Pro rider Marilou Lavallee on big airs
No other watersport lets you fly like a bird. With today’s modern kites, you might ask yourself whether a pilot’s license is in order. Well, maybe not but a flying lesson may help you reach new heights with your CORE kite.
How high you jump depends on technique, timing and practice. Whereas experienced kiters easily jump 20+ feet in height, professionals may jump double that or more. How do the Pros get that high? With kite and board speed. So practice safely and have fun trying!
Let’s for a moment discuss kite choice.
Some say go one or two sizes bigger. I disagree. An oversized kite might feel powerful, but it also loses some controllability. So it’s better to use good technique and a controllable kite like the XR4 or Free for big hangtime. To select the right kite, you need to find a size where the kite “powers up” when you pull the control bar approximately a third of the way. To check this, fly your kite in a safe location at twelve o’clock and pull in the bar. The sweet spot is where you feel progressively more bar pressure and you start standing on your toes. If this spot is in the upper third of the bar range; then it’s perfect for your big air session. If not, you can adjust your bar by shortening the back lines or extending the front lines. If that doesn‘t work, go one size larger.
Board and leash choice is next.
You need a board that holds an edge like the Fusion 2 with its progressive channels. If you plan on trying grabs, one legged tricks or boardoffs you will appreciate a big grab handle. A short leash like the one included with all models of the Sensor bar system is best for hooked-in maneuvers as it is less likely to get tangled in your gear. A long leash, on the other hand, is more appropriate for wakestyle.
Before you enter the water for your first or 100th big air session, you should always consider beach and kite safety.
What’s your spot looking like? With big air, forget about shallow water… It’s all about deep water (or at least
shoulder deep water). Is the wind consistent and blowing side-onshore? Onshore winds can blow you onto the beach before you know it. And forget about offshore winds. Do you have enough room with no downwind obstacles like swimmers, kiters, surfers etc? Are you far enough away from the beach or other kiters in case something goes wrong? Did you check your gear for wear and tear? Are you sharp? Or have you been kiting for hours and are very tired. Remember to play safe and start small. You can develop good timing and technique just as well on smaller jumps. And the more you practice, the better your technique and timing.
Now, for your flying lesson:
1. THE APPROACH
Look downwind, spot your take-off and look 100 meters further. Is it all clear? With your kite at 11 or 1 o’clock (depending on your tack) start accelerating upwind. The more speed you have on take-off, the higher your flight. Edge too hard and you will kill your speed. You need to find the right balance between edging hard and maintaining your speed.
Now focus on your take-off point. Your take-off spot could be flatwater or a nicely ramped wave. Ramps add huge height when your timing is on. If your timing is off, you will likely swing like a pendulum. Although the XR4 is the king of hangtime, it still takes time, practice and experience. So don’t get frustrated. Keep on trying! While edging hard, firmly move the kite in the opposite direction (of your travel) say from eleven to one o’clock (if your left foot is forward). Continue edging and then jump as the kite approaches twelve o’clock.
Jump too early or too late and you will lose all your height.
3. LIFT AND HANGTIME
And now the fun part. Pull in the bar all the way and hold it there. Holding in the bar extends your hangtime and delivers a smoother landing. This is where the XR4 excels. Like a bird that spreads its’ wings to generate more lift, the XR4 increases its’ wingspan with a pull on the bar. Pull in your knees and make yourself small for easy body control.
And continue to fly the kite directly overhead and downwind. As you progress, add some board grabs for style points.
4. THE LANDING
As you drift down, focus on your landing downwind. Your knees are slightly bent and ready to cushion the impact. Just before landing move your kite back to eleven o’clock to give you forward momentum to land planing. Continue to hold in your bar and point your board in the same direction as your flight as you make contact with the water.
A soft landing means you did everything perfect! Congratulations! Now release that adrenaline rush with a few fist pumps and whoo hoos because you just landed your first big air.
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