Kiteboarding Upwind: The Holy Grail

By Joanna Kowalska

Staying upwind on a kiteboard is The Holy Grail of kiteboarding.  There is nothing more reassuring than ending your session at the same spot that you launched from.  Kiteboarding is a downwind sport for beginners, but once you can ride both directions and do basic transitions you are ready to work on going upwind.  Consider these gear and technique tips, and you will be joining the ranks of other intermediate kiteboarders before you know it.

-Go big on your kite size.  You need to be powered to be able to track upwind.  If you are underpowered, you will only be able to go downwind.
-Ride a board with a flatter rocker line.  Larger flatter boards often times will provide you with the surface area and flat edge that give you drive upwind.

Speed is your friend.  Once you get your board speed, lock in your edge and push hard with your back leg.  It is really important to maintain your board speed no matter what the wind is doing.  If you are going fast you can go upwind.

Kite Low and Go. If you position your kite below 45degrees in the wind window, you can have better control of the kite by edging your board.  When the kite is high, you get pulled off your edge and go down wind.  With the kite low, you can edge hard, force the kite forward in the wind window and track upwind.

Stance is everything.  Keep your back knee bent and your front leg straight.  Dig your heels in so you are throwing a nice fan of spray off the tail of your board.  Open your shoulders and hips in the direction that you are going, and most importantly LOOK UPWIND!

Land Marks will help you keep tabs on your progress.  If you go whale watching out into the middle of nowhere, you will have a hard time gauging your progress upwind.  Establish a riding area that you are going to work in, set your land marks and ride to them.  Before you know it you will be riding upwind.

Going too far upwind can happen if you edge too hard and the kite moves all the way out to the edge of the wind window.  Correct this problem by cycling the kite or flattening your board to regain your board speed.  Once you have that board speed, start edging again.
Don’t look at the kite.  If you are watching the pretty colors on your kite, you will go downwind.  Your kite is downwind, so if you are looking downwind at your kite rather than upwind, you are going downwind.
If you ride with your kite really high in the wind window, you will get dragged off your edge. When the kite is above 45degrees in the wind window, there is a ton of upward pull.  This causes you to flatten the board and skip out.  Bring that kite low, so you can edge it forward in the wind window.

Joanna KowalskaJoanna Kowalska’s kiteboarding roots hail back Poland where she learned to kiteboard while she was in Veterinary School.  After graduating she traveled to Greece, Egypt, and Brazil before finally landing in Cape Hatteras in 2010, where she has coached hundreds of students at REAL WATERSPORTS.