Shifty 3 Kitesurfing Technique

Shifty 3

Technique / Advanced


Some time ago we covered the shifty to wrapped. If you’ve got that down you’ll have no doubt thought about or even tried its big sister, the shifty 3. This is another dynamic move that feels sweet, looks chipper and even more stunningly happens to be the base and therefore holds the key to so many moves. Get this nailed and before you know it you’ll be adding new tricks to your repertoire quicker than you can say fondant au chocolate, hmmm.

Even with your shifty to wrapped in the bag, there are some things you’ll need to add to get the coveted air pass in. So without nattering on lets have a look at what they are.

Height and Time

Stating the obvious is as good a place as any to start, and yes to get squeeze a convincing pass in you could do a lot worse than give yourself the necessary height and time to do it. You’ve probably guessed that the take off should be fairly aggressive.

Pic A. shows Christian nanoseconds before popping. In our Shifty we made quite an effort to pop up, to make sure we could turn into the shifty without the board going round and under us into a railey. Now that we have this control we should be able edge hard and still get the board behind us. As you can see Christian is carving super hard into the wind, with his weight low and upwind of the board. In fact you could confuse this with the take off for a Railey. He is doing a great job of showing us his board. The one thing to stop this turning into a Railey is the head, Christian is looking forward and downwind, so his shoulders are not turning up into the wind, just his hips and board.

You need this edge and carve for two very good reasons. Obviously you need to get the pop for the height. But even more importantly you need the pop to be able to pass the bar in the air. By edging like this you hold the kite back, it drops back in the window and you can explode up against it. Once you pop up the kite shoots forward, and then as you accelerate after it the lines loose some tension, giving you the opportunity to pass without having arms like Arnie.


Pic B. is the in flight entertainment stage of the move. Christian has done a gentle shifty, you can certainly give it more if you like. The trick here is to set yourself up ready for the pass. At the moment the kite is pulling, so you must go with it. Christian has his arms flexed. This keeps his head and shoulders above the bar and doesn’t let his body drop down. He is in a powerful position; ready to pull hard when he needs to. If you extend your arms you have further to pull, which takes more power and more time.

As well as keeping his body up Christian kicks his back leg behind him, fully extending it. Just as in the wrapped version, Christian needs this leg to create speed for his rotation and to give his lower body enough forward momentum that his board will land in front of him and not get left behind. You should aim to kick the leg back as soon as you take off.

One final point thing that will really help at this stage of the move, is to make sure you have your kite in the right place. Its way to easy, both on take off and whilst trying to keep the bar in to accidentally drift the kite up. If it goes up it will lift away from you, pulling the bar up and making the pass even more of a challenge.

The Pull Down

Pic C. This is the moment. Just as Christian feels that he will drop, it’s the sign that the tension has gone from the lines and he must pass. Firstly look at his arms. Christian is not pulling the bar to his chest but down towards his back hip. So even though you are pulling the bar in you are also pushing it down. You can also see that Christians back leg is coming through to give him the rotation. His right knee is on a path towards his hands and the bar. During all of this Christian still has both hands on the bar. You need to get the bar in and down and it’s a lot easier using both your arms.

The Spin

Pic D. Firstly look at Christians right leg. In the last picture it was coming through and was quite straight. However once it is underneath him Christian brings the knee up. This is the moment to release your front hand off the bar. By bringing the legs up, the weight of the board comes up and it will not drag you down as quickly. Worth noting Christian’s kite face here as well. There is a lot of effort in this as it has to be explosive and quick. As soon as Christian releases the bar he turns his head and twists the bar, which enables him to turn his shoulders further.

Don’t Give Up

Pic E. Poetry in motion. Having twisted his wrist the bar is waiting patiently to be grabbed by Christian’s free hand. Therefore Christian has to concentrate on getting his hand around to the bar. This takes some work at first and is probably the biggest hurdle when moving from surface passes to air passes. Its all good and well having the bar ready but if you can’t get the other arm around quick enough its all in vain.

This is the moment when many kiters think, “I’ve missed it” and let go. You have to rotate around the arm, which has the bar, so if you let go you won’t turn enough. If you hold on you will turn into a position where you can reach the bar without the need for any contortionist skills. Without wanting to encourage you all to go out and hammer yourselves, if you can move the hand quickly and hold on you will turn. In fact you know you can turn this far because you can already land wrapped.

The board is now under Christian and ready for landing. As long as the knees bend up the board will rotate with you. If you leave your legs straight it’ll get left behind.

Top Tips

Those little things that make all the difference! Here in the shifty 3, as with a lot of pass moves, it can help if you give the kite a sharp tweak down with your front hand just before passing. This will stop the kite pulling the bar up and away, and will encourage you to keep two hands on the bar for longer.

Other than that we’re back to getting the height, so you have time to pass.

Following Sequence 2

  • Pic 1. Christian parks his kite around 11, gathers some good speed and bears away to unhook, keeping his shoulders back and his bum low.
  • Pic 2. Christian carves hard up into the wind with his weight over his back foot and his front leg extended. He is looking forward, so does not turn his head upwind.
  • Pic 3. Exploding up on take off Christian continues to look forward.
  • Pic 4. He immediately kicks his back foot behind him, extending his rear leg.
  • Pic 5. Christian keeps his arms bent and his head above the bar. If his kite were too high this would be the perfect time to tweak it down.
  • Pic 6. Christian pulls and pushes the bar hard down towards his back hip, whilst pulling his back knee in towards his hands to start the rotation.
  • Pic 7. Christian releases his front hand and crunches his knees up, whilst throwing his head and free hand around with the rotation.
  • Pic 8. Twisting his wrist around, Christian puts the bar where he’ll be able to reach it. All his effort now is focused on getting his free hand around and onto the bar. He hols on tight with his right hand so that he can rotate around his arm and reach the bar.
  • Pic 9. Christian grabs the bar and releases himself out of the arm lock, whilst dropping back down to the water.
  • Pic 10. And lands on a flat board off the wind!

Common Problems

If you can’t reach the bar even though you are hanging on. Chances are your kite is too high. Admittedly you’ll see a lot of riders doing this trick with their kites quite high, but they’re either rubber kids or strong delinquents. Just really concentrate on getting the kite no higher than 11 or 1 on your approach, and give it that tweak before passing.

You are not rotating fast enough. Using your legs and bringing the knees up is key. Timing your legs with your arms gives you a quick spin, and this is only possible if you pull with both hands.

You’re not rotating far enough around. If the kite is pulling like a train it can stall your spin. There are a few possibilities here. Firstly if you try and go too early the kite will still be pulling and therefore it pulls you back as you try and turn away from it. So think patience and wait a touch longer.
If you have too much power, or your kite is flaring, it may well pull hard all the way through the manoeuvre, which makes it very hard to learn. Firstly make sure you’re trimmed correctly, or if need be change down. For the gung ho amongst you, the more power you have, the harder you’ll need to carve and pop to make the kite behave.


  1. Speed & pop hard
  2. Kick leg, bend arms & wait
  3. 2 Hands down to back hip
  4. Back knee up to hands
  5. Hold on & quick free hand

This technique article was in Issue 25 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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