1. DO NOT PULL THE BAR. If you have never taken a kitesurfing lesson before then this is probably the most important sentence you can read before beginning your journey to becoming an independent kitesurfer. Either that or you have already heard it a million times in your previous kitesurfing lessons! The basic concept being highlighted here is that when you pull the bar you get more power.... and when you are in trouble (perhaps you are getting too much power from your kite) and you begin to panic, you are instinctively likely to grip the bar tighter and pull it towards you. Most people do this so that they have something to hold onto whilst they start to crash. However, this will only make you crash even harder. You will end up getting more power just at the point when you wanted less! 99% of the time, when in doubt, it is a far better option to simply either entirely release the bar, or, more commonly, to push the bar gradually away from you. This not only depowers the kite but also relaxes the tension in the steering lines (on the outside of the bar) which, in turn, makes the kite turn more slowly. So, in your first kitesurfing lesson, if you hear your instructor repetitively saying the words 'release the bar' don't worry, its all part of the plan ;)
2. HAND POSITION IS IMPORTANT. Just like in golf, tennis or beach volley-ball. We don't want to see you holding the bar with your hands right to the edges as this will make your kite overly-sensitive through the turns. This also doesn't lend itself well to when you want to fly the kite with one hand because if you let go with one hand and the other hand remaining on the bar is far to the left or right the kite will immediately start to veer off to the side, falling down to the edge of the wind window. Perhaps you are trying to put the board on your feet and you want to keep the kite steady at 12 o'clock... in this case, again, we should keep our hands as close to the middle of the bar as possible. If you watch any pro kitesurfer, whether in the racing discipline, freestyle or wave-riding, you will see that they place their hands close to the centre of the bar. Keep this in mind for your next kitesurfing lesson!
3. ALWAYS TRY TO KEEP SOME TENSION IN YOUR STEERING LINES AND REMEMBER THAT YOU CAN STILL FLY YOUR KITE WHILST RELEASING THE BAR. This comes into the notion that we should always essentially have tension on at least one of the steering lines. This, in time, will allow you to be able to know where the kite is in the sky and to fly it, without having to watch it all the time. Most beginners that I give kitesurfing lessons to mention that they get a stiff neck from having to arch their head back and watch the kite flying high above them all the time. We never have this problem, and that is because we are not watching our kite when we are flying it. Experienced kitesurfers will always keep just enough tension in their lines 1) to have sufficient power and pull from their kite, and 2) to be able to feel where the kite is without having to look at it. Keep in mind that if you push the bar away from you this is most likely because you want less power from your kite. Of course, feel free to push the bar away from you, but try not to do this symmetrical on both sides of the bar as by releasing the tension in both of your steering lines simultaneously you will lose control of the steering. As you release the bar, continue to guide our kite to where you want it to go or remain by maintaining a little tension on one of the steering lines.
4. WHEN YOU RELAUNCH AND LAND YOUR KITE YOUR BAR SHOULD BE FULLY RELEASED. Having the bar fully released means two things... 1) your kite will be fully depowered 2) you will not have any tension in the steering lines. This means that whilst you are unlikely to be pulled by your kite, you are also going to find steering the kite very difficult. It is far safer to land and launch your kite on the beach when your kite is fully depowered and to bring it down to the edge of the wind window (to 9 0r 3 o'clock) gently and slowly. To do this, you need to control the descent of the kite by holding the end of the floater of the top steering line. This will allow you to keep the bar fully released, diminishing the power of the kite, whilst also controlling its descent. You can use the same technique for relaunching the kite, only taking the bar with two hands once your kite is high in the sky and close to 12 o'clock.
5. WHEN THE KITE IS AT 12 O'CLOCK YOU SHOULD ONLY EVER HAVE ENOUGH TENSION THAT YOU CAN STEER THE KITE BUT NOT SO MUCH THAT YOU ARE BEING PULLED DOWNWIND. Going downwind is the ultimate frustration of anyone during their kitesurfing lessons or if they are riding by themselves. This is because you will most likely have to do the dreaded 'walk of shame' back up the beach in order to reclaim your upwind position. This is tiring and it eats up a lot of time. So, if your kite comes up to 12 o'clock try to release the bar slightly so that you can still control the kite but you are not being pulled downwind. Of course, when you dive the kite down on the left or right side of the wind window in order to generate power in the direction you wish to kitesurf then you can again pull in the bar.
6. YOUR CHEST SHOULD ALWAYS BE FACING YOUR KITE. During your next kitesurfing lesson, it is important to lean back enough that you are not constantly being pulled down-wind by your kite. If you are 'top-heavy' (i.e. standing too much upright) you will find that it is easy to be pulled over. In order to do this, you need to make sure that your chest follows your kite wherever it goes or is about to go. This way, you can then be ready to embrace the power and pull of the kite by leaning back into your harness and making yourself heavier. You should have your feet shoulder width apart, just as they will be placed on the board in order to have a solid footing, and your body angled back so that you are ready to be pulled by the kite.
7. TIMING IS EVERYTHING. If you are flying the kite on the beach during your next kitesurfing lesson, or if in the water and you are practicing diving the kite down into the power zone in order to generate power and be pulled by the kite, remember that leaning back is essential. You will have to lean back earlier than you think and to put a little faith in your kite. As soon as the kite begins its dive down into the power zone (the area directly downwind of you) you will begin to be pulled. It is important to lean back early and put some extra weight into your harness in order that you don't fall forward. If you fall forward into the water you are far more likely to lose your board, which can be difficult to recover. Thus, it is always better to fall backward onto your bum and try to keep the board on your feet so that you can simply put the kite back to 112 o'clock and try again!
8. USE YOUR LEGS TO STAND UP. When I teach the first waterstart kitesurfing lesson to a new student I find that they often think that by diving the kite down into the power zone this will magically result in them riding across the water. You need to remember that yes, of course, this is going to give you power, but you need to be strong and use your legs to get up on the board as quickly as possible. As soon as your kite begins to travel from 12 o'clock towards the power zone you need to use this pull from your kite to stand up and get a solid footing on the board. Standing up early and pointing your board in the direction that you wish to kitesurf means that when the kite does enter into the power zone you are ready to embrace the power and speed your kite will give you. If you stand up too late you will find that you go from sitting down to standing up with far too much speed and you will lose control.
9. LEARNING HOW TO KITESURF WILL TAKE AS LONG AS IT TAKES. PATIENCE, PERSEVERANCE, AND A LITTLE DETERMINATION ARE ALL THAT IS NEEDED. Our instructors often get asked, "how long will it take for me to be able to ride on the board or go kitesurfing by myself?". This is an impossible question to answer and one which is loaded with the wrong attitude to kitesurfing. Be patient. We know it can be frustrating at times when you lose your board or drop your kite in the water, but at the end of the day, there are worse places to be than the beach. And believe me, your kitesurfing instructor is doing everything he can to make you learn as quickly and safely as possible. So, enjoy the learning process and always learn from your mistakes. In any case, the longer you stay on the beach or in the water, the better your tan will be. Win-win.
10. YOU WILL BENEFIT FROM FLYING A BOW-KITE RATHER THAN A C-KITE. Bow kites are typically easier to re-launch, they have a larger wind range, and, more depower on the bar (this means that when you release the bar you can decrease the pull from the kite significantly). Bow kites are also usually easier to handle and much more accommodating to beginners or intermediate riders, with regard to their stable, steady pull (which is great for those of you who have only recently learned to ride on the board and want a steady pull from your kite). C-kites should be the exclusive choice of seasoned and extremely experienced freestyle kitesurfers who are looking to hone their unhooked tricks.