Launching and Body Dragging
Level 2 : Launching and Body Dragging
Now that you have practiced with your trainer kite and feel comfortable and confident, and you have taken a beginner lesson (from a professional, certified instructor) with a full-size power kite, you are ready to start working in the water.
NOTE OF CAUTION: This is intended as a editorial, not as an instructional guide. There is an inherent level of risk while working with power kites, and while proper instruction will limit those risks, proper supervision is very important. I can not stress enough the importance of working with an instructor.
The most nerve racking part for most beginners is the launch. Being careful and knowing what to do and what to expect will help keep launching as stress-free as possible. Always use an assisted launch, having another kiter (or two) help you.
- Make sure you double check your lines. Take an extra minute to walk over your lines a second time to make sure they are set. Having your lines attached incorrectly can create a very dangerous situation. If you are unsure if you have correctly attached them, ask for someone to double check you. Beginner sand experts alike have been injured due to "kooked" lines.
- Ask an experienced kiter to launch you, and make sure you tell them you are a beginner. They will help you with what position you and your kite should be in to launch. They will also help you check your lines before they let your kite go up.When you are ready to launch and your kite is on its tip, glance down your lines and make sure the center lines go to the forward/center of the kite and the lines on the end of your bar (steering lines) go to the back/tip of the kite.
- Make sure your kite’s depower rope is pulled in. This will launch your kite with the least power possible, avoiding a potentially dangerous drag.
- Make sure your chicken loop is not wrapped around your bar! Your center lines should go straight through the bar to the chicken loop. You do not want the center lines wrapped around the bar, as you will not be able to de-power!
- You want to be launching from a point where you have some tension in the back lines. When ready to launch, give a thumbs up, and pull slowly in with your back hand, moving the kite slowly up along the edge of the window to 12. You can also let the bar out as the kite goes up, reducing the pull as it rises. People will be willing to help, and as always, you can have another person stand behind you and help hold you if you are nervous.
Beginners tend to park the kite at the zenith (12 o'clock). This is a habit you should try not to form, as there are a few drawbacks to it. You should work on parking the kite at the edges of the window, a technique you practiced with your trainer. With the kite at the zenith, there is an increased risk of lofting, plus your harness will be riding up to your ears and your neck will quickly become sore from looking up. At 12, the kite is more difficult to control as it tends to stall and can hindenburg, which is where the kite actually falls out of the sky due to a lack of power. Try to get in the habit of leaving the kite on the edge of the wind window. This will also help you walk with the kite! Beginners tend to skip this step because they lack confidence in piloting the kite on the edge of the window. This is a skill you need to learn, and learning it from the start will make things much easier. If you can't pilot the kite (one handed) at the edge of the window, you won't be able to do a proper body drag.
In shallow water (ideally) or a wide open water/beach with no one downwind, practice de-powering the kite. Move the kite from side to side and feel how pulling the bar in or pushing it out not only effects the power of the kite, but also the speed in which it responds. Drop the bar and watch what happens to the kite. Train yourself to let the bar out if things get out of control. The kite should calm down. You are almost always better to drop the bar, then to start drastically over-compensating the kite and having it rocket back and forth across the window. Practice holding and controlling the kite with one hand. You will need to master this in order to get your board on.
Power Stroke :
In shallow water (ideally) or a wide open water/beach with no one downwind, practice your power stroke. Park the kite at 12, sit down, slowly dive the kite and try to pull yourself up to standing. Dive the kite more and more aggressively until you feel totally comfortable letting the kite pull you up. You can have someone stand behind you and hold your harness if you are nervous, this will help you learn to keep your weight behind you as the kite pulls you up. Once you feel comfortable letting it pull you up, try diving the kite while standing, leaning back against it, and letting it pull you on your heels a short distance.
Body Dragging - Two Types There are two types of body dragging that you will see on the water. The first type of body dragging is an extremely important skill to learn, and is what I will refer to as upwind body dragging or proper body dragging (see below). This technique is used by beginners and experts alike as a method to return to a lost board, or to return to the beach in the event you can not ride back (i.e. lost board or large drop in wind). The second type of body dragging is what I see beginners do all too often, and this is what I will refer to as tea-bag dragging. This type of body dragging has no real purpose, and often results in the formation of bad habits (see below).
Tea-bag Body Drag
Tea-bag body dragging is what most people do their first trip into the water. The instructor wants you to feel the power of the kite and how it reacts, so he/she has you cycle the kite back and forth, pulling you in an out of the water (sometimes violently) more-or-less straight down wind. This is the extent of it's purpose, a one shot deal to let you feel the kite. As soon as you feel the power, you should stop tea-bagging straight away as it teaches you bad habits. This type of dragging not only thrashes your body around, but it tends to teach keep your weight forward and legs back, which is opposite of what you want to learn to do. When tea bag dragging, the kiter is often throwing the kite back and forth rather than controlling it, which only reinforces a lack of kite control and a tendency to constantly over-correct. As you will see below, proper body dragging involves keeping your weight back, piloting the kite slowly and with control along the side of the window, and making only small corrections. Avoid the tea bag drag at all costs!
Upwind Body Drag :
This is a very important skill to learn because it allows you to get back to your board in the event that you drop it behind you and are pulled down wind. If you are going to body drag, practice this body drag. De-power the kite, and slowly slide it down the edge of the window from 12 to 3 (or 9, depending on the direction you want to go). Pilot the kite with your bank hand in the middle of the bar. Drop the front hand down like a rudder into the water. Lay your body perpendicular to the wind and stretch out. You should be moving (almost) perpendicular to the wind. Keep the kite at the edge of the window, controlling it with the back hand if it drops too much or rises too high. Count out 20 seconds. Pilot the kite slowly back up the edge of the window to 12, switch hands and body position as you pilot the kite down the edge of the window to the opposite side. Mirror your previous position and count out 20 seconds. You should be close to where you started. Keep practicing till you feel comfortable returning to a spot close to where you started.
Kudos to you for laying all of this out