What do you get when you combine two of the most dynamic forces on the planet – wind and water – while harnessing the awesome powers of each? You get kitesurfing – an exciting sport that has taken the entire globe by storm. While the learning curve can be steep, with a willingness to commit to learning proper techniques, anyone can become proficient at kitesurfing.
The best way to beach start in kitesurfing is by learning how to hold the kite with one hand while being able to get on the board to give you a successful water start. You must practice controlling your kite’s lift, getting onto your board properly, and coordinating these two elements perfectly.
Though it may seem a bit intimidating at first and may result in a few bumps or bruises (and maybe a fail video or two) along the way, as you become comfortable with controlling your kite, getting onto your board, and riding away with power, beach starts can become second-nature. Keep reading to understand the key techniques you will need in order to learn and master kitesurfing beach starts.
The Different Types of Beach Starts in Kitesurfing
Before diving into how to beach start, it is worth noting that there are no less than five types of beach starts in kitesurfing. These methods range in degree of difficulty from intermediate to advanced. Depending on how particular techniques are executed, some are even expert level and should be attempted by only the most skilled and experienced kitesurfers.
Some beach starts actually begin in shallow water while others are initiated from the sand, but all take place along the shoreline. From easiest to most difficult, the five types of kitesurfing beach starts are:
- Shallow water beach start – this method takes place in shallow water ranging in depth from ankle-deep to knee-deep (this includes beach starting from small waves)
- Bounce start – this technique is used from the sand and requires intermediate kitesurfing skills, and is a prelude to jump-starts
- Running beach start – this is an advanced skill requiring superb coordination and timing
- Jumpstart – as far as beach starts go, this is one of the more popular techniques among advanced kitesurfers
- Running jump-start – this may be the ultimate in beach start techniques and is only performed by expert riders
There are elements that are common to all of these techniques, so as each specific skill is developed and acquired, they can be stacked on each other to perform more complex beach starts. Keep reading for a deeper look at each of these kitesurfing beach start methods, along with tips on how to learn and master them. Trimming your kite before launch will help you get up and flying quicker.
The Shallow Water Beach Start
Shallow water beach start methods entail getting onto the board and riding from shallow water, in depths ranging from ankle-deep to knee-deep. The water is flat and calm in many instances, such as in a protected inlet area or shallow shoreline. At other times, there may be waves to contend with, or the water may be somewhat choppy, which certainly raises the level of difficulty.
In a shallow water beach start, the rider remains upright and standing the entire time (at least, if everything goes right). This makes it different from a water start where the kitesurfer is either sitting with their bum in the water (partially submerged) or completely in the water i.e., the water is too deep for standing. (Source)
Here are some key tips to mastering a shallow water beach start:
- Kite position – as with most beach start methods, the starting kite position is overhead, or roughly at 12 o’clock. It may be helpful to start the kite slightly back (e.g., if kitesurfing to the right, then at an 11 o’clock position, and at a 1 o’clock position if riding to the left) instead of directly overhead. From that position, you will then dip the kite slightly forward for power, allowing you to generate more lift.
- Board position – the board should be placed in the water directly in front of you with your front foot placed firmly into the binding. Ensure a snug fit by wriggling your foot from side to side; this step is important because having your front foot fastened securely will stabilize the board when you attempt to place your back foot into the rear binding.
Your back foot is currently bearing most of your weight, and your knee should be bent in preparation for the push-off to get your back foot into the board binding.
- Hand position on the bar – once the board is in the water and your front foot is fastened to the board, both hands should be on the bar maintaining the kite’s overhead position.
- Achieving lift and onboarding – with your front foot holding the board steady in the water, dip the kite with your front hand to initiate lift. As you feel the kite begin to pull, push off with your back foot, and in one fluid motion, place it into the rear board binding. (You can still ride off without your back foot in the binding as long as it is securely on the board and you are stable.)
The trick to a successful beach start from shallow water is timing the lift of the kite with getting your back foot onto the board while simultaneously initiating your forward motion (have the board chase the kite) in the water. In other words, recognize when your kite is about to power on and anticipate the kite’s pull to leverage your weight when transitioning your back foot to the board.
Beach Starting from Waves
This kitesurfing technique works in much the same way when you are beach starting from waves. The key difference is that waves will be churning and moving the board, so the sequence of moves needs to happen faster. (Also, strapless boards may be better suited for beach starts from waves as getting your feet into bindings from knee-deep water may be quite difficult.)
With your front hand carrying the board and rear hand on the bar controlling the kite and maintaining an overhead position,
- Place the board directly in front of you in calm-ish water between waves (pointing in the direction of travel)
- In one fluid motion, place your front foot on the board while dipping the kite to generate lift
- As the kite pulls, and with your weight on your front foot, bring your back foot onto the board
- If you generated enough lift from the kite to get onto the board properly, there should be enough power to pull you through the waves and away from shore
The Bounce Beach Start
In this beach start technique, the kitesurfer starts completely on the sand with both feet on the board, either in bindings (straps) or boots. This is essentially a one-legged technique where the launching of the board from the beach, into the air, and onto the water is a combination of leg action and kite lift.
- Kite position – similar concept to the shallow water beach start of keeping the kite up and overhead to start and then diving the kite to generate power for riding away (it may help start the start further back and then dip it forward to generate more lift).
- Board position – using a rocking motion, raise the board’s tail so that only the front tip is planted in the sand. This move is also referred to as a nose press.
- Hand position on the bar – both of your hands are placed on the bar from the start to maintain the proper starting kite position. At the right moment, dip the bar forward to dive the kite and provide lift.
- Achieving lift and landing in the water – the nose press has to be perfectly timed with powering the kite so that when pushing off the sand with your front foot (the nose of the board), the lift providing by the kite assists in getting you airborne. Then it is a matter of spotting and sticking the landing in the water.
This technique is viewed by most as a stepping-stone to performing full-fledged jump-starts (more on this later).
The Running Beach Start
This is a fairly advanced technique requiring superb hand-eye-foot coordination and impeccable timing as the kitesurfer runs with the board in hand, drops the board into the water, jumps into the air, and lands on the board, and rides away.
- Kite position – this technique begins with your back hand holding the center of the bar, maintaining the kite at an overhead position between 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock.
- Board position – your front hand grasps the board by the front foot binding with the tail slightly dragging on the ground. The idea is to hold the board fairly low to the ground, and just before jumping onboard, fling the board ahead of you in the water so that it skims forward on the surface while you jump in the air to land on top.
Do not be overly concerned about getting your feet into the straps at the beginning of the ride. The most important part is getting onto the board. A key tip is to loosen the foot straps to make it easier to insert both feet once the board is moving forward on the water.
- Hand position on the bar – both of your hands are placed on the bar to start, maintain the proper starting kite position. As you run toward the water, pull down on the bar slightly to keep the kite in a pre-power position.
- Achieving lift and riding away – with your back hand controlling the kite, your front hand needs to place the board ahead of you in the water, directly in your path. With a slight hop, your front foot should land on or near the front strap just ahead of your back foot, which should land on or near the back strap.
Your front hand should now join your back hand on the bar, diving the kite to provide power for pulling you forward on the water. Once you have stabilized yourself on the board, proceed with sliding your feet into the straps.
The Jump Beach Start
This maneuver is similar to the bounce start in that it starts from the sand with both feet in the board bindings or in boots. Unlike the bounce start, however, the rider requires a stronger lift from the kite and jumps into the air pushing off with both legs, going completely airborne while moving forward and landing in the water, and kitesurfing away from shore. These are tips you need to know:
- Kite position – this technique begins with both hands holding the bar, maintaining an overhead position at either (not between) 11 o’clock or 1 o’clock. Proper kite position is particularly important for this beach start technique as you will need the lift from the kite swinging from one side of the zenith to the other to assist you in getting fully airborne.
- Board position – place the board on the ground directly in front of you and secure your feet to the straps or in the boots. Slightly twist your body toward the kite’s overhead position (i.e., in either the 11 o’clock or 1 o’clock position as the case may be).
- Hand position on the bar – both of your hands are placed on the bar to start, maintaining the proper starting kite position on either side of the zenith (12 o’clock).
- Achieving lift and getting airborne – with the kite in the proper starting position, swing the kite to the other side of the zenith (e.g., if starting from the 11 o’clock position, bring the kite to the 1 o’clock position, or vice-versa). This motion will produce lift and, as it does, push the bar forward and lean slightly back with knees bent in preparation for jumping into the air.
Once the kite is on the other side of the zenith, and you can feel the significant lift, pull down on the bar while leaping into the air. The kite will assist you in getting airborne.
- Landing in the water and riding away – spot your landing and direct your board downwind. Be sure to bring your legs forward so that your weight and momentum are over the board. Diving the kite down will ensure that you maintain power to keep you moving forward over the water and riding away.
Once this technique is mastered, it opens the door to much more advanced (and dangerous) moves such as jumping from elevated spots like sand dunes or bluffs into the water. Needless to say, the risk of injury increases with the degree of difficulty, so jump starts from high-up positions should be performed by expert kitesurfers only.
The Running Jump Beach Start
This is by far and away the most difficult of the beach start methods and combines the techniques of a running start with elements of a jump start. For kitesurfing enthusiasts, the running jump beach start is a badge of honor and a declaration to the kitesurfing community that you have put in the time and effort to master one of the sport’s most challenging and enviable skills.
In essence, the rider controls the kite with one hand and holds the board with the other. With a running start, the kitesurfer leaps into the air with the kite providing gravity-defying lift as the rider places both feet into the board bindings before landing in the water and riding away. Here are the key tips for mastering this technique:
- Kite position – this technique begins with your back hand holding the bar, maintaining an overhead position. As you begin to run, the proper kite position is slightly forward (in the direction of your intended travel) from the 12 o’clock position.
- Board position – the most challenging aspect of this technique may be placing your feet into the board straps while in mid-air. The lift from the kite provides a few moments of suspension in the air, but bringing your feet to the board and inserting your feet into the bindings must be done in one fluid motion and requires great flexibility and body control.
- Hand position on the bar – your back hand controls the kite throughout the run and jump and only once your feet are in the straps will your front hand come free and join the other on the bar.
- Achieving lift and getting airborne – as you initiate your jump, pull down on the bar to create power and generate lift. Your running speed combined with the amount of lift you generate will determine the length of time you will be airborne (and how long you have to get those feet into the straps).
Needless to say, getting your feet securely onto the board needs to be done quickly so that you can turn your attention to landing safely.
- Landing in the water and riding away – once your feet are in the straps, spot your landing and dive the kite in the direction of your intended travel to promote a smooth touchdown and produce strong forward motion on the water.
The running jump beach start may be one of the most difficult kitesurfing skills to master, but it is also one of the most stylistic and elegant maneuvers that the sport has to offer.
Knowing how to beach start in kitesurfing is an essential and indispensable skill for riders who are serious about the sport. Learning how to beach start can be a challenging process, but the reward that awaits those who are willing to put in the time and practice makes all the effort worthwhile, as mastering these skills puts any beach within reach for kitesurfing.
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