Cat’s Cradle – Untangling Lines Kitesurfing Technique

Cat’s Cradle – Untangling Lines

Technique / Intermediate


Untangling your lines while they’re still attached to your kite is one of those useful skills that can save hours of faffing on the beach. Once you know how to do it, you’re almost obliged to become a good Samaritan of the kiting world. No longer able to observe a fellow enthusiast struggling when you know that with your intervention and a quick abracadabra they could be back on the water in the blink of an eye. It’s not guaranteed to work 100% of the time, as with all things tangle-able like rope, string, electric cables and even garden hoses, kite lines can at times wrap themselves up in the most inexplicable and perplexing manner.

You may end up with your lines crossed and/or twisted for a number of reasons. Possibly after wrapping your lines up on the beach for a break, when you quickly unwrap them, they are magically no longer as you left them. You may have been more rightfully concerned about grabbing your board before worrying about the kite after you crashed. Your kite can overfly and Hindenburg out of the sky, casually rolling a few times before tension in the lines is restored. Or perhaps you landed from a jump with too much downwind speed and couldn’t stop your kite from kissing down while you merrily race towards it. Maybe you’ve been practising your downloops from the last issue and occasionally mistimed one. You could have dropped your kite in the waves and been pushed towards it, allowing it to roll before you manage to relaunch. There are many scenarios to get yourself into this pickle, and as such a plethora of solutions. This issue we’ll have a look at the two simplest results of your kite inverting, in a future issue we’ll return and have a look at some other twists.

Before we do though a couple of points to remember.

Once you’re on Terra Firma, you need to work out which way the lines are messed up so that you can apply the correct solution. Although we’re not suggesting that every kiter should set their lines up with their bar downwind of the kite, we are advising that when you return to the beach to sort your lines, you do take the bar downwind of the kite. We’ve all been that person who runs up and down willy-nilly, changing lines, just for it all to still be in a mess. Taking your bar downwind will save you time. This could also be a good time to mention that you’ll want to take your leash off the bar, so make sure that your kite is secured on the beach.

Now you’ve done that we can start :)

Deciphering the Code

Pic 1. First thing is to put a bit of tension on your lines, untwist your bar if necessary so that you can pick it up and look along the lines. Remember that the bar should correspond with the kite, right to right and left to left. Seeing as your kite is face down on the beach, your bar also needs to be face down. If you’ve never set up with your bar downwind, this means that you’ll turn your bar over, so as you hold it your right hand will be holding the left side and vice versa...

Pic 2. Give your lines a shake to free them and if you see the lines are twisted try to shake the twist down towards you. This way you’ll be able to see which way the lines are tangled.

With the lines crossing nearer to you, you can see whether the kite has rolled within itself so that both lines are twisted the same way, or whether just one steering line passed over the kite. And you’ll see which way it rolled, or rather more importantly which way you’ll have to “pass” the bar back. To start simpler this issue, we’ll look at both lines twisted.

Have a look at Pic 3. Assuming that your centre lines and steering lines are not touching anywhere else, you can clearly see that the back lines are coming up through the middle lines and over, back to the bar.

This means that to untangle them, the bar will have to go over the middle lines, as in Pic 4. and then down through the V. This bit should be simple enough, but the steps that follow are where it can go wrong.

Just to compare if we look at the opposite scenario in Pic 5 where even though both lines are tangled the same way, this time the steering lines come over the centre lines from the outside towards the V, and then pass back under the centre lines back to the bar.

The solution this time therefore is to pass the bar under the centre lines before bringing it up through the V as in Pic 6.

Hopefully, you’re still with us...

The Solution

Now we’ll look at the movement to get the bar through without getting your knickers in a twist. We’ll go back to the first example where the steering lines are coming through the middle lines and then over them to the bar.

Pic 7. Which hand you use is up to you, but if you’re right-handed like Karine, you may find it easier holding the bar in your more coordinated hand. Steps are:

Pic 8. If you let go of the chicken loop and hold the bar at each end, you’ll see that the centre chicken loop line is now wound around the bar. It’s very tempting just to pull it to one side and free it, but this will then tangle another line, and you’ll be in even more of a jam.

Instead, you’ll need to unroll the bar a full turn towards the kite, as in Pic 9. The steps are:

Now it’s a good idea to check that you’ve been successful before you ask somebody for a launch. Seeing as your bar is downwind from the kite, it’s pretty easy.

Pic 10. Pull the lines tight, then with your right hand hold the steering line out to one side, give it a little shake and you should see it running freely from the bar end and your hand all the way to the rear attachment point on your kite, while the centre lines hang unhindered.

Pic 11. Now do the same with your left hand for the other side.

Have a look at Video 1 for the real-time walkthrough of this.

It is possible that your kite may have rolled twice, and as such, it’ll require 2 pass throughs. The good news is you’ll still be able to see it with the lines.

Now if your lines show that you need to pass the bar from underneath, as back in Pic 5 where the steering lines come over the centre lines from the outside towards the V. Then pass back under the centre lines back to the bar, the theory is the same, but you’ll be passing and then rolling the opposite way.

Looking at the first steps in Pic 12.

As before don’t be tempted to push the centre line around the side of the bar. Instead, it’s time to roll again, but this time you will roll the bar towards you a full turn, as demonstrated in Pic 13.

Once again, it’s a good idea to check that you’ve been successful.

Finally, have a look at Video 2 for the true to life demo for unrolling your lines from underneath.

You can happily practice these methods, untangling and re-tangling your lines multiple times, even on a windless day. With your lines attached to your kite, you can easily see if you scored full marks or if it’s back to the drawing board!

Common Problems

There are two mistakes that most of us make playing this game.

The first is that when we put the bar through we allow the steering lines to flop over one side or another, rather than keeping them left and right. Make sure that they stay on each side where they belong as you pass the bar through the V.

The second mistake is not unrolling but instead passing the chicken loop centre line around the bar. It’ll look good close to the bar, but when you check the lines on the side will be tangled. Remember that the second part always involves unrolling, whether it’s towards you or away from you.

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This technique article was in Issue 71 of IKSURFMAG.



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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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