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Mastering The Bodydrag in Kitesurfing

Body Dragging With The Board

The body drag is one of those area’s of kitesurfing that seems simple at first glance but has a lot of nuances to it that can trip you up at all stages. Here we go through the entire bodydrag sequence from entering the water to bodydragging like a boss.

The course I mention in the episode is:

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Improve Your Lower Back Strength For Kitesurfing

Hip Bridge

Now that you’ve started building up some flexibility in your lower back it’s time to start looking at building up some strength in that areas. This will enable us to have more control over the kite when it’s trying to twist us into strange positions and really get the most out of our time on the water without worrying about aches and pains.

Here are some good exercises to get you started:

Hip Bridge

Hip Bridge

How to do it: Lie on your back, feet flat and hip-width apart, arms relaxed, and knees bent. Squeeze your buttocks as you lift your hips, creating a straight line from the knees to the shoulders. Hold for a slow count of two, then lower slowly. Build up to 10 to 12 repetitions.


Bird Dog/Superman


How to do it: Begin on all fours, knees hip-width apart and under the hips, hands flat and shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your abs by pulling belly toward spine. Keep the spine neutral, without arching the back or rotating the hips, and extend your right leg back and your left arm straight ahead. Hold for two to three seconds or as long as you can maintain form. Repeat five to six times on each side.


Side Plank

Side Plank

How to do it: Lie on your right side, in a straight line from head to feet, resting on your forearm. Your elbow should be directly under your shoulder. With your abdominals gently contracted, lift your hips off the floor, maintaining the line. Keep your hips square and your neck in line with your spine. Hold 20 to 40 seconds and lower. Repeat two to three times, alternating sides. (If this is too challenging, start with bent knees.)




How to do it: With your abs gently contracted and hands on hips, take a big step forward with your right foot. Sink down so your right knee is at a 90-degree angle, then push back to the starting position without pausing. Repeat 8 to 12 times, then switch legs and repeat.

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Steady Pull – The Precursor to the Water Start

Steady Pull

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Once you are happy getting the board on your feet and keeping yourself in the water start position for a good 10-15 m each time, you’re ready to move onto the next stage: Steady Pull.

We’re now going to start using the power of the kite to pull you gently out of the water. The idea is still you should be underpowered enough that you cannot overfly the kite and take a flying trip over the front of the board. Rather you should have just enough energy when the kite is worked fully to lift yourself out of the water and ride for maybe a few metres (though this isn’t necessary at this stage, we are practicing the mechanics of the water start and are still not worried about riding).

From the water start position position, that is legs tucked well in and stomach crunched, start to move the kite in figure 8’s in front of you. Gradually increase the power until you are being lifted out of the water in what to an onlooker would appear like bum dragging, where your bum is lifting out and then splashing back down into the water. If you are in danger of going over the front of the board reduce the power in the kite. You’ll probably notice that by working the kite in this manner it is much more difficult to stay with your back to the wind, (as the kite tends to pull you left and right and all over the place) however it is essential that you do. Whenever you feel yourself being pulled off this back to wind position, stop, reposition yourself and start flying the kite once more.

Once you are happy with this exercise its time to modify the power stroke slightly. Let’s imagine you want to start riding to your right (simply do the inverse for riding to your left!). Drift the kite gently back to the 11 o’clock position. It is important that this is done slowly as rapid movements here will start to twist your body out of that all important back to wind position, which will mess up your start before its even begun. Once you’ve drifted your kite to 11 o’clock the idea now is to steer the kite hard in front of you. So that the kite should be aiming straight down towards the sea, directly downwind of you (remember to steer the kite out before it actually impacts!).

Steady Pull

The common error here is that people don’t steer aggressively enough. So instead of diving the kite at the water in front of them they sweep the kite over to around 2 o’clock. This means all the force from the kite is being generated in this right-hand side of the window. This inevitably leads you to twist around over the front of the board. By diving the kite in front of you, you are ensuring that the pull from the kite is also directly in front of you. This ensures you are being pulled straight forward (and up) rather than twisted sideways, which is much easier to cope with. This takes a little bit of getting used to as it doesn’t feel quite natural to start with but is an absolutely crucial aspect of mastering the water start. My advise, start small and build up with sharper and deeper turns.

Once you are confident you’re diving the kite in front of you, you are able to keep your back to the wind whilst doing so, and you are rising out of the water in a (semi) controlled manner you are ready to move onto the next stage.

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Putting The Board On Your Feet

Getting the board on your feet

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We now going to talk about one of the most important and under emphasized skills in kite surfing. Getting the damn board on your feet!

Most people simply assume that this skill will be almost automatic, unfortunately it is anything but. Yet it truly defines the difference between someone who will learn to kite and someone who’s just splashing around in the waves.

Once you can get the board on your feet and keep yourself steady, even when being battered by waves and strong currents. You will be able to practice the water start time and again, without worrying about the board staying on your feet or you spinning out under the kite.

First things first, before even worrying about the water I would start by practicing this on land, in light, non gusty wind. Fly your kite, sit down on the beach and simply practice getting the board on your feet.

Use The Force, Luke

Even at this early stage, 3 main principles apply:

  • You must keep your back to the wind at all times.
  • You must keep your eyes on your kite, you need to use the force to get the board on your feet.
  • To have any chance of getting the board on your feet at all you must make yourself as small as possible when bending your legs from the knees and crunching from the waist.

After you’ve mastered this, ditch the kite and head out into the water with the aim of simply practicing putting the board on your feet. If you do this pretending you do have a kite i.e. only using one arm, you can make it a little bit more realistic. The same principles we mentioned above still apply.

This may seem like a fairly pointless exercise but it is great for building up those neural connections you then need when you do this with a kite.

Strapless Kitesurfing

So now you’ve done that I will explain the reasoning behind it.

At this stage the key issue in getting the board on your feet is to crunch from the waist.

It is very easy especially when supported by the water to lie back. This not only increases the distance from your arms to your feet making it physically more difficult to get the board on, but also leads to you power the kite up involuntarily, which is the last thing you want at this moment.

Don’t Believe Me?

Perform a simple experiment.

Lie down on the beach with your knees bent, as if you were trying to get the board on your feet. Lay with your back flat against the sand. Now imagine the distance between your harness and your bar, if you were attached to the kite.

Now perform a simple crunch and look again what happens to the distance between your (imaginary) bar and your harness hook. If I’ve explained this at all well, so you actually have any idea what I’m talking about, you will see that when you crunch, the bar is naturally a lot further out than when you are lying on your back.


By letting the bar out you are de powering the kite, this means the kite isn’t trying to pull you left, right and all over the place while you’re performing the delicate task of placing the board on your feet.

Conversely when you’re laying back with the bar fully in (and the steering lines tight) every little movement of your hand is transferred to the kite which will be bucking around with power, attempting to thwart your best efforts to get the board on your feet.

Most modern kites will actually sit at the apex (the 12 o’clock position) for about 5 to 10 seconds when fully de powered. This is more than enough time for you to get the board on your feet without worrying about the kite. If it’s not, you simply trim in, steer slightly and you’re good to go again.

Putting the board on your feet

Armed With This Knowledge

Now you know this, take the kite back into the water and try get the board onto your feet while attached to the kite, remembering at all times to keep your back to the wind. If at any time you become unsure which way the wind is blowing, as can often happen, simply look at the kite. With the kite at 12 o’clock the central strut will be pointing directly towards the wind, use this to align yourself.

If you do feel yourself spinning out under the kite, simply use your free arm to paddle yourself around, if possible. Another way to achieve this is to use the kite. Once you feel yourself spinning under the kite move the kite across to the direction of spin (the same side your feet are spinning towards). You can then push against the pull of the kite to get yourself back to wind again.

If you find yourself too far spun to recover (I normally reckon anything past 90 degrees) simply kick the board off and start again. If you find yourself in the un enviable position of being totally back to front, simply let go of the kite and kick your legs to re right yourself…knowing which way is right and left when your upside down under the kite is not something I’ve seen too many people master at this stage

Once you have the board on your feet simply drift downwind with it for 10 to 20 m, keeping your back to the wind, kick it off and start again.

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Body Dragging With The Board

Body Dragging With The Board

Being able to body drag with the board is essential for 2 key reasons.

  • One, it leaves you truly independent as you can leave the beach and return to the same point with the board.
  • Two, often at the shoreline there will be quite a lot of shore break which as a beginner can make water starting difficult. By being able to body drag out with the board through the surf into the green water that lies just beyond the breaking waves, you’ll be able to perform and practice your water start that much easier.
Body Dragging With The Board

People have many different techniques for achieving this and as you can see from the pìcture above, whatever works for you is fine. We have found however that most people prefer to lock the board against their body as shown in the video. By placing your free hand through the foot strap and pulling the board in tight against your chest it not only stops it from being knocked around in the waves (too much) but also adds to your resistance against the kite enabling you to upwind body drag much easier.

For a discussion of why we don’t simply use a leash to achieve this, click here.