Surfboard Foot Change Kitesurfing Technique

Surfboard Foot Change

Technique / Beginner


Whether you are riding strapless or strapped, the necessity to change your feet will eventually come knocking. Back in the dark ages when three strap directionals were in mode, it was not unusual to see kiters dropping into the water, turning their planks around and then sailing back whence they came. However those with a slight thirst for progress took things a tad more seriously and the gybe became the acceptable form of changing direction.

Waltzing Matilda

It therefore seems appropriate, that after the excesses of the festive season, you should try your hand at, or rather foot at, some twinkle toed light-footedness. Now those of you prone to the odd senior moment may well recall the dance hall days, when concentrating on your feet, or rather not stepping on your partners was the name of the game. The advantage is all yours. Those of you a few generations down will probably know how to throw shapes a la big wheels, taps, dealing cards etc. but footwork may never have been an issue as your threw your hands in the air! Ladies and gentlemen it’s time to limber up.

Nice and Easy

To simplify things we will concentrate on the actual foot change as opposed to a windsurf-esque gybe. This means that you will carve around and change direction so that you are riding toe side before you worry about stomping those flat feet around. Assuming that you can confidently carve from your heel side to you toe side, and maintain power in the kite whilst riding back in the other direction, the only adjustment you’ll require is to take your back foot out of the strap before carving. This will free your foot up for what is to come, and it will be considerably easier to take out when riding heel side, as you will have weight on both feet. Whereas when you are toe side you’ll be favouring your back foot and it is therefore more difficult to lift out of the strap.

Bonus Points

You can practice this on a floaty surfboard without straps to trip over, although the straps do give a good indication of where you can stand.

No matter how glorious your board looks, don’t feel obliged to leave the graphics at their best. A good coating of wax in between the straps will help compensate for any misplaced feet.

Open your foot straps up so that they feel bigger than necessary. This will enable you to easily slide your feet in and out, and help you get more toe side pressure when carving.

It’ll be a fine idea to practice in both directions, although admittedly it will feel easier to change from your most comfortable toe side.

Before attempting your foot change there are a few exercises that will make the whole process a lot easier. If you break it down into steps then you’ll just need the final link to make it a reality. During all of the following steps try to keep your knees soft. If you stand up straight the board could well skid out from under you.

Three-Legged Race

If you look at Pic A you can see that in preparation for her carve Karine has taken her back foot out of the strap and placed it just in front of the strap and across onto the toe side rail of the board. This will help her carve the board more easily. Also her foot is still at the angle it was in the strap, which will keep her hips and shoulders parallel to the centre line of the board (from front nose to tail) and enable her to carve further around. On some smaller boards with less volume you may find it better to place your foot further up towards the front strap.

When you are on the water, you do actually have three legs, right, left and harness. Practice sailing along on your heel side, drop your weight into the harness (not taking it on your arms), lean slightly forward and lift your back foot out. Once it’s in front of the strap extend back into your normal riding stance. Then once again take all your weight on the harness hook, lift your back foot up and slide it into the strap. Not only will this help with your foot change but there will also be times when you’ll ride with the back foot out and further forward to help keep the board trimmed flat.

In Pic B Karine has not put her foot far enough across the board and will therefore have trouble carving the board around and keeping the board tilted over onto her toe side edge.

In Pic C Karine has her back foot facing forwards, which opens her hips and shoulders. This way her body will be facing more down wind and as a result she will either find it hard to carve all the way around and end up pointing the board down wind, or turn in a longer arc than expected. Both of these will result in her loosing tension from her lines – never good.

One Foot

Once your happy moving your back foot around on the board without it upsetting your balance too much, it’s time to carve with your back foot out. This should not pose too much of a problem, but may feel a tad unusual.

Following the carve, you should practice riding along toe side with your back foot out as in Pic 1. Try moving it around as you did before, putting all you weight in the harness. You’ll need the confidence this gives you for the two next dynamic steps.

Pigeon Toed

Next up you’ve got the most charming position of them all, something akin to Adam without his leaf, or a Nelson’s Column regular. You will be stepping up to place your back foot right next to your front foot, toes almost touching as in Pic 2. Although this may look a touch dodgy, you will be able to ride in this knock kneed position quite happily even over the bumps, as long as you keep your weight on you free foot to maintain pressure on the boards rail so that you remain on the toe side edge as in Pic 2a.

One Giant Step

Your next step requires real positivity and commitment so wait until you feel comfortable. If you look at Pic 3 you can see that Karine has moved her left foot out from the strap and has placed it just in front of the back strap with the heel near the rail. This is one definite movement from your pigeon toed stance. If your weight is balanced between your forward facing foot and the harness you will be able to lift the other foot out of the strap and step back. By stepping back onto the rail near the back foot strap the tail is likely to sink, which will in fact help you. In this position the board is creating drag, and therefore putting tension back on the lines, and with it keeled over towards you, you have something to push against even without having your feet in the straps. If you’ve ridden a surfboard without straps this will be second nature.

The Harlem Shuffle

Once you get a bit of power in the kite you’ll want to get your feet back in the straps. Get the front one in first. Feel for the strap with your toes, so that you can keep weight on your heel and once you’ve located it, slide your foot in Pic 4. As far as your back foot is concerned you should already be a pro Pic 5.

Terra Firma

The easiest place to practice will be on land with no kite, chop or waves to worry about. Once it feels natural and you don’t have to think too much, it’ll be time to move onto the water. The real key is to trust your movements and therefore have the confidence not to look down. Looking down will pull your body out of position and increase the likelihood of it all going Pete Tong. In Video 1 you can see Karine’s feet move in real time.

Time to Tango

Take you partner by the hand! So to get an idea of the how this works relative to the wind follow the sequence, assuming that in the first two pictures Karine is riding across the wind.

Following Sequence 1

Top Tips and Progress

As you progress and the change becomes more natural try to speed things up. As soon as you are around to toe side, step up, lift out and back, front foot in – 1,2,3.

If that’s child’s play, try carving in pigeon stance and stepping back as you turn through the wind. This way you plane through as a gybe and have both feet, or at least your new front foot in the strap as you come out in the other direction.

Should you be trying to stay upwind as much as possible, don’t do a carving turn to toe side, but a scissor turn. This is a progression from the toe side water start. Just slow right down, move the kite across and as you sink push the board around onto toe side. As you come up change your feet.

Do you enjoy reading IKSURFMAG, using our App and website? We now need your support to keep IKSURFMAG going. Support IKSURFMAG from as little as £2 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you!


This technique article was in Issue 7 of IKSURFMAG.



Kitesurfing Technique - Air Gybe
Kitesurfing Technique - Air Gybe
Air Gybe

The Air Gybe done well is the King of smooth: just freezing mid flight, maybe throwing in a cheeky grab, whilst hanging in the wind then casually changing direction before powering off back out to sea. Once fully mastered even the biggest air can be a mere method of turning, and any obstacle a plant. If you have conquered the…

Kitesurfing Technique - Back Loop
Kitesurfing Technique - Back Loop
Back Loop

The backloop has often been the defining moment in many a riders kitesurfing history. The first genuine “trick” to really wow the masses and motivate ones belief to keep learning, keep tacking time off work and keep spending money. However it does not have to be the starting point. If you can already jump and have the front loop sorted,…

Kitesurfing Technique - Back Loop Transition
Kitesurfing Technique - Back Loop Transition
Back Loop Transition

There comes a time in every kiters life when suddenly all the hours of battling the elements really starts to pay dividends. Once you have mastered the many basic fundamentals you will have a solid foundation on which to build many blocks. The backloop transition is without a shadow of doubt the first funky add on to the beloved foundation…

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

Problems? Ask Below


Subscribe it's Free!

Win a Choice 3 Kiteboard From Core this issue in our FREE subscriber prize draw.

By subscribing you will not only be first to read the mag but automatically entered into the prize draw every issue!

Draw closes on Sun 9th Jun, 2019
First name is required.

By subscribing you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy

Subscribe Another
Choice 3 Kiteboard From Core

Issue 73 Mon 8th Apr, 2019

Re Solve Split Kiteboard From Kitelement


Issue 72 Wed 6th Feb, 2019

Compact Series Surfboard from ODO Kiteboarding


Issue 71 Fri 7th Dec, 2018

A 2019 Mercury 6/4 Freezip and Vex Harness from Prolimit


Issue 70 Mon 8th Oct, 2018

CrazyFly Raptor LTD Neon Board


Issue 69 Tue 7th Aug, 2018

GoPro Hero 6 Black Action Camera


Issue 68 Tue 12th Jun, 2018

GoPro Hero 6 Black Action Camera


Issue 67 Wed 11th Apr, 2018

Mystic Majestic X Harness


Issue 66 Fri 9th Feb, 2018

6m Flysurfer Stoke


Issue 65 Tue 12th Dec, 2017

7m Cabrinha Drifter + Fireball Bar Set Up


Issue 64 Wed 18th Oct, 2017

Board You Desire From Shinn


Issue 63 Tue 8th Aug, 2017

GoPro Hero 5 Black Action Camera


Issue 62 Sat 10th Jun, 2017

CrazyFly 2017 Sculp 9m and Sick Bar


Issue 61 Mon 10th Apr, 2017

GoPro Hero 5 Black Action Camera


Issue 60 Sun 5th Feb, 2017

GoPro Hero 5 Black Action Camera


Issue 59 Mon 5th Dec, 2016

GoPro Hero 5 Black Action Camera


Issue 58 Thu 13th Oct, 2016

Fireball Set Up with an Apollo Kite from Cabrinha


Issue 57 Tue 11th Oct, 2016

Blade Trigger 10m Kite


Issue 56 Sun 12th Jun, 2016

Board and Boot Set Up from Liquid Force


Issue 55 Sat 9th Apr, 2016

Nobile NHP Split Kiteboard


Issue 54 Sat 6th Feb, 2016

Wetsuit and Harness from Manera


Issue 53 Tue 10th Feb, 2015

Ride Engine Harness!


Issue 52 Wed 7th Oct, 2015

Prize Pack from TSHOTSH

Guy, Vince

Issue 51 Thu 13th Aug, 2015

Wainman Hawaii ManiaC Kite


Issue 50 Thu 4th Jun, 2015

Liquid Force Legacy Board


Issue 49 Fri 10th Apr, 2015

Slingshot Vision Board


Issue 48 Fri 30th Jan, 2015

Blade Mist Kite and Bar


Issue 47 Mon 8th Dec, 2014

2015 Core GTS3 8m Kite and Bar


Issue 46 Wed 8th Oct, 2014

Ozone Reo Wave Kite


Issue 45 Mon 4th Aug, 2014

Brunotti Board and a Pair of Sunglasses


Issue 44 Mon 9th Jun, 2014

Dakine Harness and Travel Bag


Issue 43 Wed 2nd Apr, 2014

Manera EXO Harness and Goodies!


Issue 42 Thu 30th Jan, 2014

North Gonzales Kite Board!


Issue 41 Mon 2nd Dec, 2013

Best Spark Plug Kite Board


Issue 40 Wed 9th Oct, 2013

Kiteloose Fatty Surfboard


Issue 39 Fri 2nd Aug, 2013

GoPro HD Hero 3 Silver Edition


Issue 38 Sun 2nd Jun, 2013

CrazyFly Sculp 9m Kite and Sick Bar System


Issue 37 Mon 1st Apr, 2013

Kitesurf Holiday Experience with Kirsty Jones


Issue 36 Sat 2nd Feb, 2013

2013 F-One Bandit 6 9m Kite


Issue 35 Mon 3rd Dec, 2012

Soul Drysuit by Ocean Rodeo


Issue 34 Mon 1st Oct, 2012

2013 Mystic Wetsuit and Harness


Issue 33 Sun 5th Aug, 2012

Wainman Joke Kitesurfing Board


  1. The Promotion is organised by IKSURFMAG and the participating brand stated on the subscribe page. You are providing your information to IKSURFMAG, not the participating brand. The information you provide will only be used for the purpose of facilitating the Promotion and notifying you when new issues of our totally free magazine are released. We will never sell or supply your details to any 3rd parties.
  2. You can opt out of any future emails by clicking the unsubscribe link within the footer of the email at any time.
  3. The winner will be notified by email shortly after the closing date shown. Previous winners will not be eligible to win again until at least three new Promotions have run.
  4. Winners must reply to our email within two weeks or a new winner will be drawn. Please check all spam folders to avoid loosing out.
  5. Participants only need to enter once in order to be eligible for all future prize draws.

Share - Surfboard Foot Change