Handle Pass Kitesurfing Technique

Handle Pass

Technique / Advanced


The beloved dangle pass, as seen in video 1 is a fabulously satisfying move, which now seems to be almost as outdated as the once awe-inspiring dead man. That said it looks fabulous, can be done super high, and even when all your other unhooked moves have been well and truly grounded by too much wind, can be pulled out of the bag and stomped down to the delight of anyone watching. What’s more it is guaranteed to get your heart racing…

Pavlov and His Dogs

Fear ye not. A brass bell and a month’s supply of Pedigree Chum are not on the cards. However a hefty dose of muscle memory is. It’s all good and well implying that you’ll just blast out, send the kite and go for it, but without training your body first, it could well be a long and colourful story. As with nearly everything in kiting, it will all happen so quickly. So if you can mask out all inconvenient factors, such as the wind, kite, board and sea, you’ll steepen the learning curve. In Place of these you will need to find a solid branch or beam to hang a bar off, enough space to avoid injuring yourself or any innocent bystanders and as an added luxury somewhere soft to land.

The Pass

The way you prefer to pass the bar will determine in which direction you learn the handle pass. Your hand action will be identical to that of a surface pass. If you’re not sure, check out issue 4. In all the pictures and videos we are passing the bar from right hand to left hand. To make learning easier we will be jumping whilst travelling to our left, port tack. By doing this, the kite is more likely to de-power when we pass, as opposed to create lift, because it will stay back.

Boy You Turn Me

Getting your self upside down or inverted is a must. Admittedly if you’ve got the strength to weight ratio of a gymnast you could muscle it around, if not read on.

For starters set your bar about head high and with your hands in the centre of the bar, attempt to get yourself vertically upside down as in video 2. Your aim is to touch the rope with your feet and the bar with your crown jewels, whilst you stare down at the ground or back towards an accomplice behind you.

You can see in the video how Karine helps to pull herself up by jumping off the ground (a good tactic whilst learning), so that her elbows lock into her sides. From here she can pivot back by throwing her head back, whilst trying to straighten her legs upwards. She really pushes her hands towards her hips, and thrusts her hips towards her hands, effectively moving her hands from shoulders to hips. Once you get this, you should be able to hang up there, bat like, for a few seconds.


The next rung on your ladder is to get some float. If you hang upside down and let go with one hand you’ll notice how you just drop like a stone. In real terms this means there will be no time to pass the bar. The secret lies in thrusting your hips and legs up whilst simultaneously pushing your hands towards your hips like a demented banshee. This will then give you float, which equals time. To test your float, try taking your left hand off and tap your right bum cheek behind your back as you go upside down. Hopefully you will stall for a while before falling. If you drop like a stone you are not vertical enough. If you have a moment to ponder your fate as a cheeky slapper you’ve cracked it. Notice how this attempt to tap starts to rotate you. The doors are opening.

The Full Monty

If you look at sequence 1 and video 3 Karine is yet again standing under the bar ready to go for a pass.

  • Pic 1. Using her legs for a bit of extra lift she pulls herself up so that her chin is level with the bar, and her elbows are down in her sides.
  • Pic 2. With her elbows in, she throws her head back and brings her knees up and in. This pivots her back and will give her room to…
  • Pic 3. Throw her legs up into the air, thrusting her hips up to the bar and pushing her hands towards her hips, all resulting in the cherished float. As her hips and the bar forcibly approach each other she lets go with her left hand and starts to rotate by twisting her shoulders and reaching around with her free hand. This rotation is the same as the surface pass on the water, just performed upside down!
  • Pic 4. As her legs start to fall over her, they make room for Karine to twist her wrist and grab the bar. This is the key point if ever there was one. If your hand is waiting but you don’t move the bar near it you’ve got no chance. And once again, just like in a surface pass by twisting your wrist as far as you can, it will encourage you to rotate your shoulders even further, placing the bar and your hands within reaching distance of each other.
  • Pic 5. Once Karine has grabbed the bar, she releases her other hand. Gravity now takes full control and she drops away from the bar.
  • Pic 6. Karine’s momentum keeps her rotating as she drops.
  • Pic 7. As she comes around she starts to reach up with her free arm, lifts her head and steadies herself.

It’s a great idea to get someone to watch you try, as it’s very encouraging to know that your hand may only be an inch or so away from the bar even if you’re not getting it. Once you skim the bar with your hand, you know it’s in the post. For a more in depth view try the slow mo video 4.

When you can do this, move the bar up, bit by bit, until you are doing it from hanging, with no help from your feet. This is when the pelvic thrust and foot throw really comes into their own.

The Hydro Pass

As always your kit can have a huge influence over your success rate. Learning on a tractor of a 16m will not be easy, and scaring yourself on an 8m may be somewhat off-putting. Not too much power on a 12 or 10 is ideal, and maybe an 8 for the ladies.

Before launching into your first attempt make sure you trim the bar down to the chicken loop to make for easier unhooked jumping, and position the leash on the correct side. If you are passing from your right hand to your left it’ll go on the right side, and from left to right on your left hand side. Your leash will need to be securely fastened to you and some form of de-power, the chicken loop on a bow kite or a 5th line on a C kite. Don’t worry about falling out of the sky, as hopefully you’ll not be going stratospheric, there’ll be plenty of space around you, and you will have checked that there is plenty of water to fall into.

Getting Airborne

Your take off should be as for an elevator unhooked jump, straight up, rather than flying off downwind. Looking at sequence 2 you can see how approaching with speed, the kite around 11 o’clock, and having had a good butcher’s around Christian has stood up slightly to bear off, reducing the tension on the lines and unhooked. Immediately he has sent the kite back and dropped his weight low and away from the kite. Moving his hips back towards the back of the board he then carves hard upwind against the power of the kite, driving of his back foot and extending his front leg to keep the board on it’s edge. As soon as the kite lifts him, Christian levels the bar off and tries not to let his arms extend too much. Love the guns – if only. You can also see this take off with the following handle pass, slowed right down in video 5.

The Real Deal

If we follow sequence 3 you can see what’s happening in the air. For the crucial movements have a look at the close up pictures A, B, C and D.

  • Pic 1. As soon as Christian has left the water his kite face continues. With all the effort he can muster he pulls his chin up towards the bar and starts to lift his knees.
  • Pic 2. As his board starts to swing forward beneath him, it’s the cue for Christian to get inverted. He uses the momentum from the board to help throw his head back and rock his legs forward, with his elbows tucked into his side.
  • Pic 3 & A. Hips are now thrust up and hands push the bar towards them. Christian’s head is levering down as his feet seesaw up.
  • Pic 4 & B. As his feet head skywards, Christian extends his legs, throwing them above him. Float City. His left hand now releases, his head and shoulders start to turn, and his wrist twists the bar.
  • Pic 5 and C. Christian’s left hand has reached around and grabbed the obediently waiting bar.
  • Pic 6 and D. As Gravity takes control and his legs fall from the sky, Christian releases his right hand.
  • Pic 7. Dropping from the sky the momentum keeps Christian turning. But just to make sure, he lifts his head and looks round to where he wants to go.
  • Pic 8. Whilst focusing on his landing spot, Christian reaches up and grabs the bar with his free hand for a more controlled landing… Chances are you’ll end up with a sword grip and the kite will gently loop right above your head for a fine landing. Nice.

Top Tips and Cheeky Cheats

Your first goal should be to make a pass in the air, from a smallish jump, even if it means landing backwards in the sea just as you release you second hand. In this case just let go and try again, once you stop screaming. At least you’ll have the confidence of knowing that it’s possible.

If you’re struggling to make the pass, don’t redirect you kite as you take off. This may result in a bit of water slapping, but at least the kite will have no lift. This way you can pull the bar down to you, rather than pull yourself up to the bar.

If you wait for the apex of your jump, and pass on the way down, the lift will have gone from your kite. Yet again the odds of sailing away are not favourable, but you’ll have passed in the air, boosted you belief and will have a perma-grin for weeks.

When you make your first aerial pass it’ll probably result in you landing holding the bar with only one hand, and no power. Once you start to get more height you’ll have time to get the other hand back on, either in the sword grip, with the kite looping above you. Or back where it belongs, floating you down ready for the second pass. Enjoy.

This technique article was in Issue 5 of IKSURFMAG.


By Christian and Karine
Christian and Karine have been working together as a coaching team, running improver to advanced kitesurfing clinics since 2003.

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