Staying Upwind Print

 Sailing into the wind or riding upwind

"Ride anywhere and everywhere"

It is possible to ride pointing in to the wind at a 45º angle.  You can ride at 45º in to the wind in one direction, turn around, and ride 45º in to the wind the other direction.  This is called tacking.


There are four general rules to being able to ride into the wind.  These are not comprehensive, nor are they all required to go upwind, but if you think about these things and you find one of them is missing, you will probably not be riding upwind.  Try them in order.  For example, if you complete up to number three, but you lose number one, planning speed, you will need to get your planning speed back before continuing on.  To ride upwind, all four things must be present.

You Must be at Planning Speed

If you are very "underpowed", you must get going as fast as you possibly can and then edge and point your board into the wind, yet not too much so that you loose speed.  In light winds you may have to keep your kite smoothly moving up and down while trying to hard a edge.  This is tough yet with some practice you will be able to anticipate the pull of the kite as you stroke it up and down so you can hold a constant angle. 

If you are very "overpowered" you must go as slow as you can without sinking.  You can  edge super hard by straightening out  your back leg, or you can keep the kite up high and edge hard or both.  If you can't hold the edge down you need to put up a smaller kite.... or practice more.

You Must be Edging Properly

Edging properly has to do with how much the board is angled to the direction of force from the kite.  In other words, the rider must intuitively know how much pressure they need to put on their heels, depending on where the board is pointed, and where the kite is pulling them.

Might be Easier with Kite at 45 Degrees or Lower

If your kite is high it will be pulling you upward, not forward, and not into the wind.  If the kite stays lower you have the ability to ride closer to the wind or more upwind.  If you are using a newer SLE or Bow kite it is possible to fly the kite high, like 11 or 1 o'clock, and stay up wind.  This technique is usually used for overpowered conditions by advanced beginners and intermediate riders.

Point the Board Where You Want to Go

If you are not edging or pointing properly upwind, then you can’t ride upwind.

Underpowered Conditions 

Get that kite whipping up and down continually, get your board speed up, then start to edge.  If you edge too much you will kill your speed.  You may have to keep working the kite up and down just to keep your speed up.

What if You Don't Stay Upwind

Walk of Shame 

No body want to do the walk of shame yet everyone has done it.  Hopefully as a beginner kiteboarder you have found a launch site which allows to safely exit the water down wind in the event that you are not staying upwind.  As a beginner if you don't have a safe exit point downwind, you may have to swim to prevent getting blown downwind into a hazardous area.  Choose your launch site wisely.  

Keeping the Kite in the Air 

To use this technique safely you need to be sure that the shore line all the way back to your upwind launch is clear and the entire distance is a safe area for flying the kite, if you're not sure, pack it up and live to kite another day.

For the walk of shame while flying the kite, try keeping your kite at about about 45 degrees over the water with the bar depowered so the kite is pulling as little as possible.  Pinch of Salt is a great way to fly the kite with the bar depowered, constant angle steering is another way.  Depowering the kite makes the walk easier and less exhausting.

Packing it up and Walking

This is time consuming yet might be easier especially if you have a long way to walk.  If you don't have a wide open shore line to walk back upwind you'll definitely us this method as you don't want to walk an fly the kite in dangerous areas with obstacles around. 

After pulling into a safe pull out down wind, self land your kite by the wingtip or self rescue method.  If you are lucky and a friend chased you down wind you can land to them, just be sure it is a safe spot to do the assisted landing with plenty of space.  If there is limited space self rescue out in the water a ways and bring the gear in.

Swim of Pain 

This is super exhausting and should be avoided at all cost.  Swimming in with gear takes forever and is a good way the have the Coast Guard out looking for you, if you are far from shore, which you shouldn't be. 

If the wind angle is right you may be able to use the rescue drag or directional dragging to get back to shore, and pull out.