Can Kitesurfers Go Upwind? Here are the Facts


If you’re new to kitesurfing, chances are your goal is to kitesurf upwind sooner or later. Kitesurfing upwind is one of the true markers of an experienced kitesurfer. It shows you have mastered the skill to do it and, without a doubt, separates you from the beginners. But you don’t just wake up one day and start riding into the wind.

Kitesurfing upwind takes a lot of practice and skill. You need to know which angles to maintain to move swiftly against the wind because it’s impossible to ride directly into the wind. The recommended technique is maintaining a 10 to 15-degree angle while riding in a zigzag pattern.

Riding downwind is exhilarating. But any experienced kitesurfer will tell you that riding upwind is where all the fun and adrenaline rush lies. Therefore, if you’ve been striving to master the technique, but you’re not sure how to go about it, you’ll find this guide insightful. Let’s dive right in!

Everything You Need to Know About Kitesurfing Upwind

If you’re new to kitesurfing, every new technique you learn will have you excited to get back into the water again. However, in the beginning, you’ll mostly be learning basic kitesurfing techniques, which is a crucial first step. One of the things you’ll have to master is riding downwind. This is where a kitesurfer rides with the wind behind their back. 

At first, you’ll feel excited to do it over and over again. But over time, you’ll want to join the big leagues who ride both downwind and upwind ever so effortlessly. You see, being able to ride upwind is what separates a pro from an amateur. For this reason, it’s every beginner’s dream to master upward riding techniques.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen without practice. A wrong turn or technique may cause an accident. Therefore, if you’re thinking of trying to ride upwind, it may be a good idea to know the ins and outs of the trade. This comprehensive guide will help you leave the beginners corner sooner rather than later. 

Embrace the Walk of Shame

Ah, the “walk of shame.” It’s the biggest taboo in kitesurfing. Every experienced kitesurfer will do their best not to be seen taking the walk of shame. But for beginners, it’s inevitable. So, what exactly is the “walk of shame,” and why should you embrace it?

As we’ve mentioned, first-time riders learn to kitesurf using the basic downward technique where they sail with the wind behind their back. And because they haven’t yet mastered the upwind technique, they have to stop riding, hold their kite up in the air, and go back to the beginning point to do it again. This is the walk of shame. Experienced riders don’t have to do it because they can simply turn and ride upwind.

But if you’re a first-timer, embrace it. The walk of shame is a crucial part of learning how to kitesurf. You get to master the basic techniques before moving to more advanced riding techniques. Besides, it’s safer to do it this way because any wrong turn to avoid the walk of shame can be extremely dangerous.

Take the Leap and Stop the Walk of Shame

Once you’ve practiced kitesurfing downwind for a while and you’re certain you’re ready to leave the beginner’s corner, you need to take the leap and try. But don’t do it blindly. You need to know how to do it in theory before you try anything practically. It’s safer this way. Here’s what you should do.

Choose the Right Kite Size

The first thing you need to do before attempting to ride upwind is to ensure you have the right kite size. If your kite is underpowered, you’ll have to move it constantly to generate speed, which makes things more difficult. The excessive movement will result in a downward pull on the kite, making it impossible to fly the kit wide to reduce downward pull.

On the other hand, if the kite is overpowered, it will be challenging to edge against the wind. As a result, you’ll be pulled in a downwind direction. A right-sized kite will make it easy to edge against the wind and make maintaining the right posture effortlessly.

Maintain the Right Stance

A correct riding stance is the backbone of riding upwind. One misstep can ruin all your efforts and pull you downwind. To maintain the right posture, you need to focus on four body parts. These include head, shoulders, hips, knees, and toes. Here’s how to position them:

  • Head: One of the common mistakes among beginners trying to ride upwind is focusing too much on the kite. You need to look in the direction you want to sail. This helps you maintain your direction and keeps the rest of your body in the right stance to ride upwind.
  • Shoulders: Keep your shoulders leaned back so that there’s more weight on the heel-side edge of the board. This position allows you to edge against the kite, making it easier to resist downwind pull. Rotate your shoulders in the direction of your head as well when you begin riding upwind to prevent downwind pull.
  • Hips: Your hips’ position allows you to direct the pull from the kite into your heel side edge. Your hips should be toward the bar and open toward the travel direction to prevent lower back pain. Imagine drawing a straight line with your shoulders, hips, and heels.
  • Knees: Your knees act as your suspension and continue the movement you’ve started from your head to your hips. To prevent injury, your knees should never be fully straight. There should be a slight bend, and they should be in proper alignment with your rear hips, making sure not to angle them in any way.
  • Toes: Ensure your toes are raised so that the board’s toe-side edge is lifted away from water. Doing so puts more pressure on your heels, thereby preventing downwind pull.

Keep Your Kite Powered Up

The positioning of your kite is also crucial to maintaining an upwind riding direction. You should pull the kite down up to about 45 degrees so that you can ride out of the wind window. If the kite is too high, there’s a high chance you’ll be pulled back downwind.

Drop Your Front Hand

If you’re new to upwind kitesurfing, you may be afraid to drop one hand off the kite. It’s understandable. Having both hands on the kite seems like the safer route, especially when you’ve not mastered the skill. However, it’s not. 

Having both hands on the kite may affect your stance if you’ve not mastered proper body movements yet. Dropping your front hand will make edging easier and will also greatly improve your posture.

Have a Reference Point

If you’ve never surfed upwind before, you may not be certain if you’re doing it or not. 

In the beginning, it’s best to have a reference point. This can be any visual object such as a landmark to notify you when you’re sailing upwind. As you get better, you may not need it.

Final Thoughts 

With these tips and tricks, riding upwind should be a breeze after a few practice sessions. It may help to do it when the winds are strong so that you don’t have to move too much to maintain your direction. And don’t ride too far into the wind. Doing so will only reduce your speed and cause you to fall into the water. Don’t forget to have fun!

If you want to see a very good video explaining kitesurfing upwind, then have a look at this from Flukes Kitesurfing.

Ryan C

Kitesurfing, flyboarding, jet skis and snowboarding are my top interests. Active in watersports since age 10. Got my boating license as soon as I turned 15 years old. That Red/Black RXP-X in all the photos here belongs to me. Most of the flyboard photos and video examples here are from my exploits. Most of the flyboarding photos and videos on this site are my exploits, with a few friends and relatives in there for the sake of fairness :)

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