What is going upwind? Going upwind is moving with an angle of 70° to a maximum 45° toward the direction from which the wind is blowing. To go upwind, you must find a balance between direction and speed. If you go too much upwind, you will lose speed and probably stall.
The best position for going upwind is to fl y the kite at half the wind window height and use the board to manage the power. To go upwind, you need to maintain speed and have enough power to keep an edge. Because you speed up and slow down according to changes in wind speed, it’s important to react accordingly to continue going upwind. Remember, if you go too fast, apparent wind prevents you from going upwind.
The importance of body position A good body position increases the possibility of reacting to manage your balance and kite flying. It also allows you to regain balance, edge efficiently and regain speed.
The right body position Your front leg should be almost stretched out but ready to bend to absorb shock. Your back leg should be slightly bent to have good balance on the board, as its surface touching the water is a bit off-centred. The shoulders should be in line with the torso, with the torso leaned back. With the elbow angle around 110°, the hands can move equally up or down for kite fl ying and power control.
If you lean too far backward, you won’t be able to edge correctly or manage a gust. If your legs are completely stretched, the board will bump and your balance will be unstable.
Practice brings about balance between the course (the direction in which you are moving) and speed. When riding out to sea, choose a mark (ship or cloud) that is farther upwind and try to head for it. As you ride back toward the beach, choose a mark on land (a tree or a house) and try to go upwind toward it. Once back on the beach, look at your position according to your starting point and study the following cases:
» I GO FAST, BUT I DON’T GO UPWIND There can be many reasons: the kite is too high up; you don’t exert enough back foot and heel pressure to edge; or you wait too long to edge heelside after the waterstart. Also, your kite might be too big and your board too large. To avoid getting too much speed and to keep an edge, start edging right after the waterstart.
» I GO UPWIND AND THEN STOP You might be edging too much with your heelside and not releasing the edge when the wind or your speed decreases. You need to put your board fl atter on the water as soon as you feel your speed decrease, and fl y the kite up and down to regain speed. If, after working on this, you still don’t manage to regain speed, use a bigger kite and/or a bigger board.
» I CAN GO UPWIND ON ONE SIDE BETTER THAN ON THE OTHER We all have a stronger side, so we must force ourselves to edge on the weak side more than on the other to obtain similar results on both. When riding switch, concentrate on putting more weight on your front foot to travel in the upwind direction. With practice and time, the feeling on both sides will become identical.
» I RIDE UPWIND BUT SOMETIMES GO DOWNWIND The kite automatically adjusts its position to the wind orientation. Therefore, when the wind turns, the kite follows, so your course is deviated. When you feel you’re going downwind because the wind changes, jibe and you will have the opposite effect by riding on the other side (you’ll go better upwind). This is a wellknown racing technique. When the wind turns to your advantage (going more upwind) it is called a lift. The opposite (when the wind turns and makes you go more downwind) is called a header. To go as best as possible, you may always use the wind lift.
Advanced upwind Staying upwind can be a matter of weather, equipment or tide. Here are a few explanations of strange situations you might encounter if you practise in different spots.
Tidal influence If you must deal with tide, the best times to ride and stay upwind are one hour before and one hour after low or high tide. The current slows down and won’t infl uence your trajectory much. Yet in light wind you can easily ride with a current going in the opposite direction of the wind. For example, if you usually use a 12-metre in 15 knots, you’ll be able to ride upwind with the same kite in eight knots if the current generated by the tide goes in the opposite direction at four knots. Instead of swimming toward your kite if it falls in the water, swim upwind in order to get tension in the line. If you want to stop kiting, simply start rolling your lines; the current will bring the kite back to you. Be careful not to practise in a current that is stronger than your swimming abilities. If you do, choose a shallow spot where you can easily stand up and walk back to the shore.
Current On a wavy spot there are always crossshore currents created by the waves. They go along the shore and back into the ocean (rips, which you can spot thanks to the choppy water it creates). The currents along the shore can be used when they’re going opposite the wind direction. They will increase your speed as they push you windward. This is why you will feel more pressure on your board close to the shore than farther from it. Be careful: Even though the currents can be helpful, they can also be dangerous if not anticipated and well handled. Check with the local coast guards.
Gusty wind Gusts require permanent attention and work on edging. Gusty winds should be avoided, especially on land—they are kiteboarder killers. Yet in some spots having gust is common. Always fl y the kite lower than usual to avoid the kite collapsing or lifting without control. Having sharp edges on your board makes the riding more technical. Always keep an eye on kite position. Try to keep your knees bent to absorb shocks and be more reactive. Be ready to edge any time you see the kite going slightly backward; bend your knees and fl y the kite up and down before you lose speed. Try sheeting out and edge when you have enough power. A sheeted-out kite pulls better; its force is closer to the wind, so you can edge more.
Oscillating wind Oscillating winds change direction and always go back to the original direction. Well used, they can make you reach an upwind point faster. When you ride, your course has approximately the same angle to the wind at all times (the wind is the reference). If the wind is stable, you go upwind with an angle between 20° and 35°. Going upwind may take several tacks with a normal wind.
With an oscillating wind, when you start to lose course according to a fi xed point, you should always tack and ride upwind in the opposite direction. This will be the most advantageous because you can now travel at a sharper angle upwind than originally. This way, you can go upwind in two tacks where more tacks would be needed with non-oscillating wind. Continue riding in this direction until the wind shifts back. If you tack at this point, you will not go upwind but rather come back to your original point. By using the oscillating wind to your advantage, you’ll get upwind faster than if you randomly tack.