How to Trim Your Kite in Kiteboarding: The Complete Guide

Kiteboarding is an exhilarating and unique sport, but some parts of it can become somewhat complex. One such complex part of this sport is knowing how to trim your kite before and during the action. Knowing how to properly trim your kite will help you pick up wind easier and make higher jumps over waves. 

Trimming your kiteboard kite means using the kite bar with the lines and hardware to shorten or lengthen the size of your kite’s parachute. A shorter parachute will not pick up wind as easily, while a longer parachute will. Trimming allows you to control the kite’s power, lift, speed and maneuverability.

Before you know how to trim your kite properly, knowing a few ins and outs about kiteboarding kites themselves will help. This article will detail each part of a kite used when kite trimming, and then explain how to do the entire process from start to finish. 

Know Kiteboarding Kite Anatomy to Trim

Kite trimming involves multiple parts of the kiteboarding kite. The most important elements of the kite that have to deal with kite trimming are:

The Parachute 

The parachute is what gives power to the entire kite. It’s what picks the wind up and causes the rider to glide on the waves below them. When trimming your kite, the length of the parachute will determine how fast or how slow you want to go. It will also determine how high you want to jump and how low you want to go. 

The Front and Back Bridle Lines

The bridles of the kite are a series of color coded wires that are responsible for keeping the kite balanced while in the air. The bridles can be adjusted when you trim your kite to make the amount of power the kite gets from gusts of air better utilized. 

For example, if you wanted to launch off land into the water, you would need to adjust the bridles so that the entire kite doesn’t blow away. 

The Front and Back Wing Tip Lines

The wing tips are what control where the kiteboarder turns. When you’re trimming your kite, the wing tips can control where you turn and how fast you turn based on how narrow or full, they are. The fuller they are, the wider of a turn you’ll make. The narrower they are, the sharper of a turn you’ll make.

The Trim Strap

Lastly, the trim strap is what allows a kiteboarder to make adjustments to the line lengths of the bridles and parachute to alter the power of the kite. The trim strap is pulled in towards the rider to decrease the amount of power the kite has. It shortens the length of the front lines, which causes the leading edge to lower and thus makes the kite less efficient in picking up wind. Contrastingly, pulling on something called the re-power line will increase the kite’s power since it increases the length of the front lines, making it easier for the wind to pick up the kite. 

Each of these parts of a kiteboarding kite is essential to trimming your kite. Trimming is especially important when you are in situations such as when the wind speed is low, or you must glide above a particularly large wave.

Trimming Your Kite Before It’s In Use 

You can choose to trim your kite before you start kiteboarding, or while you are out on the water, that part is completely up to you. If it’s a newer kite, it’s recommended that you adjust and trim your kite before you use it. You should also practice trimming your kite on land as if you were on the water, once you learn how to trim it. 

Needed Materials and Setting Up The Kite

  • The materials you’ll need to trim your kite before you start using it include the kite pump and the adjustable bar system. Both of these should already come with the kiteboarding kite. 
  • First thing you should do is hold the kite parachute up to the light to see if there are any holes. Even one the size of a pin should be mended because it can interfere with the kite’s ability to pick up wind. This can cause it not to turn or get afloat properly. 
  • Next, you want to use the kite pump to inflate your kite. You want to pump it up hard, meaning the pressure gauge on the kite pump should be between 6-8 psi. If the kite parachute isn’t pumped up enough, then it will be much harder to launch it into the water. But if it’s too hard, then the kite might burst from the pressure. 
  • A good way to test if your kite is inflated enough is to flick the wing tips on the left and right sides of the kite. Do this as you pump up the kite; if the flick sounds like a dull thud, it isn’t pumped up enough. The kite will make a pinging sound when it is wholly pumped up and ready to go. 

Trimming the Kite 

After you finish pumping it up, then comes the actual trimming part. Lay out the lines of your bridles and wing tip controls, checking them for any knots that need to be undone along the way. Knots will cause your lines to weaken, and they won’t work as efficiently. 

Once all of your lines are laid out, use the adjustable bar system to trim your kite to the size you want. The adjustable bar system is basically the control center for all of the bridle and wing tip controls. If you’re having trouble seeing if the kite is trimming properly, having a group of people hold up the inflated kite parachute can help you to make sure the kite is trimmed correctly. 

The amount you should trim your kite all depends on the type of ride you want to have. For example, if you’re going to have a more relaxed and freer ride, trim your kite to be wider so that it doesn’t pick up air as harshly. 

Making Adjustments to The Trimmed Kite

Once you find the parachute length that you prefer, check the bridle and wing tip lines for stretch by pegging the adjustable bar system down and setting the trim line to its full power. Pull the lines taught and see if they all finish at roughly the same point. If they do, then you are good to enjoy a ride on the waves. 

If the lines are uneven, it can cause your kite to not behave correctly. Keep adjusting the lines with the bar system until they are all even. If this still is not working, then you might have to see a professional to get your lines re-sleeved. 

When your lines are adjusted, attach them to the kite and take note of the settings on the steering lines. The steering lines are the little notches in the adjustable bar system that will tell you how easily the kite will turn at the wing tips. If you want to give your kite a lighter and faster steering ability with less bar pressure, attach the lines closer to the trailing edge of the kite. 

Checking the Trim Strap and Testing the Kite 

The last step is to check the kite’s trim using the trim strap. Pick a day that has light wind to test out the kite and get it up in the air. Set the trim strap to full power and slowly and gently pull the bar down. The wing tips for the steering should be tight, and the trailing edge of the kite should be pulled down, which powers the kite up. 

If the kite is floating downwards or backward, it either means the front lines are too long and need to be shortened, or the back lines are too short and need to be lengthened. 

You can do this by pulling in the trim strap a little and then trying to pull the bar down again. Once the trim strap is set so that the kite does not fly backwards, take note of how much you pulled the trim strap in and adjust the kite lines to the same amount. 

Trimming Your Kite While on The Water

Trimming your kite while you’re out on the water isn’t recommended for newer kiteboarders or those using a brand-new kite. Taking some time to know how your kite works and getting used to it is strongly recommended. But once you know how it works, then trimming your kite on the water becomes a little easier than trimming it on land. 

Using The Trim Strap

The most common way to trim your kite while on the water is using the trim strap. They are located above or below the adjustable bar system depending on the kite. When you have located your trim straps, make sure you know where you want to go. 

If you want to go left or right, make sure you are looking in that direction. If you want to go up or down, make sure there is no one around you that you can run into. Once you have a clear view and know which direction you want to go, pull the trim strap to go in that direction. 

The Twelve O’Clock Trick 

A common trick is to imagine that the kiteboarding kite’s parachute is at the twelve o’clock position right above your head. The front and back lines of the bridles and wing tips are what make the parachute turn clockwise or counterclockwise. 

For example, shortening the front lines will cause the leading edge of the kite to move towards you. This will cause the kite’s trailing edge to lift, and the air won’t fill the parachute as much, giving the kite less power. 

Contrastingly, lengthening the lines of the trim strap will cause the leading edge of the kite to float away from you. This lowers the trailing edge of the kite, which causes the parachute to intake more air, giving the kite a power boost. Practicing adjusting the trim strap will be a big help when learning how to control and trim the kite. 

Over Trimmed, Under Trimmed, and The Ideal Trim

Trimming your kite can get confusing when you’re first learning how to do it. Fortunately, there is a simple visual guide to tell if your kite is trimmed too loosely, too tightly, or just right. 

The Ideal Trim

To check for the ideal trim, finish doing the steps above and then rig up your kite according to the pigtail settings suggested by the owner’s manual. 

  • The “pigtails” refer to the four short lines that are attached to the kite, which is where the lines for flying and steering are attached. The exact location depends on the kite, but the owner’s manual should point out their location as well. 
  • Once the pig tails are all rigged up, launch the kite using the center power line and the tuning adjustment set at half depower or full depower and bring the kite up to the twelve o’clock position discussed earlier. 
  • Adjust the power and tuning adjustment up or down until there’s even pressure on all four of the lines when you pull the bar system down. The wing tips should also be parallel to each other and the kite stays in roughly the same overhead position without rocking back and forth. 
  • The power and tuning straps of the bridles and wing tips don’t provide enough adjustment, then adjust the rigging of the pigtails and the back line settings of the bar ends until the kite’s wing tips are parallel to each other, and the kite stays overhead easily. 

Under Trimmed Kite

A quick way you can tell that your kite is under trimmed is if the rear, or trailing, lines are slacking, and the parachute reacts slowly and delivers very little power. If the lines have too little tension in them, then the kite’s power will be limited, and its turning response will be slow. 

It can also cause your kite to overfly the wind window. This means that the kite won’t pick up on gusts of air properly and will just float in one place, also known as static flying. Visually, an under trimmed kite is slightly angled upwards, almost looking like a crescent moon from the side. 

To fix an under trimmed kite, power up the kite by adjusting the trim settings until the back line sagging is significantly reduced. Test the lines by gently and slowly pulling down on the trim strap to make sure they are all even and taught. 

Over Trimmed Kite 

On the other hand, too much pressure on your kite’s back lines can cause your kite to drag and make launching it more difficult, and hinder your ability to catch gusts going upwind. It can also make it harder for you to steer your kite, and result in the parachute flinging backwards when you try to turn it. 

You can tell your kite is over trimmed when the wing tips look flared out, and the parachute is leaning too far back. It stalls backwards, and you have a hard time getting it to move forward since the lines are so taught. To fix an over trimmed kite, you have to take power away from the kite. 

To do this, lengthen the back lines or shorten the front line until the wing tips aren’t flared out and the kite is in the upright twelve o’clock overhead position. Test the turning abilities of the kite as you go and continue making adjustments until the kite is easily turnable, and it picks up wind better. 

When to See A Professional 

Trimming your kite isn’t the only way to make adjustments for it. Sometimes a kite is so far gone and broken that no amount of trimming can fix it. A few common things that can mess up a kiteboarding kite aside from it not being trimmed properly include: 

  • Holes in the parachute 
  • Broken bridle and wing tip lines 
  • Damaged trim strap 
  • Lines that are too loose or tight and won’t adjust properly 

If any of these happen, and you’ve adjusted everything multiple times, and your kite is still not working properly, it’s time to see a professional. Getting these types of issues professionally fixed rather than trying to fix them yourself will prevent more damage to you and to your kite from happening in the future. Repair techniques will depend on what materials your kite is made from.

Final Thoughts

The key when trimming your kiteboarding kite is to practice a lot and then practice some more. It’s definitely a learning experience on multiple levels. You must learn where everything is on your kite and then learn how to properly work it. Another helpful article here is my post on How to Control a Kiteboard: Complete Guide. Even after you master things, trimming your kiteboarding kite is a constant cycle of adjusting and readjusting as you go. But the more you do it, the easier it should become. 

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.

Recent Posts