A darkslide is a trick that involves dragging the edge of your board through the water before bringing it back around. The movement seems simple, but watching veteran kiteboarders is not the same as doing it yourself. Above all, you need solid strength and timing to perform a darkslide.
To perform a darkslide, it is best to have calm water conditions. When the window is right, raise your kite high. From there, you have to fall forward while keeping your upper body steady with your kite. If you succeed, you will be able to bring your board back around.
That is a concise explanation, but the darkslide is not as simple as it sounds. There is much more to say about darkslides and similar tricks. Read on to find more about the best techniques and common mistakes regarding this fun slide that is well worth learning.
How a Darkslide is Done
A darkslide is a simple-seeming, exciting trick that, if done right, can be very satisfying. Over the years, as more and more grizzled kiteboarders master the trick, some great insights have been gained that can help you to learn. A darkslide has a few main points to consider, starting with:
- Your Upper Body: Your body’s position is the most important aspect of kiteboard maneuvers. Your darkslide position should emphasize your upper body. Keep yourself balanced with your kite as you fall forward. If you are catching the wind right, you should be able to spin your board around and continue riding.
- Your Legs: Before you commit to a darkslide, you need to take your leg positioning into account. Keep your knees bent with your front leg raised and your back leg pressing down against the board. A darkslide is typically performed with the edge of the board that your toes are facing in the water.
While your body position is important, it is not the only factor to consider.
The Kite, the Wind, and the Loop
To properly perform a darkslide, you have to take everything into account. While positioning yourself well is important, you also need to consider:
- Your Kite: For a darkslide, your kite needs to be higher than usual, with the bottom side of your kite being lifted by the wind. Doing this generates enough power to support the weight of most of your body. From there, you need to pull off a kite loop and should be able to continue boarding.
- The Wind: You want to be in ideal conditions, calm water with a light wind running beside the shoreline. At least if you are a darkslide beginner. With experience, a darkslide can be pulled off in choppier water. Though with harsh winds, kite loops are often tricky to manage.
- The Loop: A darkslide can be performed with or without a loop. To perform a loop during a dark slide, slowly steer your kite at first. When your kite is falling from its highest point in the air, steer strongly to perform a full loop. Since this is when your kite is at its strongest, a firm grip is necessary to pull this off.
A darkslide has several different versions, but for a beginner, it may be best to focus on your body and leg positioning before committing to a loop. Darkslides can become effortless and fun while boarding, but do not throw yourself into one without practice.
Kite Loop or No Loop?
It is safest to get started darksliding without performing a loop. Kite looping involves pulling back on your kite, causing it to turn full circle. For veteran kiteboarders, this maneuver may become simple with practice, but it is not for every beginner. Kite looping shifts your momentum, and if performed in rough winds, it can be dangerous.
With darksliding, a beginner should become familiar with their body positioning and how their kite handles before performing it. Without a loop, it mostly involves the power of your back leg dragging the tail of your board evenly in the water. This is much easier to achieve than a beginner attempting a loop.
The difference between a darkslide with and without a kite loop is simple. If you are performing a loop, you commit to it with a hard steer to minimize the size of your loop. It is best to loop when you are moving at a low speed, though this could lead to you sinking if you wait too long.
It is up to you when you want to incorporate a loop into your darkslide. Practicing them separately might be the best option for a beginner. Pick a day with light winds, and be certain that your loop is being kept tight and controlled.
The Wind Window
The wind window is a crucial aspect of kiteboarding. It is especially important for a darkslide since it is a move that relies on a powerfully driven kite. A beginner should certainly research the wind window in-depth and the common kiteboarding imagery of a “clock” to describe kite placement.
A lot of imagery can be used to describe a wind window, but it is probably best described as a dome in front of your board. The end of the lines of your kite represents the end of the window as well. Within this range, the wind window is essentially where your kite can be controlled and flown.
In regards to a darkslide, the wind window is something to consider. This is especially true if you want to perform a darkslide with a loop. The darkslide requires sufficient power, and this power is located within the lower levels of your large dome-like window. Here you want to generate enough lift to keep your body held up.
A darkslide also requires you to maintain a steady speed. Kite power is one thing, but if you are moving too fast, committing to a loop could lead to quite the launch. Imagine this dome well, and treat it as a guide to perform your best when out on the water.
Kite Size and Darksliding
The size of your kite plays a heavy role in how it handles and what you can do with it. Not only this, but depending on the conditions of where you are kiteboarding, you may need to adjust accordingly. Below is a rundown of some kite sizes and how they can affect your darkslide:
- Mid-Size Kite: It is suggested that beginners learn on a medium-sized kite. This gives the best parts of larger and smaller kites and maximizes your time out in the water. The speed of a mid-size kite is perfect for learning to darkslide since, in normal conditions, you will not usually exceed 20 miles per hour.
- Large Kite: A large kite is best on days with light wind, which also happens to be the best conditions for practicing your darkslides. This kite can clock in anywhere from 12 to 17 meters. With a large kite, if the winds are light, you can still manage good control for your darkslides.
- Small Kite: When the wind is strong, a small kite is your safest bet. In heavy winds, these are dynamic and strong kites that allow you to maneuver well. A beginner may have a hard time controlling this kind of kite, however.
Within a person’s kiteboarding career, more often than not, they are going to have multiple kite sizes. If you are serious about kiteboarding, this is something that will inevitably happen to you, too. Being able to pick and choose based on the conditions around you is the best way to ensure success any day out in the water.
Kiteboarding Kite Types
Along with size, there are different kinds of kites that can affect your boarding. These kites are designed with different riding styles in mind, so find which is best for you:
- Bow Kites: Bow kites are great for beginners and the experienced alike. They are designed as the name implies with a concave bow shape. This shape allows for greater lift and can be more forgiving and safe than other more specific kite-types.
- C Kites: As the name implies, c kites are shaped as a downward-facing C. They react strongly to the wind and have a very low range of control. These days beginners should not start off with this kind of kite, as it takes a high level of control. It is only worth mentioning because of its predictable and potent movement.
- Delta Kites: Delta kites are like a mix of a bow and a c kite. They are better for beginners with a broader range of movement and give you the best of a c kite’s control with the bow kites’ greater lift. When it comes to the darkslide, a beginner may be able to learn quickest on a kite like this.
While there are some other options out there, this comes down to kite brands and personal preference. These basic designs have been in the kitesurfing sport for some time now and are time-tested for all their benefits and faults. What is best for you might not be best for others, but beginners should pay special attention to what gear they use.
Common Mistakes When Performing a Darkslide
There are many random events at play when you are out there in the water. But what is within your control are things you should master before committing to learning new maneuvers. Here are some of the most important things to consider when performing a darkslide:
- Board Angle: Your board angle is one of the essentials for a darkslide. You want to make sure that the thin, toe-side edge of your board is cutting through the water. Imagine a wall just behind you, and keep your board flat to it.
- Weak Kite: A weak kite is your worst bet for a trick like a darkslide. Consider the low point of your window where more power is generated in your kite. If the wind is strong enough and your kite can support the weight of your body, you can probably commit to the trick.
- Wrong Leg Positioning: Your leg positioning is what makes or breaks your darkslide. If your knees are not bent, and if your back leg is not extended and pushing your board back, you are probably going to sink.
While there are a lot of common mistakes to consider, there are also a few that can vary depending on whether or not a loop is involved.
Mistakes Involving Loops
The following mistakes depend in some part on whether there is a loop involved. Therefore, whether you plan on performing a loop or not, consider:
- Launching: Many beginners to kiteboarding attempting maneuvers with their kite might find themselves launched. This is especially true when you are attempting a darkslide that relies on a loop. To avoid a launch, only attempt a kite loop if you are traveling at a low speed.
- Large Loops: A large loop is a big issue for a darkslide. When you are committing to a loop, you want to use all your strength to force the kite into a small circle. If you missed the window for this and your kite is too high in the air, this can be a problem and lead to sinking or launching.
- Rough Sliding: For a basic darkslide that does not involve a loop, it is very easy to cut the water wrong and sink in. For your best chance at success, as you are steering, cut the water with the back edge of your board, pushing with most of your strength in your back leg.
Fixing these common mistakes can lead you out of the beginner’s stage of darksliding and into some seriously amazing moves. Your kite is a powerful tool that you need to learn to harness correctly. As you continue to practice, timing will become more natural to you, and that alone can be enough for you to succeed with your slides.
Is a Darkslide Safe?
As with all kitesurfing tricks, if you take the necessary precautions and practice in light weather conditions, there is no reason for a darkslide to turn dangerous. While some who practice sliding get high air, the trick is never placing your body in a very dangerous position.
To keep the safest while learning a darkslide, weather conditions cannot be emphasized enough. Experienced kiteboarders will know what works best for them, but it is always a safe bet to make sure the winds are light along the shoreline and that the water is not choppy.
Your equipment is your most important safety feature. Check your kite for damage before heading out, and make sure you are harnessed properly. A wayward kite can lead to a lack of control out in the water, and it becomes impossible to practice new tricks.
When attempting to learn new moves (and in general), have a friend out there with you, at least on a shoreline. These safety precautions can help in the small chance of true danger when kiteboarding. At the end of the day, when you prepare correctly, experimenting with your kiteboard maneuvers is both fun and safe.
Types of Darkslides
Besides looping or not looping, the darkslide has a few different variations. The main two would be the one-handed or two-handed darkslide. These both have benefits and downsides that are worth exploring:
- One-Handed: The one-handed darkslide is not always suggested for beginners. By giving up some kite control, you can better control your body and the angle of your board. For a maneuver like this, better-than-average upper body strength is generally preferred, though skilled boarders can manage either way.
- Two-Handed: A two-handed darkslide might be best for beginners. This also allows a beginner to practice looping better. Looping with one hand, without previous experience, is not suggested for safety’s sake. A two-handed darkslide also gives you a lot more room for recovery.
Darkslides have a few variations that ultimately depend on your preference. One maneuver might not be for everyone. Figure out what works for you with some experimentation, and perhaps put your own spin on the trick if you feel you are experienced enough.
Can a Darkslide be Done on Any Board?
There are a few different types of kitesurfing boards that can be used for a darkslide. While most any board is safe to attempt tricks with, some are better than others. These more dynamic board-types will be listed here:
- Twin-Tip Boards: A twin-tip board resembles a wakeboard with its broad front and back. This board works across numerous disciplines and can certainly be one of the best for darksliding. It is a board meant for solid speed, however, so good kite control is a must.
- Wave Boards: Wave boards resemble classic surfboards closely, though they often come with straps. Oftentimes veteran darksliders will use this board to catch better air, as its shape is designed to take waves and build speed.
- Lightwind Boards: These boards are rectangular and are the best for beginners. They are meant to last against mistakes. While a darkslide is possible with these boards, they are not often used for them. However, a beginner may still want to try with this high level of buoyancy.
With some research and asking questions within the kiteboarding community, the perfect board for your needs can be found. If you are already beginning to practice your darksliding do not worry if your board does not fall into these standards. Your control and timing matter most.
A darkslide is achieved either with or without a kite loop. A beginner would do best to select the right gear for themselves and to practice in clear, light conditions.
The technique involves steady control of your kite and leg placement. A darkslide can take some time to get used to, but it is a safe and worthwhile trick to learn for anyone into kiteboarding.