If you are new to the world of kiteboarding, there are a lot of key techniques to learn. As you grow from an amateur to a more seasoned kiteboarder, you will gain important skills. Learning kiteboard transitions will take you from feeling like a newcomer out on the water to maneuvering like an intermediate kiteboarder. 

Getting the hang of the basic Kiteboard transitions will allow you to try more advanced moves. Start with an instructor, read, watch YouTube videos and practice. Before attempting expert moves, it is important to practice the basics. Learning how to do transitions well opens up a world of possibilities.

Many of the various transitions are described and shown below. Some are for beginners, and this article progresses to the harder ones nearer to the end. Practice and master one or a few before you try to move to others. Plenty of fun can be had whilst learning the basics and the advance maneuvers.

What Are Kiteboard Transitions?

Like many extreme sports, kiteboarding has its own lingo and vocabulary. In kiteboarding terms, a transition is when a rider successfully changes direction on a board using their kite, board, control bar, and stance.

Successful transitions are completed when the rider can switch directions without crashing or sinking.

What to Know Before Attempting Transitions

Transitions are not the first step in learning to kiteboard. There are some essential kiteboarding components you must grasp before you will be able to attempt transitions. In the same way that you have to learn to walk before you can run, be sure you are comfortable with the below techniques.

  • Know how to initiate a basic waterstart.
  • Know how to ride upwind.
  • Know how to ride toe-side.
  • Know how to perform a self-rescue.

Becoming familiar with each of these techniques could mean the difference between failure and success when attempting a transition.

Kiteboard Waterstart

The waterstart is considered one of the most difficult kiteboarding elements to learn. Luckily, it is also one of the first, so you can get it out of the way towards the beginning of your kiteboarding journey. The waterstart, sometimes called a boardstart, is the act of getting yourself from a position of bobbing in the water to on top of the kiteboard.

This move takes a great deal of practice because it requires control of your body, your board, and your kite simultaneously. Once you get good at waterstarts, though, you will be primed for transitions.

  • Lie in the water with your knees pulled in and the control bar parallel to the board.
  • Ensure the kite is in the 12 o’clock position.
  • Pull the control bar down to create just enough tension.
  • Once you feel the power in the lines, steer the kite upwards to lift you out of the water and onto the board.

While this technique may take time to master, it will be a powerful foundational skill for transitions and kiteboarding in general. (Source) Read more on Kitesurfing Beach Starts in my post.

How to ride a Kiteboard Upwind

Riding upwind allows kiteboarders to prolong their sessions for however long they would like. If you are only able to ride downwind, you have to walk back to your starting point each time. Think of it like sledding, where each time you ride downhill, you have to walk it back up again. This can get very tiring, and it wastes time.

This is another difficult trick to master, but it is essential for any kiteboarder’s advancement. Being well versed in riding upwind also makes it a lot easier to transition since there will be no downside to changing directions.

  • Turn your head and body toward the desired upwind direction.
  • Resist the downward pull of the kite by leaning back on your heels and edging your board against the kite.
  • Pivot your hips in the direction of your head and body, the desired upwind direction.
  • Keep your knees bent with more pressure and weight on the back leg.

(Source My Post)

Riding Toe-Side on Kiteboard

Riding toe-side refers to the way that you shift your stance on your kiteboard. The natural position is to ride heel-side, so learning to ride toe-side takes a bit of practice. Luckily, this skill is not quite as difficult as the above two skills. It is also not as crucial. You could go your entire kiteboarding career without riding toe-side.

Riding toe-side is a favorite among many kiteboarders, though, so there is no reason not to learn the trick. When you ride toe-side, the positioning of your kiteboard is switched. Riding toe-side makes it easier to turn sharply and more quickly, so it is a great skill to have when performing transitions. (Source)

  • Ensure the kite is in a high position (the 11 or 1 o’clock position, depending on the side of the turn).
  • Slow your speed to turn the board 180 degrees, bringing the back foot around to the front.
  • Keep your weight at the newly switched back of the board.

You can learn kiteboard transitions without knowing how to ride toe-side. The reason it is on this list is that it makes some transitions easier. On the other hand, knowing some basic transitions makes learning how to ride toe-side easier. The two skills work in tandem. (Source)

Self-Rescue technique for kiteboarding

A self-rescue is not specific to transitions. This is a skill every kiteboarder should have, regardless of their skill level. It is important when attempting any new skill, as it will allow you to regain your bearings after a wipeout in the water. All skills take practice, so crashes and falls are to be expected. Self-rescues help you get yourself back up.

Knowing the fundamentals of self-rescuing can save you from a potentially disastrous situation. If you lose control of your kite, become overpowered, and get swept too far away from the shore, or if the wind simply stops blowing, you can use this technique to save yourself. It also helps in the event of an equipment malfunction. (Source)

  • Let go of the control bar to disengage.
  • Relocate the control bar and attach its leash line.
  • Locate, wrap, and secure the remaining connecting lines to the control bar.
  • Bend the kite into a sail shape and ride it back to shore.

Changing Directions Without Transitioning

Transitioning allows you to change directions while kiteboarding without sinking into the water. This is convenient for people who might kiteboard in seasons where the water is too cold to be comfortable, and swimming is not necessarily the goal.

It is still possible to change directions without doing transitions. You would just bring your kite up to 12 o’clock to slow you down and stop in the water. This would cause you to sink. Then you could initiate a waterstart in the other direction.

This is not a favorite move of kiteboarders, though, as it is inconvenient and oftentimes uncomfortable. Kiteboard transitions come in to add convenience as well as elegance to the turning process.

How to Do Basic Kiteboard Transitions

Once you know how to accomplish a waterstart, ride downwind and upwind, switch from heel-side to toe-side, and perform a self-rescue in the case of a problem, you are ready to start learning how to do kiteboard transitions. There are many different transitions to learn, each with its own utility and flair.

Kiteboard transitions, as stated above, are acts of changing directions with turns. However, they can be much more than that. Learning the basics of transitions means learning the moves that will stay with you for your entire kiteboarding life. You can compound on the basics to achieve more advanced and stylish transitions later on.

Before doing any kind of transition, it is important to be aware of other kiteboarders on the water nearby. Pay attention to your surroundings so as not to cause a crash that can result in serious injury.

  • Slide turn
  • Downloop turn
  • Pop transition


How to Do a Kiteboard Slide Turn

The slide turn is called such because you slide your board away from you to change your direction of travel. This move requires you to move your body with purpose while also steering your kite.

Your beginning stance will have you on your kiteboard with your weight on your back leg, bent leg. Your front leg is extended out and only slightly bent. Your head and body should be facing forward in the direction you are traveling.

  • Bring your kite to the 12 o’clock position and push the control bar outward to slow down your travel speed.
  • Begin to pivot your weight from your back leg over to the front leg. 
  • While adjusting your body weight, pull down on the control bar to stay afloat.
  • Steer your kite in the new direction of travel.
  • Your former back foot should now be in front, leading, and your former front foot should now be in the back, carrying weight. Your back leg should be bent.

Once you have done the above steps, dive your kite in the correct direction, and you will be riding in a new direction.

How to Do a Kiteboard Downloop Transition

The downloop position gets its name because you complete this move by forcing your kite into a loop. Once you have enough practice and expertise, kiteboarding gives you a great deal of control over the kite in the sky and the board on the water. This transition takes advantage of those elements.

It is important to be underpowered when learning this transition, which means practicing with a small kite. As with the slide turn, you will be transferring your weight from your back leg to your front leg and switching your stance during this transition. (Source)

  • Start with a high kite position (1 position if riding to the right and 11 if riding to the left).
  • Begin to pivot your stance and edge your kiteboard against the wind.
  • Force your kite to loop by pulling one side of the control bar toward you and pushing the other side away from you. This takes aggressive control bar handling.
  • Let go of the control bar to let the kite unwind from the twisted loop. 
  • Grab the control bar once again and travel in the new direction.

How to Do a Kiteboard Pop Transition

The pop transition is very similar to the basic slide, except you get a bit of air on the turn. The key movements are the same. This basic transition opens up a world of advanced transitions since pops are the gateways to jumps. Jump transitions are more advanced and can include all kinds of tricks, but pops are the first step to getting there.

Your stance will be the same as with the other two transitions on this list. As stated above, this move is almost identical to the most basic slide turn. The only variance is that you are not just staying afloat but getting some air. Start by bringing your kite to the 12 o’clock position like in a slide turn, then:

  • Push the control bar outward to slow down your travel speed, but stay faster than you would in a slide turn.
  • Begin to pivot your weight from your back leg over to the front leg.
  • While adjusting your body weight, pull down hard on the control bar.
  • While pulling down on the bar, push hard off your board with your back foot to get air.
  • Before you land back down, steer your kite in the new direction of travel.
  • Your former back foot should now be in front, leading, and your former front foot should now be in the back, carrying weight. Your back leg should be bent.

With all of that done, all you have to do is dive your kite in the correct direction, and you will be riding in a new direction.

How to Do Advanced Kiteboard Transitions

Once you practice and get good at the basic transitions, you can begin to learn more advanced transitions. Basic transitions are more for utility, where advanced transitions are all about style and fun. These advanced transitions build on the fundamental principles of the basic transitions with added techniques and tricks.

Keep in mind that there is a lot to learn between the above steps and the transitions below. There are many transitions and transition tricks out there, with more being invented by creative kiteboarders all the time. This list will only cover a few.

  • One foot transition
  • Front loop transition
  • Hand drag with backroll transition

The kiteboard dark slide transition is covered fully here.

How to Do a One Foot Kiteboard Transition

Unlike any other transition in this list so far, this move requires you to remove a foot from the board strap. It is very stylish and looks impressive without being too difficult once you have had a lot of practice getting the timing right.

  • Get your kite to the 12 o’clock position.
  • Make sure your board has a good speed, but not too much. You will need the power to get some air.
  • Keep one hand on in the center of the control bar. 
  • With the free hand, grab the nose side of your board and slide your front foot out of the strap, straightening the leg below your board. 
  • Bring the foot back up into the strap. It will now act as the back foot once you land going in the opposite direction.

How to Do a Kiteboard Front Loop Transition

The front loop transition has a simple name, but it looks amazing. It also works great as a building block for even more involved moves and variants like front loop downloop transitions, double front loop downloop transitions, and spectacular in-air grabs.

  • Prepare to jump into the air by keeping the control bar sheeted in and waiting until the kite starts to pull. 
  • Jump off before the kite passes the 12 o’clock position.
  • Lean onto your front hand to steer the kite in front of you.
  • You should come down slow enough to complete a full 360-degree turn, landing in the opposite direction.

How to Do a Hand Drag with Backroll Transition

This is a fun and exhilarating transition that looks more difficult than it actually is. This move is best done when the water is warm because you will be willingly getting your arm wet for style points. 

  • Edge slightly against the wind.
  • Lean backward into the harness, against the kite, before the kite reaches the 12 o’clock position.
  • Drop your front arm and rotate your body with it.
  • Your front arm should glide across the water as the board lifts you into a 360-degree turn. 
  • When you land, quickly steer your kite in the opposite direction.

Avoid Common Kiteboard Transition Mistakes

With any new trick, you will make plenty of mistakes before you get the hang of it. Transitions are no different. That is okay because practice makes perfect. These are some of the most common mistakes that you will likely encounter when learning how to do kiteboard transitions.

  • Moving your kite to the 12 o’clock position too quickly or too slowly
  • Attempting to turn too quickly
  • Attempting to turn while also stopping

Make sure you are using proper equipment. You shouldn’t try to learn how to Kiteboard using a wakeboard, for example. It’s theoretically possible, but not the easiest thing to do.

Getting the timing right is essential when doing kiteboard transitions. Moving your kite to the 12 position too quickly can cause you to get air when you do not want any. Air can be helpful for jumps, but it can throw you off if you are not prepared. If your kite gets to 12 too slowly, you can lose all momentum and sink into the water.

Everyone is going to sink or crash when starting out. These mistakes are unavoidable at first. But understanding them and learning how to improve and avoid them is the key to becoming a seasoned kiteboarder and performing excellent transitions of all kinds. Practice not only makes perfect, it is also fun.

Get out there, learn a new skill, stay safe and have fun. And or course, it will help to learn how to stop when kitesurfing as well.