Going Upwind : A Beginners Guide
You first few trips kiteboarding are almost destined to be downwind. As your skills develop, learning to stay upwind becomes a significant hurdle to overcome. Being able to successfully stay up wind, combined with the ability to execute a slide transition, graduates you from the JV Swim Team! So how do you do it? It involves a mixture of kite and board control combined with your riding stance, and of course, enough wind!
In simple terms, going up wind is accomplished by leaning back and edging the board while putting pressure on your back foot. In practice it is a little more difficult than it sounds on paper, but if you keep working it it, you will find that one day it "just clicks".
As you are riding along with speed, begin to lean back against the kite. Roll your weight back onto your heels, digging the heel edge into the water. Try to keep your back in a straight line with your legs, you do not want to go into the "poo stance" which looks like you are sitting in a chair. you want a straight line driving the power from your whole body right down through your legs into the board. Turn your upper body to open your shoulder up to the direction you are traveling and look upwind, this body position helps you point up wind (you tend to go where you are looking). Push down hard on your back foot and take weight off your front foot (some people even curl their front toes) to change the angle of the board. Find a balance and be careful not to bleed off too much power or speed. You don't need to go straight up wind your first time out. Try instead to go a little bit more upwind than your last pass.
Focus on Board Control
You must be able to effectively edge your board in order to go up wind. This means that you get all your weight over your heels. You get that kind of edge, we need to have out center of gravity back behind the board and low to the water. You need to be able to get the board angled such that the heel side is down in the water and the toe-side is out of the water. You also want the board to be pointing slightly upwind, which is one of the reasons we push down on the back foot and take weight off the front foot. There should be a nice spray coming off the tail of the board (called a fan).
Focus on Kite Control
This will most likely be your first experience controlling not only the angle the kite is in the sky, but also how shallow or deep it is in the window. The kites position in the window is dictated by two things: the amount of resistance from the board and the kites angle of attack (how far it's sheeted in or out). Controlling the kites angle in the sky and it's position in the window will help you go up wind.
- Angle in the Sky - This is the "o'clock" position of the kite in the sky. The higher the kite is the more lift it has and the more likely it is to pull you off your edge when powered. The lower the kite is to the water, the less likely you are to get pulled off your edge, so we want the kite to be relatively low when we are trying to edge hard. Keep the kite between 9 and 10 or between 2 and 3 for the best angle to go upwind. This is controlled by how you pilot the kite, so simply pull your front hand in until the kite is lower to the water. If you are cycling the kite to keep speed up, time your edging so you edge the hardest while the kite is on the down-stroke and then let off a little edge as it goes on the upstroke. You can edge the hardest against a kite moving down.
- Position in the Window - We can control where the kite is located in the window by controlling how much we sheet the kite in/out, and we can also control how much resistance the board has! If we are trying to go upwind, we want to fight the kite as little as possible, therefore we want the kite as far forward in the window as possible for the wind conditions. If you think about the physics of it, a kite in the middle of the window (straight downwind of you) pulls you the hardest downwind. A kite at the edge of the window (almost ahead of you) pulls you less downwind. In order to move the kite forward in the window, we want to do two things: sheet the kite bar in, and put pressure on our back foot, adding more drag/resistance to the board. So as you edge upwind, stomp on the back of the board and pull the bar in and this will help you angle upwind better. Remember, in lighter winds, you can stomp as hard or sheet in as much as the kite won't have enough power at the forward edge of the window!
Remember this is a work in progress and you need enough wind to be able to stay upwind. If the wind is light, do you best, but remember its more fun to ride downwind than slog upwind. Using these technique when you are overpowered is how you can control more kite. You should have no problem shooting upwind when overpowered because you are using the same technique to hold down more kite. You can also see the light wind article in the Varsity section.