Jump with a kite? This is how you do to jump high with your kite!

How to jump with a kite?


You that start kitesurfing will sooner or later discover the beauty of jumping with the kite. You may have seen videos where various maniacs make kitesurfing look more like parachuting than surfing. Learning to jump requires a bit of practise but above all technique and to play it cool!

Perhaps have you already been kitesurfing for a while and have started to try jumping. You have noticed that by quickly steering the kite up to 12 o’clock a vertical force is generated that lift you up from the water, so far so good! Then what happens? Well, you drop down like a stone and make a splash in the water, even though you were only a few feet above the surface. Thousands of times I’ve seen people splash into the water simply because the do not know how to jump and even less how land softly onto the water. Are you one of these? Then continue read for here follows a thorough guide in how to jump with a kite!


Why can we jump?


Jumping requires a lot of energy. We have a good amount of kinetic energy as we are kitesurfing on the water as a direct result of the kite’s propulsive movement through the air. We can transform the kinetic enegy into potential energy by taking control of aerodynamical forces. The difference between kinetic energy and the potential energy is that kinetic energy is an exponential function of the wind speed while potential energy is a linear function of the height. Hence, we can theoretically perform a jump of a certain height by using these two fysical functions. This theoretical height can be achieved by using the right technique with a kite.


So how do you do it?


We have found that some amount of kinetic energy is needed to jump. Assuming that there is enough wind to make a decent jump, then the jump can be divided into three steps; the take off, the jump and the landing. In this guide we’re jumping with regular stance (most people prefer to jump with their left foot forward).


Start – This is about maximizing the induced wind, that is to increase the kinetic energy. This can be done by using some techniques.

  1. Make sure to ride with good speed since we want to increase the induced wind speed.
  2. Slightly bear away the second before you initiate the jump. Again to increase the speed further and to create tension in the lines.
  3. Begin carving up against the wind as you steer the kite back against 12 o’clock. NOTE! Don’t carve too much, we don’t want to break and lose speed.
  4. Steer the kite aggressively up to about 12:30 (left foot forward). Make sure that you have the bar positioned in its “sweet spot”, that is the position where you feel the bar pressure and where the kite reacts instantly from your movements with the bar. The position of the sweet spot depends on the kite and its setup, the wind speed and if you’re riding with full power or depower. Full power is vindstyrkan samt om du kör med depower eller full power. Moreover, full power is recommended since the steering of the kite tends to become less direct when you have pulled the depower strap. As you have steered the kite up to the point where you feel the lift, then sheet in the bar fully and keep it there for the time being.
  5. Timing, timing! Try to time step 3 and 4 so that you’re pulled up from the water right after you have carved up against the wind and when you have maximum tension in the lines. Pull your shoulders back and lean backwards to further increase the tension. The lines will to some extent act as springs that will be stretched out before they go back to their normal length in resting postion.

Jump – To follow every single step to perfection in the above description is of course difficult or close to impossible, but hopefully you’ll manage to do something right to get that vertical lift that will make you airborne. For many it is in this phase that they fuck up everything. Common problems that you see are:

  1. Rotation and imbalance in the air.
  2. Jumps that start well, but that ends in a splash.
  3. Long jumps instead of heigh jumps.

Rotation and imbalance in the air. This is partly caused by the take off as you leave the surface. Keep your body parallel with the kite throughout the start as well as the jump (your head and upper body should point in the same direction as where the kite is positioned). Partly it is also caused by not pulling your knees up. It will become significantly easier to keep your balance and prevent involuntary rotation in the air by pulling your knees up towards your waist.


Jumps that start well, but that ends in a splash. The reason to why many drop like stones is due to sheeting out or even letting go of the bar. It’s natural to feel a certain discomfort as you more or less uncontrolled start flying upwards. A reaction to this is to sheet out or to letting go of the bar to reduce the power in the kite. Then what happens? Well, the kite flies to the edge of the wind window where it sure enough loses its power with you crashing hard down in the water as a result. Keep the bar sheeted in!


“I’m keeping the bar sheeted in but still crash hard in the water” Stay tuned, we’re coming to this problem soon =)


Long jumps instead of heigh jumps. There is nothing wrong with making long jumps, but for many it happens involuntary when they actually are aiming to get as high as possible. There are two reasons to why your jumps become long instead of high.

  1. At the start you don’t carve enough against the wind or you’re are not holding the edge enough to counteract the vertical pull from the kite. The result is then that you rather are being jerked forward than upwards as you leave the water. Create more counterweight using both your body and board in a proper manner.
  2. You steer the kite too aggressively from about 10 to 12 o’clock. This maneuver might cause the kite to position itself quite low in wind window and therefore yanks you forward instead of upwards.
    Genom denna manöver är det vanligt att kiten hamnar långt ner i vindfönstret och på så sätt rycker dig framåt istället för öppåt. Aim to position the kite in about 10:30 to 11 o’clock and steer it slowly at first and more aggressively as you get close to 12. This technique will make it possible for you to counteract the forward pull.

The landing – Probably the hardest part in a jump. Everyone can land small jumps, just point the board downwind and you should be fine. High jumps are more crucial… here, keeping the bar sheeted in is not enough. To get a perfect soft landing one must perform two maneuvers, that must be timed well!

  1. Extra lift. As you begin to descend from the apex of the jump, then you can create a little extra lift by sheeting out the bar a little bit whereafter you pull it towards you again. Do this maneuver as you are closing in to the surface.
  2. Steer the kite back. A reason to why you fall down in the water after a jump is because you have “forgotten” to steer the kite back to its original position in front of you. You simply land with no propulsive power at all. You should therefore after the above previous maneuver (extra lift) steer the kite forward to about 9:30. A perfect timing of the redirection of the kite in combination with the extra lift will give you a smooth landing. The timing for these two maneuvers vary depending on the height of the jump, but as a general rule you’ll have to begin these maneuvers earlier the higher the jump. The kite will tend to fly further back behind your head when the hang time is longer (the kite strives to the edge of the wind window). If you redirect the kite too early then you’ll land hard and with high speed. Trail and error is what it takes. NOTE! The above technique works for SLE-kites a.k.a. bow kites, which is the most common model on the market. The technique to jump with C-kites are different. You can not create the extra lift before the landing with c-kites with the technique described above. Instead you’ll have to redirect the kite with the bar sheeted in as you go down for landing.

Is it possible to boost the jump even more?

Yes, it’s fully possible!

  1. Take advantage of waves! Waves act as small (or big) ramps that can give you several additional meters to your jumps! To time the jump so that you leave the top of the wave in the exact moment as the kite pulls you up is not easy. A fast kite and flat water in front of your targeted wave will makes things easier.
  2. Move your centre of gravity down/backwards. Bend your knees quickly and sink down with your hip a little bit right before the takeoff. This movement will create maximum tension in your lines. You can compare yourself and the kite as a long spring that you want to extend and fill up with as much potential energy as possible before it’s being retracted again. Use your legs for an explosive takeoff in the exact moment as you leave the surface.
  3. It’s written above that you should steer the kite up to 12 as you jump. This is advantageously for maximum hang time, but it’s better to steer the kite to 1 o’clock for higher jumps. Why? Well, to achieve maximum height then we must convert all of the kinetic energy into potential energy. This means that we must try to break our body’s movement and forward motion close to zero. As you are in the apex of the jump then all of your forward speed should have been converted into potential energy (height) and you will only travel forward with the current wind speed.
    Suppose that you ride with a speed of 40 km/h. This speed must be decelerated and converted to height. If you steer the kite up to 12 then you will get lifted, but you will still travel in the air with high speed. By doing this your hang time will be good, but you’ll not reach that high.
    If you instead steer the kite past 12, then the kite will act as a base for a pendulum. You are being swinged upwards! Your forward speed decreases and gets converted into height as you’re being swinged upwards.

As you fly the kite past 12 then you’ll jump higher since you convert the kinetic energy into height.
For maximum hangtime do not fly the kite past 12 too long since the pendulum effect will fade away as you’ve reach apex and you’re losing hangtime.
To reach high and still have a good hangtime then we must compromise a bit. Steer the kite past 12, but not too far and not too long. By doing this you’ll achieve height as well as decent hangtime.


Some last words

Learning to jump high and to make perfect soft landings is nothing you learn in a day. Don’t aim to high and learn how to land small jumps as you also become comfortable with the height. You’ll learn that the art of jumping require a lot of trail and error. Just don’t give up, repetition is the mother of skills! My own record is 14,9 meters so the challenge is up 😉

Moreover, here is a pedagogical video that describes how to jump high, watch and learn!

/Gustav – IKO Kitesurfing Instruktör

jump with a kite