How to do a boardstart

Help, I’m not getting up on the board!

Some beginners wonder what the average time is to get up riding on the board. To give some kind of prediction over how long time it will take for you to get up on the board is however meaningless. Some will get up on their first try, while other struggle a whole summer before they finally manage to ride a few meters. It is no matter what of course frustrating to not be able to get up on the board, epecially when it seems like a child’s play for your friends. But don’t worry, I’ll here give you some tips that will help you 🙂

Suppose that we have the following scenario:

You have taken a kitesurfing course and have since been kiting once a week for two months. For some reason you’re still having problems getting up on the board and you havn’t been able to ride more than a few meters before you sink or crash down in the water. So what can the problem be?

Let us begin with doing some premises to eliminate eventual errors.

If you have taken a course then your instructor hopefully have tought you have to generate power in the kite. So first some tips.

  1. Create enough power in the kite, don’t be too wary. Don’t be afraid to take a kite that is one size bigger. With more power it will be easier. If you’re afraid to take a bigger kite, then take a bigger board.
  2. Don’t start edging with the board right away. Instead in an initial state plane out the board and point it downwind to gain some speed. This will help.
  3. Don’t think too much on all the do’s and don’ts, it will only make it more complicated, just do it! 🙂

Let’s get to the bottom with your problem.

Do you fall forwards?

If you fall over the board, hence in the direction you intend to surf (over your front foot), then the problem is that you have too much weight on your front foot and you do not point the board downwind enough when you try to do your boardstart.

Do you fall backwards?

If you fall backwards and crash down in the water with your ass first (towards the back edge at your back foot), then you probably have too much weight on your back foot and it’s possible that you do have to point the board more downwind.

Don’t you have enough power in the kite?

I see many beginners that enter the water with a too small kite (or with a board that requires more wind), or they have pulled the depower strap too much, or they keep their arms too far from their body with stratched out arms, or they kill the power in the kite by sheeting the bar all the way down to the chicken loop, or they do powerstrokes that aren’t powerful enough. Any or a combination of these errors make everything much harder. The most common mistake is in any case that the beginner sheet in the bar all the way to the chicken loop where they desperately cling to it. The result from this course of action is that the kite will fly slower and lose its power. All that often this ends with him/her falling backwards (since the kite don’t have enough power to pull the rider up on the board), thereafter one lets go of the bar which in turn make the kite rush through the powerzone to the edge of the wind window.
How to solve these mistakes?

You that reads this and who struggles with getting up on the board have perhaps already tried all the above tips. You steer the kite into the powerzone, you point the board downwind, you fly the kite up and down in the powerzone, you keep the bar in a good position, etc… Still, you’re not getting up on the board! Most likely you’re thinking too much. You know in theory how to do a boardstart, it just doesn’t work in practical. Let’s try a new method that will make it easier for you!

  • Focus SOLELY on getting up to a standing or half standing position upon which you immediately fall back (on purpose) in the water. Only ride a few meters. Don’t think about surfing the water in this state. Repeat again and again. This simple manouver will limit all those things that you “must” keep in mind. Repeat this exercise until you effortless can get up to a standing position at least 10 times in a row, in both directions. Now is the time to test ride longer distances.

With this exercise it doesn’t matter so much which size you have on your kite or your board. Even though you take a kite that is way too small for you to be able to ride with it, then you can always practise powerstrokes that get you up on the board bfeore you fall back in the water again.
Two tips that will give you help on the way

  1. We steer the kite through the wind window in order to get up on the board, this creates the necessary traction force. DO NOT pull yourself up by pulling the bar!
  2. A little Lite assistance with the above. The moment as you feel the pull in the kite (it requires a bit of feeling and practise to know exactly when the pull comes) then roll forward with your upper body towards your bended knees and let the drag form the kite pull you up on the board.

A common mistake (as already mentioned) most people do is that they handle the control bar in an utterly rough way and use nothing but mere arm strength in their attempts to get up on the board. Relax and practise the above tips.
When and how to sheet in/sheet out the bar?

To learn how much to sheet in or sheet out the bar on pure instinct is tricky for many beginners. Pretty much all beginners sheet in the bar way too much, but do not despair. The step after you have learned to get up on the board is just to learn how to handle the bar in a correct way.

Before we go further there are a few things to sort out when it comes to sheeting the bar in to create more power. Someone has perhaps told you that it helps to sheet the bar in to create more power as you’re about to do a boardstart. This fact is partly a myth. This technique works solely when you’re up riding on the board. So by sheeting the bar in you either increase or decrease the power in the kite depending on the situation.

  1. If you sheet in the bar while steering the kite down towards the water (the correct manouver) and then continue sheeting the bar all the down to the chicken loop (incorrect manouver) where you keep it, then the kite will make a fast turn down in the wind window, but it fly slowly through the wind window and create less power to pull you up from the water. So what you’ll have to do is to initially sheet in the bar as you steer it down towards the water, whereupon you she out the bar a bit so that it flies with high speed through the wind window. A high speed in the kite as it flies through the wind window is what creates the most power, NOT a bar that is fully sheeted in. Hence, begin with sheeting in the bar in order to quickly turn the kite and steer it down against the water, but sheet out the bar a bit once you have set the kite in motion whereafter you sheet it in again to be able to quickly turn and steer the kite back up in the sky. Are you following? To know how much to sheet the bar in and out requires practise and it also depends on the wind strength. The distance that you’ll have to fly the kite down also also depends on the windspeed. The stronger wind, the shorter powerstrokes is required and vice-versa. All in all, use the above described technique and you’ll get up on the board.
  2. The above description does however not count as you’re up riding on the board and have the kite in a parked position. A parked position means that you’re not flying the kite up and down in the wind window. If you do then it applies to the same technique as in point 1.
    If the kite on the other hand is in a parked position, then you can position the kite further down in the wind window by sheeting the bar in which creates a stronger pull. Sheet out the bar and the kite will position itself closer to the edge of the wind window which creates less drag. Have a go with the kite (in knee deep water) and fly it back and forth through the wind window with the bar fully sheeted in and you’ll notice have slow the kite flies. Then fly it according to the method described under point 1 and you’ll notice a big difference when it comes to the speed and power in the kite.
  3. There is yet one thing that will make life easier for you. As you’ve just gotten up on the board and gently is flying the kite up and down in the wind window then stretch your limbs and rise, lean forward a bit, ease the edging as you ride against the kite close to straight downwind. If you on the other hand is diving the kite more aggressively close to the water or if you’re keeping the kite low in the wind window, then you can edge harder with the board.

I hope you have learned something from this theory lesson and don’t think so much next time you’re in the water 🙂


/Gustav – IKO Kitesurfing Instructor

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