Basic Wavekiting Info

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Read this to get basic info about kiting in waves.


Ben Wilson

What sort of board should I get?

Definitely get a surf board, there are 2 main options here - epoxy (pop out) and polyester ( regular surfboard construction). Both have their benefits the epoxy is generally tougher and will handle smaller hits and knocks without getting as damaged. Epoxy is also more bouyant which can make them a little bouncy in chop and less of a feel through turns. Poly boards have more flex and sit in the water giving them a more of an alive feel. You have to be way more careful with a poly board and generally they will not last as long an epoxy. Remember both boards will still break. My advice to newcomers is to get an epoxy board designed by a surf shaper. In the long run you will get better value out of an epoxy as it will last longer through your learning process. Once you really get into it and know exactly what you want in a board then you can opt for the more refined and customized poly board.

What do I ride? I ride both - When you see me on a polyester board I am trialling new designs that will appear in the next production board line from Slingshot

What about board size?

I ride the same size board as I surf. This is ideal because I can travel with fewer boards and I can surf the board in the morning and kite it in the afternoon. However you need to be paddle fit to surf a smaller board. A good rule of thumb is to get a board 2 longer than you. Eg I am 6'foot and I ride a 6'2. If you are built like a brick then get a board with a bit more volume or a touch more length.

Do I need straps?

This is tricky and is different for everyone. We have had some people come to our wave clinics who have never been on a directional before and start riding strapless straight away. So it is possible to learn without straps. Most people feel more comfortable in straps and then progress to strapless.

Straps are useful in some situations and I still use them from time to time. If its really nuking like 30+ and really bumpy I sometimes strap up to get the most out that session. Straps also let you experiment with new moves that you can then progress to strapless riding.

Why do you unhook so much?

Unhooking gives me a much more natural stance when I riding and I use the power of the wave to ride the wave instead of the power of the kite. Being hooked in tends to pivot you on your waist where the harness is. This doesn't allow for a natural surfing style as when I am unhooked i have a fully open stance and can surf the wave the same way as i do without the kite. Please note that not all wind directions suit for un-hooking, so I only do it when the conditions allow.

I tried unhooking and can't hold the power.

90% of the people we have come across don't have their kite trimmed correctly to unhook or have kites that allow to un-hook correctly.

What you need to do is have your kite in its optimal position when the bar is pulled down against chicken loop. That way when you unhook it keeps it flying perfectly. If you unhook and kite begins to stall or fly backwards it means it is over sheeted - Pull on the depower strap until you achieve optimal kite position with the bar sheeted fully in. If this doesn’t work, you may need to look at other kite options

What size kites...will my freestyle kite work in the surf?

More than likely it will but generally you don't need as much power from your kite as you are on a bigger board and you really just want enough power to get you around in the surf.I am using the REVS from Slingshot and really just use 2 sizes. I am 84kg. The 11m works for me from 10 kts up to 20. If I can't unhook on the 11 then I change to the 7m.

Again we see a lot of people with too much kite up when they are riding the waves. The smaller the kite the quicker it turns and its also easier to shut down the power when you are on a wave.

Getting off the beach

1. Make sure you are in at least knee deep water so you don't break your fins out when you get up on the board.

2. Head slightly downwind initially to generate speed.

3. Keep up a moderate amount of speed but control it so you don't get launched when you hit the first wave or whitewater.

4. To get over whitewater bend your knees and suck up the wave and let your board ride up over the foam. Kite position is really important. Keep your kite at 45% or better still have your kite pulling down as you hit the foam. This will pull you down and help you stick to your board. A combination of these 2 skills will ensure you stay on the board with or without straps. If the wind is light you will need to move your kite to generate enough speed to penetrate the waves.

Catching Waves

From out the back

This technique is used when there is a decent swell and the wind is cross on or side shore.

1. Turn in front of a swell and get enough speed to stay on the moving wave.

2. As the waves steepens you will feel the power of the wave replacing the power of the kite.

3. Turn your kite down low in front of the wave as you begin to take the drop. Keep the kite low and make small adjustments as you ride along the face.

4. Initially start out on the shoulder of the wave but as your confidence increases you will be able to take off closer to the pocket of the wave.

Whip at Technique

This is great fun and basically involves doing a turn on the face of the wave to catch it.

It works in most wind directions.

1. Ride out with moderate speed

2. As you see a wave you want to ride bear away slightly downwind to get more speed.

3. Initiate the kite turn as the wave passes under the kite and spot you turn on the wave

4. Turn on the face off the wave maintaining speed and ensure your kite finishes low and in the direction that you are heading.


The most important thing about doing any turn is kite position – you need to be doing the turn while you have no power or pull in the kite, so it’s all about having the kite set up in the optimal position before you do the turn. The best way to do this is by keeping your kite low and moving in the same direction as you with subtle adjustments while visualizing and anticipating your turns well before doing them.

Jo Macdonald

1. Know your limits. Don't try it in anything bigger than waist height until you'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 you're at a spot you don't know. Remember that from the beach the waves will look smaller than they actually are when you'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 wave's path and this can be unnerving when you're on the wave because it will hurt if you fall. Many great spots have sharp rocky shores, it'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 there'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 you're powered up. Only go out in bigger waves (head high or more), if you're powered up properly or you'll be a sitting duck in the lulls.

8. Unless there's onshore wind, waves usually come in sets of 3-5 or more, (in onshore wind it will probably just be a mess), if it's your first time in serious waves or you'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 you'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 careful 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 you'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 you'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 you're too close to the beach when landing a jump, kick your board off and land on your feet.

12. Don'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. Don'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 can'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. Don'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, they're bigger too. After the shore break (going out) is the impact zone where the bigger waves break and you don't want to hang around here too long either. Don't get into the shore break again until it'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 you'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 doesn'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 don'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 maneuverable than you and have been surfing waves for a lot longer too (in Hawaii since the 15th century).

18. Some riders wear flotation vests, others don'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, it'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 you'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 that's coming for you when you'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 don'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 wave is not too big, or if you don't like the look of it, change course and ride past it or over a section that hasn't broken yet (remember that it might start breaking by the time you get there) or through the part that'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 you're underpowered.

Before starting out wait for a set to pass then nip out in a moment of calm before the next set hits.

You can just use your legs to lift the board over smaller waves but to get past a decent sized wave, flick the kite towards zenith and back again so the kite lifts you as you reach the wave then use you legs to lift the board over the wave, lifting the front of the board more so if it touches it'll come out instead of digging in. If you get it right you'll just float over the wave and start planing down the back of it. If you get your kite timing wrong you'll get a face full but you can still lift the board using your legs and make the best of it.

If you're gonna get pasted, turn your body slightly sideways so the wave has less to grab and keep you kite powered even flying it into the window so the kite will pull you out of the wave and you won't get dragged under the kite and drop it.

In onshore conditions you can turn the board upwind over the waves.

Also if you change direction and/or speed in waves you can normally find a place where it's pretty flat or the wave hasn't broken yet (or avoid a nasty one) unless it's closeout stuff in which case you should really avoid going out because you can get munched big time.

Watch you don't outrun you kite riding down a big wave.

If it's too big for you to get out, come back in before you get wasted and either wait for it to calm down a bit or go somewhere else

You'll have a load of fun and waves are beautiful graceful creatures, but they'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.



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