So you want to learn or want to improve your kiteloops?
A kiteloop is an intermediate technique that opens the door to an infinite number of new tricks and possibilities. As the name suggest, it “simply” consists of looping the kite by pulling the bar hard on one side. This usually generates a significant amount of power which eventually results in very impressive and fun tricks but also sometimes and unfortunately in injuries.
Here is a comprehensive guide to safely learn kiteloops that I have put together following all the various questions and requests for advices I got on the beach or online. Hope you enjoy it. Feedback is welcome.
Step 0 – Pre-requisite
When should you consider learning kiteloops? In my opinion, you do not need to be an expert if you follow the recommendations in this guide. As a minimum, you need to be fully confident in your ability to go upwind, jump, land properly, your kite control, do basic tricks such as a back roll and go downwind. So, the short answer is intermediate level. As always, make sure your have learned all the basic safety procedures with an accredited school.
Step 1 – Learn the theory
There are a lot of different factors that will influence the way the kite will move and generate force. Each of these factors can have individually a big influence on the loop. As a first step you don’t necessary need to fully understand all the theory below but being aware of these factors will probably help you a lot down the track. Some of the statements below might be obvious but try to think about what would happen when you start combining these factors together.
- Kite size: the bigger the kite, the slower the loop will be. It doesn’t mean big kites are not suited for kiteloops. They actually excel at certain types of loops such as low kiteloops (e.g. darkslides, hand drags, etc). However, I would not recommend doing big loops (>4-5 m height) with a kite bigger than 11m. I will explain why below.
- Kite shape: all kites are different and the way they loop can be very different based on their type and shape. A C shape kite for example will tend to do a perfect circle and generate uniform pull. If you change kites, be prepared to something different. You should know that some kites are simply not good at looping; before attempting anything, try to get more information about the looping ability of your kite.
- Line length: the shorter the lines, the faster the loop will be. Loops on short lines can be very impressive because it allows the rider to loop the kite very low, even below the rider level.
- Bar size: longer bars will allow you to pull the kite with a bigger force and will usually make it loop faster. However, your kite will also become more sensitive and harder to control.
- Wind strength: again, this is an obvious one but the stronger the wind, the stronger the pull will be and the faster the kite will loop. You will also need to pull harder on the bard in stronger wind.
- Gusts: you should know that every kiteloop is different. Even with thousands of kiteloops under the belt, I still don’t know exactly when to expect when I engage a loop. Gusts will have a big influence on a kiteloop depending on the timing and you need to adapt while in the air. One of the most interesting timing is probably when a gust hits your kite when it is at its lowest level (full power) and is followed by a ‘wind whole’, we will see why later.
- Kite initial position: loopingthe kite from its normal cruising position (10/2 o’clock) will tend to make it loop in the power zone of the wind window. This will result in a long, fast and powerful loop. If you bring it to the zenith and on the edge of the window first, the kite will loop close to the neutral zone and will generate less power. This factor is the best tool you have to control the loop power, very important!
- Tension in the line: themore tension you have in your line, the stronger the pull will be and the faster the loop will be. This also means that the loop will depend on the relative direction and speed of the rider. More speed means bigger and stronger loops. If you go downwind, you will decrease the tension in the line and as a result, the loop will generate less power and will be slower. This also make the loops a very good technique to learn for downwinders. Kickers will also have an influence in the tension of the lines and on the loops.
- Kite and bar condition: just DON’T start any of this if you do not have reliable equipment. Loops can put a lot of stress on the kites and lines and you do not want to have an equipment failure at the wrong time.
Type of kiteloop tricks:
There are different categories of kiteloops tricks. Each category will require different technique, conditions and equipment.
- Surface kiteloop/downloop: these kiteloops can be used to generate more power for water starts, transitions or downwinders.
- Low kiteloop: the kiteloop is used to generate a lift that will keep you “floating” above water level for a few seconds. Famous tricks in this category includes the Jesus Walk, the Dark Slide or the Hand Drag. Very fun, very impressive and low risk.
- Small kiteloop: 1m to 4m kiteloop
- Big kiteloop: 4m to 8m kiteloop
- Megaloop: 8m+ kiteloop
- Unhooked kiteloop: yes, you can perform kiteloops unhooked too but they will not be covered in this guide.
Note: all the theory above is purely based on my personal observations and experience. Feel free to contribute!
"Photo courtesy: Martyn Griffiths"
Step 2 – Build muscular memory
Time to put the theory into practice. Familiarise yourself with the movement of the kite when looping. It’s easy, you just have to do it! Your muscle memory will do the rest by recording everything and adapting your reflexes as you practice.
- Do your first attempts in moderate winds (14-18 knots)
- Do not try to jump. Start with surface loops.
- Ride as slow as possible with just enough speed to keep you on the water.
- Bring the kite to the zenith before pulling the bar.
- Start with downloops (looping with the front hand)
- Go sightly downwind with moderate speed to reduce the tension in the line
- Pull hard on the bar when ready to initiate the loop. If you followed all the instructions above, the kite will take time to respond and will eventually start pivoting.
- The kite will pull you downwind. Be prepared to change direction and go downwind.
- VERY IMPORTANT: when the kite has completed the loop and is on his way up, let it come back to the zenith by pushing the bar away from you. Do NOT continue pulling the bar. Keeping tension in the back lines will prevent the kite from quickly coming back to the zenith. Try to practice and get the timing right.
- Start riding normal again only after the kite has come back to the zenith. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting that timing right.
- Play around with all the factors above to build your reflexes and learn to loop in both directions.
- Watch kiteloop videos or riders. This video will help you understand the movement with the bar.
Step 3 - Build confidence
Once you are familiar with the kite movement, you can start jumping and building confidence. Warning: it is usually at this stage that people get hurt. The key is to not by pass any steps in your progression. If the wind is too strong, stick to normal jumps until you have another chance to practice your loops again. You should also know that as part of the progression, you will automatically learn to crash without getting injured and it is crucial to let your body build this very important skill.
- Check your equipment before your session (lines, bridles and canopy)
- Wear an impact vest if possible. Rib injury is one of the most common injury when looping; I just had my third one :(
- Start with very small jumps (1-2 meters) in moderate winds (<18 knots)
- Loop the kite with your back hand on the way down just before landing or even after landing
- You will read in a lot of guides that when you engage a kiteloop, there is no way back and that you have to fully commit. From my experience, this is not true: you have quite a big window at the start of the loop (until about 3 o’clock) where you can still make the decision to abort the kite loop. Just make sure you pull hard on the other side to quickly bring the kite back to the zenith otherwise you will fall like a stone (which is why it is better to start with small jumps).
- The loop will tend to pull you backwards and initiate a bit of rotation. Counter balance this by bringing your front knee up.
- Always land with the board pointing downwind and always bring the kite back to the zenith after the loop.
- As you build confidence, start looping earlier, jump higher (up to 4-5 m) and in stronger wind (up to 25 knots). Using everything you have learned, make sure the loop is fast enough to complete the full rotation before landing. If you want to go bigger, go to step 5.
- Pulling the bar on your way up will make the kite loop faster as there is more tension in the lines than on the way down and it will give you more time to complete the loop to let the kite catch you before landing. However, the loop will be more aggressive which is why you will need to think big but start small.
- If you don’t get the timing right or experience a wind hole at the end of the loop, you will land hard. To avoid injuries, don’t try to resist: land on the board heel side with your toes downwind, don’t “block” your knees and fall on your butt. After impact, you will usually still have a lot of speed. Try to keep the kite at the zenith and use your board and eventually one of your hands to reduce speed. This is a pretty safe “crash procedure” even when landing very hard. Bad crashes usually happen when landing on the back or the side, try to avoid this situation if possible. Here are a few examples:
Step 4 - Develop your style
Tired of looking like a disarticulated puppet? Start developing your own personal touch by adding variations to the loops. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- After the loop on the way down, you can release your back hand for a grab or for a bar spin
- Try a kiteloop backloop. One of my favourite trick; extremely fun to perform. Be mindful that you will need to initiate less rotation than on a normal backloop.
- Learn low kiteloops tricks such as the darkslide or the hand drag.
- Add a late backrool on the way down.
- Front loop kiteloop is a nice and impressive trick too but harder to master.
Step 5 - Go big
Now the real fun begins. If you have fully covered the previous steps and still need more adrenaline, take a small kite (7-9m) in strong wind (28 knots+), go as big as possible (8m+) and initiate your loops about 2/3 of your maximum height. There are no words to describe this feeling.
The theory and the tips mostly remain the same with the following differences:
- You need to even pull harder on the bar and be more aggressive in general (more speed and more pop).
- Because of the height and the power generated, at the end of the loop the kite might end up behind you and drop like a dead leaf! To prevent that, you need to initiate a second kite loop or downloop when the kite is about to reach the zenith or as soon as you feel the tension coming back in the lines. This will also generate the pull upwards you will desperately need for a smooth landing. For megaloops, you need to be quite aggressive on the second loop and need to get the timing right for smooth landings. You might even have to perform a third loop. This will come with experience.
- If you want to play in this space and stay safe, you will need a minimum level of fitness. Strengthening and stretching exercises will help you improve your tricks and significantly reduce risks of injuries.
- Always listen to your body. Don’t take risks if your body is tired or injured. I know … “Do as I say but don’t do as I do”.
Well, thanks for reading. I hope this guide will help you with your progression. Don’t hesitate to contact me on Facebook if you have questions or would like to provide feedback and help improving this guide.
Ride hard … and safe!
Denys Karantonis, SoulKite Western Australia rider