Toe to Heel Carve Kitesurfing Technique

Toe to Heel Carve

Technique / Beginner


We recently took you through carving onto your toes, so now we’ll add the second piece of the puzzle and carve you back round onto your heel as in Video 1. To many riders this will feel like a more natural way to turn, as once you’re around you have the safety net and confidence of a reliable heel side edge to fall back on, and you’ll be returning to the way of riding that you call home. This generally means that you’ll be more willing to really throw the kite across through the window, as you’ll be more able to control the resulting power if you overcook it.

The good news is the kite principles and timing are pretty much the same as in the carve to toe side. And if that hasn’t got you running for the champers then the fact that you’ll find it much easier to turn the board off your trailing foot and complete a full 180˚ should have you celebrating like a British cyclist.

Gouge It

It is quite achievable to carve from your toes to your heels quite tightly by just stomping all your weight over your back foot and pivoting around. We are however looking at getting a more relaxed and satisfying carve that, once honed, will work equally well in the waves and on a directional.

Pic A shows Karine in her carving position just before reaching dead downwind. This is a good moment to see what her body is up to.

If we start with her body alignment it would be fair to say that her hips are aligned with the board, so they will commit to the turn as much as the board is carved into it. This is necessary because in between moving from her toe side edge to her heel side edge Karine will have to flatten the board as she literally rolls over it.

However Karine has not committed her shoulders over into the turn. Because she is turning almost blind into the area behind her, she cannot drive through her knees, so she must balance her weight, otherwise it’s a refreshing dip in the sea.

Looking at her knees we can see that the back leg is quite bent and the front leg is almost extended. The front leg is pushing the board along and keeping it in front of her, and also it keeps her hips back, helping to get weight over the back foot. This allows Karine to steer the board with her back foot and commit her hips into the turn, by twisting them around to face the direction of travel.

By twisting her hips Karine can turn her shoulders and head, which prevents her from falling to the inside of the turn. You can emulate this on terra firma. Standing as Karine is in the picture you’ll be able to keep your balance and could probably throw a couple of martial arts moves into the equation. Now try standing on both heels and getting you weight low – doesn’t really work does it?

Finally for kite control, 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. Watch Video 2 to remind you of the kite’s flight path.

The Live Show

Sequence 1 shows the entry into the carve from toe side and lets you see how the board flattens and drifts off the wind before any edge is set. If you dig the edge in too early you’ll be straight onto your bottom.

Following Sequence 1

  • Pic 1. Karine is merrily riding upwind toe side with both hands on the bar and the kite at about 45˚. You can’t see it in this picture but she’s had a good look around to make sure it’s safe to turn.
  • Pic 2. Karine takes her front hand off the bar. This will help keep her balance and prevent her from tripping over her heels during her carve.
  • Pics 3 & 4. Pulling the bar in to get the back lines tight Karine starts to steer the kite slowly up towards 1 o’clock.
  • Pic 5. As soon as Karine feels the kite start to lift as it flies up, she pulls in hard on her back hand to turn it across the window. This prevents the kite going too high and will give Karine power when she exits her carve.
  • Pic 6. Karine lets the kite pull her up and onto the board.
  • Pic 7. As she comes over the board it flattens off. With no resistance from the edge the board will start to drift more downwind. This will take some tension off the lines and is the reason that Karine had to steer the kite hard.
  • Pic 8. Now Karine must turn the board with her back foot by pushing down on her heel. If she waits too long the kite will travel too far across the window and pull her over backwards.
  • Pic 9. As Karine carves the board, she turns her head, shoulders and hips and keeps her weight over the board with her hips dropped back over her trailing foot. Because she is turning towards the kite it will not be pulling her.
  • Pic 10. Half way around the turn and Karine can now see where the kite is. As she carves through the downwind part of the turn and her body starts to face the new direction she reaches up with her free hand. This helps pull her shoulders around for balance and keeps the board turning.

Sequence 2 follows Karine through the exit of her carve.

Following Sequence 2

  • Pic 1. Karine now has her back hand back on the bar and has turned enough to see where the kite is. This gives her the opportunity to make any necessary adjustments to the kite. If she didn’t turn it hard enough she’ll need to dive it more to give her some power out of the turn. However you can see that her bar is still pulled in with her left hand, so no need to change anything here.
  • Pic 2. She continues to carve on her back foot, but now that the board is in between Karine and the kite, she can drop her weight upwind.
  • Pics 3,4 & 5. Karine drops her weight and commits it against the kite. She does this by twisting her hips and shoulders as is she were riding upwind, and by pushing away with her front leg whilst moving her hips back over her rear foot.
  • Pic 6. In this position Karine creates an edge and so tensions the lines and creates power in the kite. If the kite is diving down she can now steer it back up, if she’s still short of power she can now start working the kite.
  • Pics 7 & 8. Karine edges harder by pushing more off her back foot, extending the back leg more. This turns here upwind and she has now completed the entire turn.

You can now add your two carves together just like Video 3 and go crazy with some mythical wave riding. It’s the start of great things to come.

Common Problems

If you keep falling in backwards, almost tripping on your heels. This is usually due to either leaning too much into the turn during the first half of the carve, or you are sending the kite back hard and still edging on your toes. Remember to keep your body weight over the board on your back foot, and let the turn of the kite pull you up off your edge to initiate the carve.

If you have no power coming out of the turn you have not turned the kite hard enough at the beginning. Remember that the kite needs to fly across the window, not up and around the edge. Because you turn towards it you will not feel the power until you are back onto your heel side edge.

The Keystones

  1. Steer Kite up
  2. Come up off edge
  3. Turn kite hard across window
  4. Carve around and try to look where you are going.
  5. Once on heel side dig in edge to complete turn and regain pull from kite.

This technique article was in Issue 13 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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