How to Kiteboard: Launching and Landing

Every great session starts with a successful kite launch. It’s as basic and obvious as it sounds. Similarly, you need to land your kite before you can deflate it and pack up for the day, who would have thought? We’ll discuss a couple ways to safely launch and land your kite, both by yourself and with someone else. For any of these techniques, you’ll want to ensure you have plenty of clear beach space to avoid any accidents.

 

Launching with a Partner

Having someone help you launch your kite is by far the easiest, safest way to get a kite in the air. You can ensure that your kite stays in the low-power zone of the wind window, and have a steady, controllable glide to 12 o’clock.

The idea is that the partner will hold the kite by the leading edge at the 3 or 9 o’clock position, and then simply let go once you are ready to guide the kite off the ground and up to 12 o’clock. The general steps to follow are once you’ve set up your kite and hooked in are:

  1. Have your partner hold the kite by the leading edge as you walk backwards to put some tension in the center bridle lines. Your bar should be fully sheeted out at this point.
  2. Maneuver yourself and the kite-holder right to the point where the kite starts to fill with wind (either at the 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock position).
  3. Check to ensure that no lines are tangled and all lines are appropriately tensioned.
  4. With the bar still sheeted out, grab it and get ready to steer the kite to the top of the window.
  5. Give the universal “thumbs up” to signal you’re ready to fly the kite
  6. Your partner should then simple let go of the leading edge and take a step back. No throwing or pushing necessary.
  7. Pull on the upward-facing line to gently steer the kite from 3 or 9 o’clock up to 12 o’clock all through the low-power zone.

Watch this video by Kitesurf College to get a good idea of what a good kite launch looks like:

 

 

Landing with a Partner

Landing a kite with a partner is the simplest, easiest way to land a kite. Simply just repeat steps 6 and 7 of the launching directions in reverse, and you’ll have your kite safely on the ground. While maintaining the kite position in the low power zone (almost at a stall), gently steer the kite from the 12 o’clock position down to the 3 or 9 o’clock position nearest to your partner. Once within reach, your partner should grab the leading edge (and only the leading edge) of the kite to secure it. You should then walk towards the kite-handler to release tension in the lines, and then allow the kite-handler to put the leading edge on the ground with the kite facing into the wind. And just like that, you’re safely done with your session.

 

Self Launching

A little more risky than partner-launching, self launching may be necessary at times when there’s no one on the beach to help you. It should be noted that your first few launches should not be self launches, since they are a little trickier than the partner-launches.

As with all self launching methods, there is a chance the kite won’t catch enough wind until it’s deep in the window. When it finally does catch, you’ll be in for an exhilarating ride as the kite shoots up across the beach up to the 12 o’clock position.

There’s a three ways to self-launch:

The Anchor method

The anchor method is the most controllable method and is the safest form of self launching if performed correctly. As the name suggests, this technique involves finding some semi-permanent or very heavy structure to anchor your bar to, so that there’s not a chance of the kite ripping off down the beach. Follow these steps to execute the anchor method:

  1. Once your kite is rigged and bar attached, find a permanent or semi-permanent structure suitable to be an anchor for your kite (large log, tree, sign, sandbag, etc.). It’s also possible to bring your own.
  2. Attach both your safety leash and chicken loop to the structure using some kind of tether. Another safety leash works well for this.
  3. Once your bar is safely secured to the anchor, walk down and pick up the leading edge of your kite. Walk back with the kite to tension the lines.
  4. Position your kite at the edge of the window, right at the point where it fills with air (just like you would if you were launching someone else).
  5. Once the kite is in the right position, you should be able to let go of the leading edge and the kite should balance on its side and not move into or away from the wind.
  6. Release the leading edge of the kite and wait a few moments to make sure the kite won’t move anywhere (like into someone else’s lines downwind).
  7. Get back to your anchor and bar as quickly as possible.
  8. Detach your safety leash from your anchor, and attach it to your harness.
  9. Detach your chicken loop from your anchor, and attach it to your harness.
  10. Ensure no lines are tangled.
  11. Launch the kite normally, by pulling your bar and steering the kite from the 3 or 9 o’clock position up to the 12 o’clock position.

A good impromptu anchor for this method, if you don’t mind sand being all in your gear, is to fill your kite bag with a bunch of sand to create a “sandbag”. Your bag will then have enough weight and enough attachment points to be used as an anchor!

The Kite-Drag method

The kite-dragging method is riskier than the anchor method, since it relies on the kite finding enough wind to take off in the lower power zones of the window. The chances of the kite dragging into the higher power regimes of the window are increased compared to the anchor method.

To complete the kite-drag method you’ll need to:

     1. As the kite lays with the leading edge on the ground and facing into the wind, rotate the kite so that one of the trailing edge tips catches some wind.

     2. Hook into your bar and walk backwards from the kite to put some tension in the lines.

     3. Ensure no lines are tangled and bar is sheeted out (pushed all the way forward).

     4. Gently pull the steering line attached to the tip that is catching some wind. Once enough wind is being caught, the kite should start sliding down further into the window. (NOTE: on a strong day, you’ll want to be ready to detach your chicken loop in case the kite goes too far downwind)

     5. Once the kite has slid far enough into the window, it should tip up and look like it’s resting on its side waiting to be launched. Kites launched in this manner typically don’t want to rest at this point and start to shoot right up, in which you should be ready for a strong pull.

     6. Steer the kite back to the nearest low power zone and up to the 12 o’clock position.

 

The pure downwind method

The pure downwind method is the most dangerous of the three self launching techniques, and should only be used on a very light day with a smaller kite or a water-relaunch scenario. You’ll want to be very familiar with the kite dynamics before attempting this method.

This method involves the kite being purely downwind of you on the ground/water, in the highest power zone (extremely dangerous) with either the trailing edge or leading edge touching the ground/water. If the trailing edge is on the ground/water:

  1. Ensure the bar is sheeted out and no lines are tangled.
  2. Pull the centerlines slightly to get the air flowing under the kite. If the wind is very light, you'll want to yank the center lines a few times to get the kite to "jump up".
  3. Once that airflow starts to go under the kite, it will want to shoot straight up very quickly and violently, and you’ll be along for the ride. The best way to control this flight is to keep the bar sheeted out, and try to steer it to the low power zones at 1 or 11 o’clock
  4. If you’ve survived to this point, you can bring the kite up to the 12 o’clock position and start your session.

If your leading edge is on the ground/water:

  1. Ensure the bar is sheeted out and no lines are tangled.
  2. Pull one steering line in until that wingtip starts to pull up off the water.
  3. Continue to gently pull the bar to pull in the highest steering line, so that side of the kite can continue to rotate around.
  4. Once the high-tip of the kite has rotated around far enough, the lower tip should break free from the ground/water and the whole kite will shoot straight up in a violent manner, similar to step 3 in the “trailing edge” section above.
  5. Keep the bar sheeted out and try to steer the kite to the nearest low power zone at 11 or 1 o’clock. This will be difficult as the kite will be pulling you very strongly.
  6. Once in the low power zone, bring the kite up to 12 o’clock.

 

Check out this video by pro kiteboarder Jake Kelsick demonstrating the “Kite Drag” and “Anchor” methods, as well as the self landing discussed below:

 

 

Self Landing

Is a bit more straightforward compared to the self launching techniques. It’s very similar to partner-landing, but rather than into the hands of your kite-holder you just have to set the tip on the ground and pull your highest centerline all the way in until the kite just falls leading edge to the ground and facing into the wind. The basic steps are:

  1. Bring your kite from the 12 o’clock position to either the 3 or 9 o’clock position in the low power zone.
  2. Keep pulling the kite until lower wingtip is planted on the ground and not bouncing around too much.
  3. Sheet the bar out.
  4. Pull in the highest centerline until the kite’s leading edge falls on the ground and is facing into the wind.

Kite Launching and Landing Failure Modes

  1. Lines tangled

Tangled lines is no good in any situation, and it is definitely not good to find out they’re tangled as the kite is rushing into the sky with no control. Tangled lines leave you with little or no control of your rkite, and an uncontrolled kite can cause damage to yourself and others.Always make sure your lines are free and clear of anything before attempting to launch.

  1. Kite moving too far back into the window before it catches enough wind to launch

Some of these launching methods require the kite to fall back into the window slightly before taking off. If the kite falls too far back into the window, then you’ll be in for a surprise as it rips into the sky with you along for the ride. If you’re not expecting the force (like you should be when doing the pure downwind launch), then this could really take you for a ride down the beach. Be prepared to release your chicken loop to avoid any harm if your kite falls too far back in the window, especially on a strong day.

  1. Overcorrection on violent launching can cause kite to stay in high power zone longer

If you do experience a high-power launch (like the pure downwind method), you’ll want to try to control the kite as best as possible. Overcorrecting may happen, in which case your kite could spend more time than you’d like in the high power zone. This means you’ll be dragged for longer. You want to get it out of the high power zone as quick as possible, so it’s important to fly the kite in a direct path to the low power zone.

 

Good luck and have a safe session!