The true story of keeping the kite at 12

Kite knowledge, iko

If you get used to keep the kite at 12, chances are that, one day, your kite is going to stall and will you be prepared to react in the proper way?! Do you know how to avoid a gigantic faceplant on the sand?

Now you might think: “what are you talking about, Gio? I can put the kite at 12 and remove my hands from the bar and drink a beer, do a pirouette, high five my best friend, read a newspaper and my kite will be still sat comfortably there at 12 waiting for me to tell it what to do.”

And I’ll tell you: “come to El Médano, or any other gusty spot, with 10 knots of gusts, try that here and you let me know how it goes.”

Getting used to keep the kite at 12 is dangerous. Not always of course, but you shouldn’t get used to it.

Granted: if you are coming from a spot that has nice stable wind you’ll have almost no issues there. But, if you want to become a more conscious kiter who knows what’s the safest approach, keep on reading.

Too often we forget that kitesurfing is an extreme sport and we start to take stuff for granted. We think “oh no, that will not happen to me” and then sbadabaaam – karma comes and slaps you in the face! So, let’s talk about safety and which things we can improve to become an even more badass kiter!

If the wind is gusty and we keep the kite at 12 the chances are higher for the kite to frontstall and drop in the power zone. If the kiter is lucky, he/she is going to fall on the ground and dragged only for a few meters. 

If the kiter is not lucky, the wind will pick up again while the kite is dropping in the power zone and you will be catapulted downwind. This is dangerous for the kiter but also for all the other people that are at the beach. And they are innocent and don’t deserve this 😛

I see on average 2 people per windy day experiencing this in El Médano. No joke. 

Even the IKO has taken a strong position on the kite at 12 o’clock issue:

IKO INSTRUCTOR MANUAL V.7

Let’s start from the basics: What is a kite frontstall?

A frontstall happens when the Angle of Attack of the kite becomes negative (for example the front lines lose tension or when the front lines are shorter than the back lines) and the kite drops forward towards the kiter. Granted, this mostly happens in light or gusty winds, but if you get used to keeping the kite at 12, when the time comes to test yourself in challenging conditions, you might forget about this and your could end up frontstalling. So, why not just avoid it altogether?

For me, the only reason to use the kite at 12 is when you move your kite from one side to another of the wind window. In general, in our kite life, we barely have to use the kite at 12 while at the beach…

Let’s review a few kitemare scenarios!

For the sake of this article, we will imagine our friend Joe, he’s a kite enthusiast and very eager to kite. He kites all the time he can. Joe is that one kiter friend that always has accidents and we never understand why. 

This is Joe:

Hello Joe!

1. Trim the kite at 12

Joe remembers to trim his kite every now and then, and, when he does, he always trims it at 12 o’clock. While trimming the kite two bad things might happen to Joe:

1) his can kite frontstalls because he pulls on the trim with strength because it might be stuck and whoopsie he creates a negative Angle of Attack, the front lines become shorter and so Joe scores an own goal – the kite frontstalls.

2) Joe’s kite has a too positive angle of attack and it backstalls. The kite backstalls when there is too much Angle of Attack (AoA). The back lines are too short compared to the front lines and vice versa. The kite will start to move backward trailing edge first, lose all its power, and crash. 

What Joe has maybe forgotten is that, while keeping the kite at 12 he’s making his life more complicated. When the kite is high up at 12 and it either front or backstalls it’s a long way down. While frontstalling, a gust could come in and pull him away as the kite is in the middle of the power zone. When it backstalls the kite could catch the wind and run towards the edge of the wind window, pulling Joe under the kite and frontstall as well! What a mess, Joe!!! And then everybody at the beach will say “oh, of course that was Joe…”

oh poor Joe

What can Joe improve? He could try to trim the kite with a 45 degrees angle, so if it frontstalls he could quickly move to find the tension in the frontlines. And, if it backstalls, the kite will be already on one side of the wind window and will be close to the ground. The damages in both cases will be less.

Bonus track: when a kite backstalls or frontstalls never pull the bar. If it catches power again, by having the bar pulled, we would be creating immediately full power to the kite! And how many time did we watch Joe flying away on the beach?!?

2. Walk upwind with the kite at 12

Our dear friend Joe, has just starting to ride and he still needs to do a lot of “walk of shame” to go back upwind. Joe walks upwing giving his back to the wind, walking backwards, with the kite at 12, one hand on the bar, one hand on the board. Joe, my dearest, walking backward limits your chances to see where you are going, there could be obstacles behind you like boards on the sand and you could fall. 

Aaaand that’s Joe again

What can Joe improve? Try to keep the kite at 45 degrees. Joe would then be able to turn his body towards the direction he want to go. It’s even easier to control the kite like this! And bonus, he can see where he is going 😛

Joe’s evolution to kick ass kiter

3. Being lifted with the kite at 12

It’s Joe’s first gusty and strong wind experience. He has never ridden with a 7-meter and today is the day! Joe launches the kite, brings it to 12, and all of a sudden, due to 10 knots gusts, he is being lifted vertically up in the air. He feels completely overpowered and out of control. The kite is pulling him up, and he does involuntary jumps. You run to grab his handle otherwise he would fly away…

First of all, he should ask himself, if he’s at a level that he can ride overpowered and maybe go for a smaller kite (or a beer).

What can he improve? 

What Joe doesn’t know is that by keeping the kite at 12 in strong gusty winds he has less ability to counterbalance the pull of the kite with his weight. 

Joe could have tried to keep the kite on the sides, at 45 degrees, in this way, he can use his weight more efficiently. And most importantly, if he lets go of the bar, the kite will drop on the sand and the fall will be smaller and less powerful than if it has to drop from 12.

4. Adjusting anything with the kite at 12

Or with the kite flying in general…

As Joe lowers down to adjust his footstraps flying the kite at 12, he’s doing something dangerous. You think:  “come on Joe it’s quite difficult to keep one eye on the kite while you have to look at your feet no?!” Also Joe could be pushing the bar down, shortening the frontlines and the kite could frontstall!

As Joe lowers down to connect the leash of his surfboard with the kite at 12, he could recreate a similar scenario as above.

Joe pushing down the central lines….

What can Joe improve? Adjusting harnesses, footstraps, helmets, drinking water (or anything else) it’s safer to do while the kite is parked. Sometimes just for laziness we think “it’s going to take only a minute” and sbadabammmm karma…. Imagine an F1 driver tying his laces while driving… it makes no sense. 

5. Talking with the kite at 12 

Joe just had the session of his life, but he is still not done yet. He comes out of the water, wants to share the stoke with his friends, and drink a sip of water. He doesn’t want to park the kite because “it’s only going to take a minute”…. So, Joe is standing with the kite at 12 for 10 min in the middle of a small crowded beach.

Next time you see Joe doing this, please remind him to park the kite. It’s the safer option as the kite could stall but also when he stands up with the kite at 12 in the middle of the beach Joe is a bit in the way of other kiters coming in and out of the water. Let’s be aware and respectful of the shared space on the spot.

Bonus track this amazing video from Jeremie Tronet about 10 Common Mistakes All Kiteboarders Should Avoid

Ciao ciao

Lagiokite

Beginner in kitesurfing: from fears to equipment selection

Kite knowledge

Reading time: 6 min

Yesterday I was invited to participate in a SheFlies event “BADASS BEGINNERS” as part of a panel to chat with beginners in Kitesurfing and Wakeboarding. The main topic was to talk about the hard part of starting these wonderful sports and sports in general I would say. I’ve found in front of me an incredible group of about 40 women eager to ask questions and know more about others´ experiences. 

Badass Beginners - SheFlies
Badass Beginners – SheFlies

It was an incredibly interesting call as some of us always think that we are the only ones going through some difficulties which instead are pretty much shared between the beginners.

I’m a constant beginner in a lot of things: kite foil, wing foil, surf, surf skate, balance boarding so I completely understand the frustration part of when your learning curve seems to slow down. Also being an instructor I live frustration through the eyes of some of my students as they might arrive with very high expectations and then the lesson plan doesn’t go as planned.

PKS Tenerife Kite School
PKS Tenerife Kite School

Let’s be honest, if you’ve learned how to kitesurf you know that there are several points where the learning process gets steep like the water start. Some of us have the impression to be stuck in the water start forever and ever and ever. No worries people… you are not alone!

Another incredible barrier that people don’t talk about but it’s shared is the fear of deep water and the unknown below. I know something about it … I fought against it for years just imagine that 6 years ago I would not enter the water alone, I would count the chances of getting eaten by a shark even in a swimming pool – irrational I know! And to be honest, in new spots, I still feel uneasy. 

r/thalassophobia - The unknown is lurking in the deep..
Thalassophobia

Some of us have beach anxiety, some have crowd anxiety, some have “what if I don’t make it back to the beach” fear, each one of us has is own little devil to fight. As Josie from SheFlies said when we are talking about an extreme sport this includes that there is a physical but also a mental barrier that needs to be overcome, and that’s right. As practicing an extreme sport means going out of your comfort zone, by a lot and this is never easy.

Planet Kitesurf Holidays | Picdump, Kitesurfing, Kitesurfen
Crowd anxiety

Another interesting point was about feeling that you don’t progress as much while learning in many different spots. And I can understand that. If you are a very beginner and you keep on changing the spot and instructors it takes a longer time to adapt as if you were an experienced kitesurfer. So you “waste” time in getting to know the spot and the instructor needs to get to know you instead of getting in and go for the exercise you’ve done the last time. So, piece of advice, if you want to learn to kitesurf the best solution is to take a few days and go to an easy spot so that you can learn all the basics at once and then you have those locked in.

People sometimes ask me “how long does it take to ride on a board?” This is one of the most difficult questions to answer as it depends on the person. It depends on the spot you are: if it is a flat lagoon with stable wind or a wavy spot with gusty wind. Trust me the first option is way easier. It depends if you have a little devil to fight against (see above). It depends if you are a coordinated person or not. I would say that it could take you 8-10 hours to do your first meters on the board. Some might need less and some might need way more.

PKS Tenerife Kite school

As the call moved forward more technical questions arise and I noticed that sometimes when it’s time to buy your material there is a bit of uncertainty about what to buy.

So here´s a guide on HOW TO SELECT YOUR EQUIPMENT!

The first items that I would buy would be a wetsuit (in case you are in a spot you need it) and the harness.

RRD Sense Harness
RRD Sense Harness

OMG THE HARNESS!!! I spent 1 year with the wrong harness and after 30 min of riding my back would hurt!!! You need to find a harness that will suit your body like a glove. My suggestion is to buy a new harness as it usually lasts lots of years, almost forever I would say. I used mine for 5 years and then the fabric parts start to wear out so it does not look cool anymore but it’s still functional and can be used. Even if you don’t plan on buying all the equipment because you’ll rent it. If you have back problems having your harness will help a lot. Last but not least, during most of the classes you wear a seat harness but when you buy your first one you can upgrade to a waist harness unless you have heavy back problems.

By the way, nowadays most brands have specific lines of harnesses for women some of the best ones are RRD Sense, Mystic Diva, ION NOVA CURV, Ride Engine Elite.

For all the rest, as a beginner, you don’t need brand new shiny equipment. You need good second-hand equipment that you can destroy and won’t feel so bad about it. Your first kite is going to be your guinea pig and you’ll have to experiment a lot with it. Make lots of errors and lots of crashes. I’ve bought a brand new kite after 5 years of kiting.

The kite.

Different kites´ shapes and performances
Different kites´ shapes and performances

 As a beginner the safer choice is a 4 lines re-ride safety system (which is the most common one) in terms of shape it can either be bow or hybrid. As long as you stay clear of pure C-kites for your beginner kite and a 5 lines bar you’ll be good. The C-kites are hard to water re-launch and the 5th line could be a nightmare in some cases.

The canopy and fabric: It is not recommended to buy a kite older than 4-5 years, although it also depends on how they were used. You will need to check how worn-out is the kite. Usually, the fabric of new kites is very crunchy when you touch it. So if you feel there is no crunching sound left when touching the kite it might be too worn-out. You would need to also check reparations, holes in the fabric. If it has a big reparation that could have an impact on how the kite flies.

The valves: You need to check that the kite stays inflated to do so usually it’s best to inflate the kite and wait for 30min. When checking the valves you need to see that they are well attached and that the tubes are not dry or cracked if so, this means that they have lost elasticity and they will break.

Try to buy a one-pump kite it means that you’ll have to inflate it only from one valve instead of inflating all the struts separately and then inflate the leading edge.

The kite size.

Which size is good for you? This is a very tricky question. If you have your home spot, I would start to buy one kite that will allow you to ride most of the wind days. If you will travel a lot then having two kites a small and a big would be recommended so that you can cover more wind range. Choosing the right size of the kite is not a specific science and there are plenty of different points of view. 

Somebody has created a formula to calculate the kite size to choose:Weight (kg) / wind (knots) x 2.2 = size of kite you should be using

E.g. 58 kg / 16 knots x 2.2 = 7.9 so use an 8m kite.

Here’s another chart from Surfertoday.com 

Weight - wind- kite chart
Weight – wind- kite chart

The best suggestion is: when you go to your lesson always check how many knots and which size you are using and if you felt good or not with it. So that you start to be aware of what’s the best size for you. 

*Please remember that this is just an indication for beginners, then when you start to be more experienced you will be able to choose the kite size depending on your style!

The bar.

The most important thing, the safety system needs to work perfectly and smoothly. You might want to check how the bar and lines alignment, watch this video for the instructions on how to do it (from min 1:15)

How to check your bar alignment

The board 

TWIN TIP GLOBAL RANGE RRD Y25 on Vimeo

Choosing the right board size is also a fun game. The best option is to start with a twin-tip and the size depends mostly on your weight and your home spot conditions. 

More or less these are the most recommended measurements based on weight for a beginner:

• 55kg / 65kg = 39/41 x 132/136 cm

 • 65kg / 75kg = 40/43 x 136/142 cm

 • 75kg / 85kg = 41/44 x 138/145 cm

 • 85kg / 100kg= 43/45 x 140/148 cm

Then you need to know that if you are on a flat spot you can use a slightly bigger board but on a wavy/choppy spot a big board can challenging and too heavy. 

In flat water you can use a more stiff board (like a carbon one) however for choppy spots is suggested to use a more flexible one so your knees won´t hurt so much!

Hope this article was helpful, if you want to know more or have questions comment below or reach out to me!

And to all the beginners out there, I know sometimes learning to kitesurf can be frustrating and a struggle but don’t give up because once you’ll be able to ride it will change your life forever!

If you want to know more about the next online events of SheFlies click here or follow SheFlies on Instagram

Ciao ciao, LaGioKite

If you are not doing it already follow me on Instagram too 😛  and if you come to Tenerife come to El Médano to say “hello” in the windy days I´ll be at the beach working as kite instructor with the PKS Tenerife School!