Heel to Toe Carve Kitesurfing Technique

Heel to Toe Carve

Technique / Beginner


Carving from your heels to you toes with grace whilst throwing up a wall of spray feels divine and looks pretty darn good too. Most of us stumbled from our toes back around to our heels, but somehow this turn causes a few more problems with timing and keeping the power. Once mastered it opens the door to gauging turns in the waves and makes non aerial down winders pure joy, roll on winter.

A good carve to toe side should not be considered as the way to learn toe side riding, so if you have not yet nailed toe side, it would be best to have it in the bag before trying this as it’ll make it a world easier. If you can ride toe side then you are ready and can concentrate on the timing of the kite movements and the change of body position.

The aim of a heel to toe side carve is to change direction whilst carving around nearly 180˚ whilst keeping your speed up and keeping power in the kite as in Video 1. We’ll ponder what we need to do with our body and how best we can compliment this with the kite.


Carving has a kind of soulful following in many sports, and for us surfing is the place to look. Watching any half decent surfer you’ll notice how they bend both legs, keep their weight low and balanced over their feet, and literally drive through their knees, using as much of the board as possible - poetry in motion. However watch your average kiter and it’ll all be heavy on the back foot, standing bolt upright and actually pivoting around the back of the board.

In Pic A Karine is half way around carving from her heels. This is a good opportunity to check out her body position.

The first thing to note is that her entire body is centred over the board. That is to say that her hips, shoulders and head are all in line and perpendicular to the board. You need to visualise that you are not actually carving from you heel edge, but from a flat board. So if Karine were balanced over a flat board, her alignment would be vertical, now as she carves her entire body leans over the same amount as the board. There is no need to break excessively at the waist and bend over. This may enable you to touch the water, but it will prevent you from pushing through the board and keeping it stable, particularly in choppy water.

Now if we look at Karine’s knees we can see that they are both flexed and both knees are facing forward, this way they can drive through the turn together, as a single unit. If both legs are bending it means that there will be weight on both feet, and keeping some weight forward means that more of the board can be used to turn and that the board will be trimmed flatter (from front to back) and therefore will keep going for longer without power from the kite.

Karine’s head is looking forwards to where she is going, which will help her complete the turn and actually get all the way around onto her toe side edge. The head also leads the shoulders around, and as long as the board is carved over, her feet and hips will continue around.

Finally as far as kite control goes, Karine has committed to a strong pull on the bar and has kept the bar in close to her to use all the power and control the position of the kite. Her aim is to steer the kite across the window, from 1 to 11. This will give Karine a fairly constant pull and let her know where the kite is. The actual kite movement would not be dissimilar to that of a slide turn.

Pic B shows you how not to do it. Karine is leaning back over her left foot too much. Her left leg is very bent whilst her right leg is only slightly flexed. This pushes her hips back over the tail of the board and all her weight goes through her back foot, sinking the tail and slowing the board. Also if you look at her bar, Karine has let it pull away from her, so rather than use the power, she has let it go and the kite will flutter to the edge of the window. The end result will be Karine stopping as she comes to the face the other way, and the kite will be too far around to generate any power.

Getting There

So you know what the body needs to do to get around the turn, but how do you get there. Due to the close link between what you do with the board and the how you turn the kite we’ll look at two sequences, one for the entry of the turn and one for the exit.

As already mentioned the first thing you’ll need to do is let yourself be pulled up over the board and flatten it so that you are not on your heel side edge. By bending both knees the board will flatten and then you can rock up over your feet. Once here you can stand up over the board and initiate the carve. However as soon as the board is flat, you will be following the kite and therefore loosing power, so you’ll need to get the kite turning sharpish.

For the entry into Karine’s carve we look at sequence 1. Also check out the close up in Video 2.

Following Sequence 1

  • Pic 1. Karine is riding in with plenty of speed, her kite positioned at 1.30 (45˚). As always she had a good look around to check that the coast is clear.
  • Pics 2 & 3. She needs to take the kite up a little to give her more control through the turn (not too much power), so she gently steers the kite up. Karine has taken her front hand of for balance, but you can keep both on the bar if you find it more comfortable.
  • Pic 4. This has the added bonus of pulling Karine up onto her feet and flattening the board. By now her kite will be at about 1 o’clock
  • Pic 5. As soon as the board is flat Karine can get herself balanced over it by flexing both legs, pushing her knees over the toe side edge and standing in this ready position. She must also start to turn the kite across the window; otherwise she will get slack in her lines and miss the opportunity. Because she will be steering the board from her back foot, she has more weight on this foot, but she is no longer on her heel side edge.
  • Pic 6. Karine has steered the kite aggressively across the window, you can see how hard she has pulled in with her back hand. This means the kite will go across the window, from 1 too 11, giving her power through the turn, but not diving down towards the water. She also starts to roll over onto the ball of her back foot in preparation for the carve.
  • Pic 7. Karine can now start to carve by pressing down more firmly on the ball of her back foot and allowing her hips to come forward over her toes. She is also keeping the bar in to keep tension on the lines, and feel the pull from the kite as it travels across the window.
  • Pics 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12. Lots of pictures! But you can see how Karine gradually commits more and more towards the inside of the turn. This angles the board over more and allows her to actually push down through her legs, with the reward of more grip through the turn. The further into the carve she gets the more she flexes the front leg. This places more weight onto her front foot and engages more of the board’s edge, resulting in yet more grip and stability through the chop. Karine is not looking to see where the kite is, she can feel it through the bar, but instead she focuses on where she wants to go.
  • Pic 13. Approaching pretty much dead downwind Karine is in a wonderful carving position. Both knees are acting as one, driving towards the centre of the turn, her weight is committed into the turn and her kite is starting to power her for the exit, quite marvellous.

Now if you have a gander at Sequence 2 for the exit onto toe side.

Following Sequence 2

  • Pics 1 & 2. With power coming through from the kite Karine keeps her weight committed to the turn, on both feet and drives through the knees. You can clearly see both her knees driving forward in the same direction. To Hold the power from the kite and not let the bar get pulled away from her Karine now has both hands on the bar. This also helps her turn her shoulders around and eventually more upwind to guarantee a good toe side edge.
  • Pic 3. Karine is now at the critical point of her carve where she could quite easily not continue turning. In this case she would get pulled downwind and loose all power, so she must force the board around across the wind. If she felt there was not enough power from the kite she would be able to dive it for more.
  • Pic 4. She does this by extending her front leg, which will put more of her body weight over the tail of the board. However just extending the front leg will not be enough, as the tail will sink and Karine will slow down. So Karine must push down on her back foot, extending her leg. This will force the power from the kite through her body and onto the board’s edge.
  • Pics 5 & 6. With power now going into the board Karine can look ahead and ride out toe side with tension in the lines, power in the kite and a smile on her face.

Final Words on the Kite

Your final bit of homework is to watch Video 3 to see the kite movement during the turn. The order is quite important, but hopefully you can see it. Christian comes of his edge, he then steers the kite across at the same time as starting the carve. This means that by the time he’s pointing downwind the kite is flying across the window, and therefore hopefully creating power. Christian can then carve against this power and exit full speed on his toes.

Top Tips

For your first attempts slow things down:

  • Start with your kite no higher than 11 or 1
  • Stand up on your board so that you are not on an edge
  • Steer the kite across the window and immediately carve
  • Look where you want to go, not at the kite

If you find that there is no power in the kite when you come around the turn, the likelihood is that you steered the kite too slowly so it went up over you head and then to the edge of the window. You’ll need to be more aggressive than you think.

If you keep coming out of the turn riding slightly downwind, remember to turn and face upwind onto toe side. Drop your upwind arm to gain some extra purchase.

This technique article was in Issue 11 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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