and not down its face. Keep your kite flying. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t point your kite towards the shore or keep it at zenith while waiting to start off again. If you get worked by a wave you will be dragged towards or under the kite, the lines will probably go slack and the kite could easily fall out of the sky. You should develop an instinct for immediately pointing your kite out to sea whenever you crash in the surf. This is especially important if you are riding onshore winds. In that case you have to be extra careful because you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t send you kite in the direction of the waves, so another solution is to power the kite up just as you are about to get hit, this way your lines will be tensioned. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t keep your kite overhead when getting munched by waves or you will drop it.
13. Waves further out to sea are a lot calmer than near the beach. When starting out from the beach, watch the waves, wait for the calm after a set has finished breaking, then go out quick, if possible straight out (side shore wind is easiest). Get through the shore break then stay out in the real waves, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re bigger too. After the shore break (going out) is the impact zone where the bigger waves break and you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to hang around here too long either. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get into the shore break again until itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time to come in, which is before you get tired and start making mistakes. Riding a wave in is a good way to get back to the beach.
14. If a wave is too big for you, run (kite) away from it, he who turns and kites away rides to surf another wave.
15. Keep an eye on big waves coming in when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re playing in their garden. Every once in a while a freak wave can come in which is a lot bigger than the rest and it will probably break earlier too. A wave doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to be really big to hit hard, the thickness and speed of a wave, as well as the way/how fast it jacks up when it hits the shallows can turn a smooth ocean roller into a spitting, awesome tube.
16. If you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have any experience with waves, (maybe you kite on a lake) try surfing them with a surfboard or bodyboard first, this will give you an idea of how powerful they are and how a board can react in waves.
17. Respect surfers, they are a lot less manoeuvrable than you and have been surfing waves for a lot longer too (in Hawaii since the 15th century).
18. Some riders wear floatation vests, others donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. A floaty pfd will mean a wave can get a better hold of you and a wipeout can last longer, but if you do get knocked unconscious it can save your life. Try going out in the waves without your kite and try both ways then decide, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your life.
19. If you use a board leash, use a helmet too.
20. Avoid sushi rolls at all costs, this is when you fall into a wave down its face with your lines slack/kite down and the wave rolls you in your lines, if the kite powers up or gets dragged down by the waves it will not be funny at all. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re kite is down avoid getting tangled in your lines at all costs. If you do get tangled in your lines and things look like they could get nasty, or already are, cut your lines as fast as you can. Carry a hook knife.
21. If your kite goes down in the impact zone, and you cannot get it relaunched before the waves pound it, DO NOT resist the pull of the kite by holding onto your bar with lines tensioned when it gets hit by a wave. This is a sure fire way to destroy your kite! Allow the wave to take it into shore without resisting it. Just get to shore as fast as you can and retrieve your kite.
22. Use floating lines and bar. Unless they are actually being swirled in a wave, to avoid the lines you can dive under them if all else fails, just be careful not to surface in their midst.
23. To get past a wave thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s coming for you when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on your board, you can jump over it (using your legs to lift your board over the wave as you hit it if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to rocket skywards on every wave you hit), or dive the kite down a bit to build up speed and ride straight through with the nose of your board it if the waveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not too big, or if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like the look of it, change course and ride past it or over a section that hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t broken yet (remember that it might start breaking by the time you get there) or through the part thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s already broken. White water and bubbling foam will play havoc with the way your board rides so watch it. If you hit the wave with the edge or bottom of the board the wave will grab it a lot more than if you hit with the nose. Use your kite to lift you/jump out of rough situations.
24. On light wind days you can use a floaty directional to surf smaller waves even when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re underpowered.
YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have a load of fun and waves are beautiful graceful creatures, but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not your friends and have no qualms about trashing you and/or your gear. Respect them always, they are a lot stronger than you will ever be.
Jo Macdonald 2002