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Light Wind Kiteboarding
Light Wind Kiteboarding

Light Wind Kiteboarding

Light Wind Solutions

Light wind Kiteboarding Scenarios
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Do you ever find yourself kiteboarding in less than ideal light wind conditions? Look no further. This post is all about kiting in light wind and gusty conditions.

You never know what Mother Nature will throw at you or what the Wind Gods will deliver. Hopefully this will help tip the odds in your favor.

When kiteboarding in light-wind conditions it is important to consider the following: (1) line length, (2) kite size and (3) board selection. These are not exactly mutually exclusive topics and should be considered together.

Having the right combination may help prevent long walks back up the beach or dismal sessions. Sometimes it is just a bad wind day and it is better to head home. Other times a light wind session can be pure joy on the water.

Light Wind Kiteboarding – Line Length Selection

Benefits of Longer Lines

Line length is an important and often less talked about factor to consider for light wind conditions. Adding line extensions to your current bar (that can easily be changed on the fly) or having more than one bar (with different line lengths ready to go) can be a real game changer.

Overall, long lines are more helpful in light wind and produce more power per stroke, yet they have slower handling speeds. This means that you will need to adjust your timing a bit. Long lines are really helpful since the kite is literally higher off the ground (away from wind shadows and barriers) and in cleaner wind. In essence, you are increasing the reach of your kite. Some kite manufacturers provide line lengths up to 27 meters.

Benefits of Shorter Lines

Shorter lines have faster handling, but normally produce less power with each stroke. This is useful for light wind foil boarding, but less helpful for light wind conditions with a twin-tip. Shorter lines are beneficial when you need more precise control with a large baffled air foil kite (where water re-launch is not always easy) or you just want to have a fun/sporty session with your leading edge inflatable (LEI) kite. Having shorter lines can also be an added bonus at crowded launch spots with less room.

Control Bars

Bar 1

Personally, I use two different control bars from Ocean Rodeo. One is set-up with 24M lines (I added 2M extensions to the standard 22Ms that can be easily removed). This is my default bar. It normally comes stock with 22M lines that can be shortened to 20M.

Bar 2

The other bar I use is set-up with 22M lines that I use primarily for foiling or surfing. This bar can also be shortened to a 20M length. Since I live in a light wind location, I rarely use shorter lines with my kites.

Variable Line Lengths

  • 18M Lines = Super Fast Handling, Not as Much Power
  • 20M Lines = Faster Handling, Less Power
  • 22M Lines = Good Balance Between Handling and Power (good default length)
  • 24M Lines = Slower Handling, More Power
  • 27M Lines = Really Slow Handling, Lots of Power!

You can always experiment with varying line lengths and kite size combinations that work best for the riding conditions and your riding style.

Also, note that some kite manufacturers have different attachment points on the kite tips itself that allow you to fine tune the handling of your kite. For example, on larger kites I use attachment points closer to the kite tip to help speed up the handling.

Light Wind Kiteboarding – Kite Selection

Kiteboarding Kites
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Kite size is another important factor to consider for light wind kiteboarding. Put another way: kite size, construction, shape and weight all play major roles in less than ideal wind conditions.

Overall: larger kites (sizes such as 12M, 14M, 17M, etc.) generate more power, but have a slower turning speed. This can be a problem if the wind picks up in a session. On the other hand smaller kites (size 6M-10M) generate less power, but have a quicker turning speed. This can be good if the wind picks up in a session.

Big Kites for Light Wind Kiteboarding
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Bring a Big Kite?

This is not always the right answer. My first kite was a 17M five-strut behemoth. Imagine trying to steer a rusty old semi-truck (or eighteen-wheeler) in the sky. It was heavy, it was slow, and it turned very poorly. Sure it had wide aspect and a lot of power when the wind picked up a little, but otherwise it would just fall backwards out of the sky if there was even a hint of a lull in the wind. You constantly had to keep this kite moving. The whole point was to have a kite for light wind and this was not the answer.

“Aluula” Power

Ocean Rodeo "Aluula" Kites for Light wind kiteboarding
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Ever since then, I have chosen lighter three-strut kites for my larger kite sizes that practically float in the air when the wind disappears. This is the magic of Ocean Rodeo’s “Aluula” constructed kites. The weight saving construction directly equates to more fun on the water. The 14M Ocean Rodeo “Aluula” Flite is the go-to session saver in my light wind kite quiver. Finally, after pairing this kite with a foil-board, I no longer use or need a large 17M kite.

Useful Kite Sizes

Below I have compiled a rough list of useful kite-sizes compared to wind-speed (knots) that I use to help gauge the conditions. A hand-held wind meter can also be really helpful in determining what kite to pump up before you head out on the water.

Estimated Kite Sizes & Wind Speeds (board selection)*

  • 17M Kite = 8+ knots (foil only)
  • 14M Kite = 10+ knots (foil, surf-board, or a large door)
  • 12M Kite = 15+ knots (foil, surf-board, or twin-tip)
  • 9-10M Kite = 20+ knots (twin-tip or surfboard)
  • 7-8M Kite = 25+ knots (twin-tip)
  • 6M Kite = 30+ knots (the wind is nuking, pick anything you want to ride)

*The above chart is based on a 165 lb. rider with average kiteboarding abilities. In other words, I fall a lot.

Smaller kites can also be used effectively in light wind when paired with a foil-board or surf-board, but may require more work (big power strokes) on behalf of the rider at the lighter end of the wind range. In fact, if you are a foil boarder you may only need a couple kites in your entire quiver.

Light Wind Kiteboarding – Board Selection and Size

FlySurfer Twin-tip
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Board selection and size is the final piece of the light wind kiteboarding puzzle.

Large Twin-Tips (also known as “Doors”)

Often light wind riding and beginner kiters start with a large board with a lot of surface area. That means a “Door” or a twin-tip that is at least 150cm-160cm long and really wide.

The key to staying upwind with these boards is to (1) keep the kite high (don’t over maneuver the kite in the power zone and pull yourself down-wind) and to (2) keep your posture somewhat straight. It is tougher to stay upwind if you dig the heel side edge in too much during light wind sessions. You end up killing your power source with the brakes.

These boards are great for first getting to stand on the water when the wind is really light, but can be difficult to maneuver or swing around for some free-style tricks. Otherwise, this is a good selection if you are not as confident on the Surf-board or Foil-Board.

Surf-Boards

Advantages of a Surfboard

Surfboards have a lot of volume, that translates to a lot more buoyancy under your feet. The whole board will still float even though you don’t have a ton of power in the kite during a light-wind session. Surfboards also have a decent amount of surface area compared to a normal twin-tip.

Challenges of a Surfboard

The downside with a surfboard is that the board is always going in one direction (it’s a “directional” board). You often have to change your stance to ride both ways heel-side or you have to get a lot better riding toe-side. A rope-slider spreader bar on your harness can be really useful for riding surfboards. It can open your movement up.

Unlike foil-boards, surfboards can also be used more effectively in shallow water and around reefs. Overall, surfboards are a great light-wind weapon if you can confidently ride both directions and change your stance.

Hydrofoils and Foil-Boards

Light Wind Kiteboarding with a Hydrofoil
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Finally, the ultimate light wind game changer. The Foil-Board!!!

Foil-board = Session Saver!!!

Hydro-foiling has changed the light wind kiteboarding session for the better. There are guys out there that can ride a foil-board in under 5 knots of wind (baby ripples of wind on the surface of the water). One advantage to using a hydro-foil is that you get to use smaller kites. I usually regret not taking a foil-board with me when checking out new kite-spots.

To foil in light wind all you need is some water depth, a steady light breeze, and a lot of patience to learn. Imagine falling off a 3-step or 4-step ladder over and over again and you get the picture.

Learning to Foil

The foil-board itself has a lot in common with the surfboard’s directional nature and this why learning on the surfboard is helpful in figuring out your stance and body positioning before adding in the complexity of the hydro-foil underneath you (aka the fear instilling guillotine slicing the water below you). It can be helpful to break down the foil learning process into bite sized chewable pieces. Take your time learning and be careful!*

The next challenge with the foil-board is to keep the hydrofoil from porpoising (popping in and out of the water, like a dolphin). Moving your stance further forward on the board can help with this (I often keep my back foot in front of the mast). This takes a lot of patience and the building muscle memory with your feet. Once you get that first taste of quietly gliding over the water and through chop, there is no turning back. You now have “foil fever.”

*Surf Straps for Foiling? Using surf-straps or surf-hooks are helpful in keeping the board attached to your feet, but I would avoid using them all together in the beginning. This way you can get away from the board in the event of a fall and to learn better foot placement (you can make more fine tuned adjustments this way). If you use straps, keep them loose to help avoid serious injuries (ankle injuries, etc.).

Kite Foiling
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Selecting a Foil-board

Personally, I think that in selecting a beginner foil-board, you should choose something that has low volume (14L or 16L) and has some decent surface area (over 4′ in length) to work with. Chose a board that is easier to sink underneath your feet (similar in feel to a twin-tip) for a deep water start with the kite (or if you ever have to do a water relaunch).

Compared to large twin-tips or surfboards, foil boards naturally cut upwind due to the mast and hydrofoil below the water. People starting out on the foil-board will find that it can actually be difficult to go down-wind. Partly because you are riding towards the kite. This is why kites with a lot of “drift” in them are particularly useful.

There is a lot that can be covered here as far as technical sizes, specs, and carbon fiber foil parts go (look for a future post on foil-boards and foils). But my point here is that a foil-board and good foil combination can turn a bad wind day into a fantastic session. The foil-board is a light wind session saver.

Kite Foiling from Above
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Thanks for reading. – KiteBikeVan

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