Popping Kitesurfing Technique


Technique / Beginner


The ability to get some pop is unquestionably one of the most useful, polyvalent skills known to a kitesurfer. We discussed it to a degree in the air gybe, but it leads to many other glorious moves and is the secret to any tomfoolery when the kite is not sent to get us off the water as for a jump. The raley in its most basic form is a pop! (See video 1) Pop is however often referred to, but rarely explained. Moreover manufacturers often credit their boards with awesome pop, which can often be true, but unluckily for us they are not programmed with said pop, but rather rely on the expertise of the person at the helm.

The Legend of Edge and Release

Some of you may doubt this technique as an urban myth. Edging theoretically at least is quite clear, but the grand finale of releasing is nothing more than a word. If you’ve already tried unsuccessfully to pop, you probably edged, achieved the necessary tension on the lines and then released, maybe by flattening the board off, at which stage you just carried on slowly. Don’t be down heartened though, the same problem crops up time after time even for advanced kiters. Last summers down-looping craze, witnessed many a good rider casually sailing along whilst his/her kite looped without even a shard of light appearing between board and water. Yes the vital release was missing. We will refer to the entire process as popping.

The Bare Necessities

Speed is your friend! Finding a comfortable balance between speed and power is your ideal here. Popping works from board speed. You can have all the power you can handle but if you’re edging along like a weekend driver you’ll not be treated much pop in return for your efforts.

Points of sail! You’re not about to race around a triangle but you will need to be able to steer your board from riding upwind, to riding more downwind and then upwind again. If you carry too much power this could be tricky as you may encounter Mach 10 shortly after pointing your board off the wind.

Kite Position! To start off with you should have the kite around 11 or 1 o’clock. As you turn your board off the wind and pick up speed your kite will also drop back slightly in the window. This is a good thing. Your kite does not need to move during a pop so it’s worth trying to get both hands in towards the centre of the bar.

An excitable back leg! At the given moment you’ll need to carve hard upwind and stomp down through your back foot. Essentially you’re trying to cork the board (Pic A) by pushing it down and away from you into the water and against the kite’s power – a mean feat.

All Together Now

Why do we do the above? If you gather speed, by turning off the wind, momentarily the kite de-powers and feels light as you point towards it. This will make carving hard against it easier, and with your extra speed you’ll get more pop.

As you travel towards the kite, it drops back in the window, which means that when you carve against it, it tries to pull you downwind, increasing the tension in the lines which yet again equals more pop. Add to this the fact that as it’s pulling from downwind it will make you land pointing more downwind, which is a whole lot easier than landing on an edge across the wind. If you don’t go downwind, then when you edge the kite goes straight to the edge of the window and you stop! If you do get pop then you are more likely to spin uncontrollably into wind.

As you carve hard against the kite, dropping your weight and twisting to look upwind, the most common sin is to bend both legs in an effort to jump up off the board, as you would on terra firma. This scuppers everything as you’ll loose your edge and tension in the lines and end up under the kite with zero pop. You need to jump off the edge whilst resisting the kite’s power. This means dropping over your back leg, which straightens the front leg, maintaining your edge. From here you can explode against the back foot, corking the board and stretching the lines even more. In Pic B and Video 2 you can see how Karine has launched of her back leg.

Following Sequence 1

  • Pic 1. Riding along happy as Larry Karine decides it’s time for a pop. She has a good look around to make sure she’s all clear, and checks that her kite is around 11 o’clock.
  • Pic 2. Karine starts to steer her board off the wind by pointing her toes and moving her hips ever so slightly forwards towards her front foot.
  • Pic 3. As she is no longer edging the kite has pulled Karine up over the board. However this is no drama as her board is now accelerating off the wind as the kite drops back in the window.
  • Pic 4. Knowing that she’s gaining speed Karine shifts her hips back over her back foot ready to carve. This straightens her front leg
  • Pic 5. She now starts to edge by driving her back foot away from her, which puts the board in between her and the kite and allows her shoulders to drop back. She is also twisting her shoulders and hips to turn upwind.
  • Pic 6. You can see how much her board is turning. Her extended front leg is keeping the board on its edge, maintaining the tension in the lines and turning her upwind. This is not the time to bend both knees!
  • Pic 7. Kite-face time, maximum effort required. Karine is fighting the kite, keeping her weight low and edge in. Fortunately the spray is covering her expression – it should not be pretty.
  • Pic 8. As the kite starts to pull Karine over the board it’s time for her bent back leg to get serious.
  • Pic 9. Karine has fully pushed off with her back leg. Giving the same sort of effort you would against a windscreen when trapped in a sinking car.
  • Pic 10. As she takes off Karine bends her knees to keep the board out of trouble and looks forward to where she will land. All this time the kite has not moved. If you feel that your kite has risen pull hard on the front hand to bring it back down.
  • Pic 11. As Karine drops down she lets her legs swing down underneath her and continues to focus on her landing point.
  • Pic 12. Landing gear down, Karine drops the back of the board onto the water first. Apart from preventing a spectacular nosedive, by letting the back fins bite first the board will turn even further off the wind for an easier reception.
  • Pic 13. Karine absorbs the landing with soft knees whilst pointing off the wind.
  • Pic 14. Content with such a fine pop Karine carves back upwind ready for another….

Tips From the Top

For the first few attempts try and find some flattish water, as bearing off the wind over chop is likely to pull you all out of shape.

If you have small waves to use they can help with the timing.

As you get more confident try bringing the kite lower to 10:30 or 1:30 before you pop.

The more speed, power and resistance you have will result in your body getting a more horizontal pull, leading into that sweet stretched-out raley look.

This technique article was in Issue 4 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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