As an experienced kiteboarding instructor of many years I'd like to share some tips to help the beginners and intermediate kiters out there become experts. These are listed in order of importance:
1. Time on the Water: there simply is no substitute for experience.
- If you only kite 10-20 times a year you will likely never progress very far. Focus on getting out as much as your schedule and family responsibilities allow. Aim for at least 50+ two hour sessions/year. (I have a full time job, a part time start-up business and a family and I'm already up to 80 sessions this year, so you can do it too!)
- Take a trip so you can ride multiple days in a row. If you take vacation to travel to a spot where you can ride 5+ days in a row you will progress faster than riding a day here and a day there.
2. Focus: dedicate a part of every session to training.
- Before every session choose 2 maneuvers you want to learn that are just a little outside the scope of your current capabilities. Visualize and see yourself doing these these maneuvers for a couple of minutes before launching.
- After warming up, try each of these maneuvers 10 times each before doing anything else. No matter how many times you crash, get up think about what you did wrong than go do it again. Once you've tried each maneuver 10 times than you can go and have "fun".
- Treat your training time like going to the gym. This is no different than making a plan and sticking to it. (Also, your family should be made aware that kiting is no different than any other form of exercise and you need to stay healthy)
3. Know your limits: Only push it 5%
- If you can't even do a backroll you will never do a back mobe. When training choose maneuvers that build upon and are only a little bit more difficult than what you already know. Overtime your repertoire will become more expansive.
- If the wind gets too strong, gusty or light ignore #2. Learn maneuvers in winds you are comfortable with. For example: it's not advisable to learn handle passes in 6m conditions you'll just wreck yourself.
4. Don't be afraid to crash your kite (unless in big surf)
- Kites are designed to water relaunch, so don't be afraid to crash them. With time you will gain proficiency in the speed and conditions in which you can relaunch your kite.
- Also, learn to body drag and be comfortable with it. Unless you are riding boots you will do this a lot so get used to it.
5. Cross-train and eat healthy.
- Be sure to stretch and do something active everyday when there's no wind. This will help to keep you healthy, happy and productive so you can go kiting.
- If you are out of shape, overweight and don't have strong core muscles your progression will be limited and you'll have less energy to perform when you need to.
6. It's the skill of the kiter, not the gear:
- too many people get caught up in gear wars, find what's best for you and stick with it. Lou and Bertrand were throwing handle passes while Robbie and others where ripping surf on old two line kites. Your gear doesn't limit you, you only limit yourself.
7. learn a new trick with a friend(s) same level as you - some tricks are actually pretty easy but you need that bit of a push to 'man-up' and try it - nothing more motivating that seeing your mate give it a go then saying 'right, your turn'
repeated mental rehearsal and visualization is key to learning new moves for me. I literally will walk my way through things over and over on my deck, my lawn, in the shower etc to get it all memorized and ready for pace.
Personal pit falls I have are not properly visualizing the back half of the move. I get just enough figured out to get me into trouble and fly by the seat of my pants from there..... Bad idea. Daydream your moves to completion! I used to put more effort into the first half, now its the other way round.
Other things that I'm slowly learning:
Stage the progression to a move where possible. For a flat three, learn it as a surface pass at half pace on snow to get the hand mechanics and keep the kite where you want it, progress to surface pass on water, progress to doing it as a 180 on water with slide out 180, then huck it.
Not every spot is set up for every trick. Now I have certain things in mind at the various spots I ride that cater to the direction of wind, wave, flats etc.
As an extension of this try to have a couple things your working on ready to go mentally so your not always riding around hunting for one particular set up. A lot of my riding is in wave or chop where set ups come and go quick. Having a few different things on the tip of your metaphorical tongue is helpful and sometimes you huck one before you know it where if your working on just one thing there is a bigger psyche up factor.
As a further extension of the above point. I try and micro terrain my spots in my head. There are certain places where things will set up consistently and I try and plan what best suits each. Try to commit, so, one, simple recon pass through the trajectory of the move to figure out where you and your kite will end up set your trim etc. Two is with a take off to get the feel and look of the landing (maybe a simple 180 if the move you want lands toeside etc.) and on three you huck it. The ol one, two, three works great for more than just getting your kids to do what their told!
Last but not least is knowing what moves your working on suit what wind conditions and gear. Tried my first kiteloops on a 12m in 20 knots..... busted my ribs. Learn that stuff on small fast kites underpowered. Learn grabs and stalls on med kites when properly powered etc.
Keep it playful and cheer on others. Nothing motivates like shared stoke!