Light Wind Kiteboarding: Top Tips

by REAL Watersports

We all get those days where it isn't quite as windy as you were hoping. 3 years ago, that meant sitting on the beach and crossing your fingers. Now you can get out there in the lightest of conditions thanks to some real breakthroughs in the gear available.

In order to help you make the most of your light wind sessions, I asked some of our expert coaches for their top tips on riding in marginal conditions. Hopefully you find them useful, please feel free to leave your advice and tips in the comments!

Light Wind Top Tips:

Matt Nuzzo (REAL Co-Founder): Hang in the harness & be light on your feet. One of the most important things you need is board speed. If you stand heavy on your feet and edge hard it's going to be difficult to get going. While you cycle (or sine) your kite, really focus on staying light on your feet to generate apparent wind and board speed.

Chris Stellato (REAL Lesson Center Manager): Time and time again people say "I don't want to ride a 17m". Don't be afraid of the big kites, I can't recommend enough that you choose the kite size for the conditions and not the kite size you wish you could ride.

Jessie Kilgour (Top Level REAL Coach): Let off your edge and get more on top of your board as you first dive your kite. Don't try and edge too hard as you get up - you need to get going first.

Chris Lazinski (Top Level REAL Coach): Having a big board is even more important than a big kite. Learn how to flatten out your board at key moments and use the upstroke of your kite effectively to generate lift. Both of those things will help you extend your rides in the light winds.

Trip Forman (REAL Co-Founder): Make your own wind. Dive the kite vertically and make sure to let your kite "breathe". It's important not to oversheet the kite - if you do that you slow the kite down and become less efficient. Let it fly! I don't believe in light wind settings because you are choking up the kite. You don't have the ability to make more wind so remember to let the kite breathe.

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7 thoughts on “Light Wind Kiteboarding: Top Tips”

  • Mike Fabbro

    You mention to not choke the kite and to let it breathe. Can you elaborate. What about all the settings on the larger kites. How would you, or should you, tweak your settings for light wind and to make your kite more responsive or to have more low-end power for a light wind session.
    Great tips, thank.

    • Trip

      Mike

      Thanks for your question. Glad to elaborate.

      Just like in sailing, in kiting you can "oversheet" your wing and stall it out. This results in either the kite backing down in the window, or slower speed through the window.

      When you are trying to "make more wind" or build your apparent wind with the kite, it's important to dive the kite vertically through the wind window (12 noon straight down to 6 on the clock) and also to maximize the speed of the kite through the window. If you have the kite choked off -either through too tight tension on the rear pigtail setting or bar pulled in too much - the kite is basically flying with the back edge pulled in too tight and feels sluggish like it has the parking brake pulled on. This limits the speed the kite can fly and therefore limits the amount of power it can make on the vertical down or upstroke.

      Just like when trimming sails on a boat, there's a fine line here for just the right "trim", so don't take this example and go radically in the other direction (totally sheeted out). I think the big thing to learn is that you can sheet in too much and kill all the power plus any extra apparent windspeed power you could have made.

      Want another example? On a boat, you trim the sails to the right trim for your wind angle. You don't keep trimming them in to get more power beyond that. If you do, you stall the sail and actually create less power. What I found more often than not is the "lightwind settings" on the rear pigtails often cause the rider to stall the kite out more often and never realize the most efficient trim of the kite.

      Want to feel the kite "breathe" and create more power? Sheet out an inch or two on the upstroke and watch how much faster the kite flies and how much more power it creates. You can also do this as you begin to edge upwind. Instead of choking up and pulling in hoping for more power, let'er breathe and slide forward in the window a touch. The free-ness and speed of the kite through the window (and the power/pointing as a result) will amaze you.

      Hope this info helps. I'm always avail at the shop if you have any questions or if this wasn't clear enough. Glad to help. - Trip

  • Chris

    I know you guys don't carry them, but foils like the HQ matrixx 15 meter and flysurfers rule in light wind. I have a 15 meter matrixx and can ride powered in 8-10 knots (not just mowing the lawn). There have been many sessions when my friends are watching me kite without a whitecap in sight while they wait for the wind to fill in. They also relaunch suprisingly well because they are so light, you just have to learn the reverse relaunch. I have friends that have the turbine and it seems to be the best light wind inflatble but a foil weighs about 5 pound less than the lightest inflatable and I am usually out riding long before they are.

  • Robert

    The gear may be getting the basement lower, but is it making the basement fun? My major reason for not getting on anything bigger than a 12m and a surfboard in the past has been that it is a ton of money to just mow the lawn... has the gear progressed enough to make light wind be less of a simply a technical possibility and more of an enjoyable experience?

    • Pete Hardie

      Robert,
      Great point. If you live near the beach and can ride every day then often we find people don't mind too much missing out on the 10mph days and doing something else. However, if you have to travel a long way to get to the beach or only get the time to go kiteboarding occasionally then the lightwind gear becomes more important. We hear it all the time from kiteboarders that only get a short window to grab a session and would much rather be on the water than on the beach!

  • Mike

    What Chrislinski said. Just might add that riding with your kite lower will help flatten out your board. Also, using the correct fins with your "Big Board" makes a huge difference as well. Once the board planes, the fins should do most of your upwind work if you keep your board flat. Living in San Diego gives incredible coastal conditions with light wind. And, those days can be really fun if you have the right set-up. I weigh 200 lbs and never miss those days.

  • Mike P

    Great tips! Thanks!!