Light Wind Efficiency

All right, so yesterday I was riding my 8m Torch all day (which was perfect for the most part considering some of the gusts at squamish!) but near the end, I was barely able to make it back to the spit because I was very underpowered...I nearly resorted to the upwind drag! Almost right after I got back though, Kyle headed out on his 10m Torch and was throwing down some wicked stuff. Not only that, but nearly all his tricks involved kiteloops, which definitely takes you downwind, and yet, he seemed to have no trouble making it back to the spit every tack. So why can Kyle ride so well and so efficiently on a 10m C-kite, while I am barely able to stay upwind on my 8m C-kite?
Who has some tips for being as efficient as possible with a small kite?



Efficiency comes from a lot of things. Kite flying, kite tuning/sheeting, body placement, and knowledge & tactics.
I use pretty much the same gear in all conditions and just change the way I ride. A few tips though...

Going upwind (board):
Twist your body and look upwind! this is HUGE and most people don't do it enough. It puts your body in a more efficient position. You also do'nt want to edge your board too much or you will stall. Standing more upright and twisting turns your board upwind and keeps it a bit flatter (ie. less drag). There is a delicate balance between speed and pointing-upwind that you need to develop.

"Feathering" really helps, where you constantly alternate between pointing high for angle and letting off and powering up for speed. You can even do little hops or pumps if you get smooth enough to be that agressive with it. This will help hop you upwind, but moreso will have the effect of shooting your kite forward in the window (which allows for a higher angle, and a quick burst of power from the apparent wind).

Small kites also typically move forward in the window a little better. This helps. I also use my sheeting a lot. I am constantly sheeting in for a burst of power, and the sheeting out to allow the kite to move forward in the window for a second burst from the apparent wind. When I get up eough boardspeed (and thus more apparent wind =>> more power), I'll start to sheet out to move the kite forward in the window for a higher angle. It's a balance of finding the right spot, and I use "feel" more than anything. I also use to race sailboats, so this was super critical for me to learn a long time ago.

Reading the wind and currents...
is also very important. The wind is contantly shifting angles. As a general rule, I'll keep going when I get a "lift" (ie. the wind shift so that I can make a better upwid angle) and I will gybe as soon as I get a "header" (opposite of lift).
You also want to make sure you look for the puffs/gusts of wind when you are underpowered.... although this is always a compromise because they are often accompanied by a "header", but at the same time the increase in true wind can give you a "lift" on your apparent wind. Again - find the balance.


yeah... there's a lot to think about.

Know the currents. know if the tide is ebbing or flooding, and know how strong. For example, if there is a strong flood tide (ie. going from a really low tide to a really high tide), then you'll have a lot of downwind current at Squamish. this can REALLY suck. But since you know that it is shallower closer to the spit, and deeper out in the channel by the freighter dock, then there is more water moving in the deeper channel ad thus more downwind current by the freighter-dock. Don't go out that far in this case.
Most people do'nt ever think about current, but it can be a MAJOR factor - moreso than you think or realize.

as for doing tricks underpowered...

Get upwind more so that you can bear off the wind for longer when you are setting up for a trick. Then pump the sh*$#t out of your kite for power until you have a lot of speed, and thus a lot of power generated from the apparent wind. Setup your pop a little quicker and you've got it.
I often purposefully go out just slightly underpowered so I can generate more power this way since I find it easier to control.
... I just hate it when the jetskis make a wake when I'm doing it though! (grrrr)

Anyways I hope that helps a bit.
There's a LOT more to it than that, but it come with time on the water.

Kyle Touhey - Naish Kiteboarding