Kite control always comes first when it comes to kiteboarding. To steer the kite proficiently, the rider needs to be in tune with the kite. Part of being in tune with the kite is being able to find that “sweet spot” or position where the bar has enough tension on the outside lines that it responds to rider input but not so much tension that it pulls you. Different shaped kites will have a different “sweet spot” on the bar considering all other variables equal. Being able to tune in to the sweet spot will make you a better kiteboarder.
Steering with the bar sheeted too far out
If you’re steering the kite with the bar pushed all the way away from you, then there’s a good chance the kites not responding to any of your input. In this situation your outside lines will have a lot of slack, so even if you have the bar angled hard, there will be too much slack for the kite to respond. To correct this, pull in on the bar until you feel the kite respond to your input. Rather than have dramatic bar angles to steer the kite, pull in on the bar so there’s enough tension on the outside lines that the kite responds to subtle movements. Remember, when the kite begins moving it will generate power so ease out on the bar when it responds to your input. Good riders will constantly be adjusting the sheeting in and out of the bar.
Steering with the bar sheeted too far in
This is the number one rookie mistake; when the kite pulls, the rider pulls. One of the first things you learn in your lessons is that when the kite starts pulling, you push away. This is incredibly important to remember when you begin learning how to ride the board. It may feel natural to pull in, but if you want to control your speed while riding then you’re going to have to push the bar away. Finding that “sweet spot” will always help, no matter your riding style or what type of board you ride.
Finding the “sweet spot”
The easiest way to feel that balanced point on the bar where you have enough tension to steer the kite but not so much that it pulls you is to keep a relaxed grip. Keeping a relaxed grip will allow you to feel any changes in the wind so you can adjust the bar accordingly. It’s safer if you’re unsure where the sweet spot is to sheet out and slowly sheet in until you feel like there’s enough tension that the kite responds to your input. Remember that keeping your hands close together will give you better kite control!
Different shaped kites and their perspective sweet spots
Imagine you have three different kites, a high aspect bow kite, a medium aspect bow kite and a low aspect C kite. If the wind was a consistent 15 kts and all three kites were 12ms, where the “sweet spot” would be on each kite would be different. High aspect kites are typically rectangular while low aspect kites are more squared off. If the kite is positioned in a parked position while riding the higher aspect kite will naturally sit further forward in the window than a low aspect C kite. The further forward into the wind window the kite goes, the further out your “sweet spot” will be. As a result, the higher aspect kites like a Cabrinha Apollo will like to be rode with the sweet spot further away from the chicken loop. Knowing how to tune in to the sweet spot on different kites will help get the most performance out of that kite.
Whether you’re flying a kite on the beach before a session or while you’re out riding on the water, you want to keep a relaxed grip to feel where that sweet spot is. It changes with the gusts and lulls of the wind or with your angle of the board so you need to be making minor adjustments with the bar. You’ll get to a point where you don’t even realize you’re sheeting in or out to find the sweet spot, you just know what it feels like and what to do to dial in to your kite. Remember if you choose to fly different types of kites to play around with where the bar sits on the depower mainline.