Hi, This is a great thread , as a newbie foiler thought I’d add my two cents worth.
Been kiting for 7 years now, maybe 4 years on freerace directionals ( Airush Sector) and surfboards. Weigh around 80kg if that helps. For you experienced guys please excuse me for stating the bleeding obvious , my comments are more designed for something thinking about getting into foiling or struggling after their first session or two.
Been out for 5 sessions so far, started foiling on the fourth but had a couple of major scary bailouts as well (eg overpowered the foil , fell towards foil then the whole foil assembly ended up through the lines above the bar and the kite was death looping –yikes !) . Respect the foil , it can bite.
Fifth session today, long controlled runs, no scary amputation-inducing crashes.
What I have learned so far – two main categories :
A: Set-up - Conditions and kite choice and
B: What to do on the board
A: Conditions and kite choice
1: Do NOT go out in dead onshore winds – it is a recipe for extreme , mega-swearing frustration, and grinding of your new foil. Cross shore or cross onshore is a must as others have mentioned. Even if you are desperate to try out your new toy, find a spot with cross or cross-on winds ( and sufficient water depth) or wait til another day. Seriously, two of my five days were light wind onshore write-off’s, just because I was over-keen. Onshore winds also mean you are potentially being pushed towards swimmers and other beach users, a stressful and uncool situation that won’t win you many friends (its summer here and beaches can be busy) when you are struggling to control your gear.
2: Also, don’t go out in 10 knots or less , with your slow gargantuan kite – 15 knots and a mid size kite will be WAY better. We have all seen the videos of the gurus kiting in under 10 knots , but do yourself a favour. You will drop the kite after the board ejects you while you are learning , and won’t be able to relaunch it as you’ll be out of your depth , being dragged in to shore by your kite so no line tension at that wind speed . I have suffered two of my five days of learning drifting a few hundred metres across the bay towards shore. Numerous times. I finally made progress in a 15 knot cross onshore day with a 10m kite ( 3 strut Naish Park, fast , light , easy to relaunch, and you don’t need to look at where it is all the time).
3: Expanding on point 2 above , you need to factor the kite out as much as possible – there’s enough going on just handling the board without trying to struggle to keep a kite in the air in light winds as well. You get used to handling the board reasonably quickly but it’s a PITA early on – I have to say the experience I had from using other directionals really helped , in terms of how you use the footstraps to manipulate the board . The kite needs enough wind to fly stably and relaunch so you are able to forget about it.
You don’t need much power. You really only need the power to get you up out of the water and onto the board, then it is crazy how little power you actually need from there on.
When I was on my 10 the other day the twin tippers were on 12’s. Today was on a 14 metre in 12-14 knots , had a lot of depower on at times to avoid overpowering the foil – a 12 would have been better in reality. It’s a new paradigm. I don’t see me getting a kite bigger than my 14 for the foreseeable future, if you drop a big kite in under 10 knots you are in for a big swim for sure ( hello Coast Guard !).
B: What to do on the board
1: It has been mentioned elsewhere but my number one tip is sheet out to maintain control. When you dive the kite initially you only want to get up on the board , not start moving forward at high speed .
• Dive the kite moderately ( not full bore) and sheet out as you come up. You should be going downwind , kind of like when you learned to ride a twin-tip – the first dive brings you up and over the board to start , let the board run downwind to buy you time to get the kite back up , then bring the board’s heading up a bit as you sine the kite the second time. Weight on the front foot
• Slog along with the board flat for a bit , focusing on kite control and pull through the harness. If you need to pull on some depower do so . Weight still on the front foot - DON”T DRIVE POWER FORCEFULLY THROUGH YOUR BACK FOOT !! ( unless you like to fly and swim straight afterwards). It is shocking how much lift the foil develops if you are heavy handed (or footed) as most of us have found out by now.
• If the board starts to rise onto the foil sheet out and weight your front foot to stay in control, its easy to get ejected if you don’t control the power. Get away from the board if it really rears up and you have to bail, or try to fall back if possible ( kind of carving the board into the wind) or forward into the water past the board’s nose, both of these last two leave you reasonably well set up for a restart.
• If you are foiling and see a gust coming or a big bit of chop , sheet out in anticipation and weight your front foot. Don’t fight the foil, it will win every time – makes you realise how much we just crudely force power into our twin tips and there is no real price to pay. Not the case here. You really need to actively feather the power when you are up and foiling , the bar pressure is light and the pull is through your harness.
2: If you want long sustained foiling periods bear off the wind a bit. That’s what I learned today - I went from maybe 30-50 m foiling distances heading upwind to hundreds of meters heading across / down wind, and it was easy to stay on the foil . And fast ! Although you better be wearing a good impact vest because when you come off at speed you are hitting the water hard and from a long way up. Think water skiing forces.
3: The things that other folk have mentioned are absolutely bang on
• Have straps on , keep them loose , use them to position the board, keep back foot out of strap at all times early on
• Wear helmet, full wetsuit, impact vest. The one time I wore a short suit I slashed my shin open.
• Use finesse – light kite control, ease it onto the foil via subtle transfer of weight to your back foot, when in the air use subtle weight shift to front foot and sheeting to control height
• It will take a few sessions to taste success – there is no real shortcutting it. Someone else mentioned it taking as long as learning to get up on the board when you first started kiteboarding lessons and I reckon that’s about right.
• These things go upwind like crazy – enjoy looking downwind at all your mates on their twin tips getting in each other’s way !!
Sorry for the long post ( and its more than 3 things , although there probably are 3 main things really) , I am just stoked with my progress over the last two sessions and some things really clicked. Getting the basics right ( cross shore wind of around 15 knots , small fast depowerable kite, sheeting out to avoid overpowering the foil ) has lead to much greater success instead of setting myself up for failure by rushing it in unsuitable conditions. Lots to learn yet but thought I would get it all down while it was still fresh in my head.
It’s an amazing feeling when you get up on the foil and then control it for extended periods - you are definitely flying ( gliding?) more than sailing, that’s for sure. It is strange , scary and super exhilarating. Who thought going straight could be so much fun?!!