A Beginner’s Guide to Kitesurfing Terminology – Part One

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A Beginner’s Guide to Kitesurfing Terminology – Part One

Learning to kitesurf is difficult at the best of times, without the wide range of terms and jargon thrown into the mix. Whether you’re currently in lessons or you’re hitting the water alone but still find yourself blank-faced when other riders mention certain terms, we’ve created the ultimate guide to any kitesurfing term you are likely to hear while you practice the art of riding. Read on, for definitions for all terms between A-L, and feel free to share with any friends you think need a helping hand to learn the lingo!

Air time - the amount of time spent in the air by the kitesurfer while jumping, also known as ‘hang time’.

Apparent wind – in short, apparent wind is the kite’s speed relative to the air surrounding it. Providing the rider is kitesurfing in a straight line, the apparent wind takes into consideration the wind speed as well as the speed of the kite and consequently, the rider on the water. Apparent wind can vary significantly in accordance with how to kite is being flown.

Backing Wind – an anti-clockwise change in the direction of the wind, e.g. South to East.

Big air – using the lift of the kite (and sometimes, the lip of a wave) to achieve a very high jump.

Body dragging – using the power of the kite to pull your body through the water without standing on a kiteboard. For beginners to the water sport, this is a process that will be learnt very early on and returned to later in the event of losing your kiteboard during a session.

Boost – sudden upward movement causing the rider to become airborne.

C-Kite – a kite with square corners and distinct wingtips that curves around to create a C-shaped arc when being flown.

Chicken loop – a hard rubber loop that is used to connect the control bar to the harness to enable a kitesurfer to use the strength in their entire body rather than that in their arms along to create tension in the lines.

Chop hop – a minor jump prompted by the power of a wave rather than that of the kite.

Control bar – a horizontal bar that is used to control and steer the kite while in motion.

De-power – reducing the kite’s power usually by adjusting the angle of attack of the kite.

Diving – the sudden downward movement of a kite in flight that can be used to generate power.

Downwind – the direction that the wind is blowing towards/leeward. If a kitesurfer is riding downwind, the wind is at their back.

Edge – tilting the edge of the kiteboard into the water, a riding technique used to control the direction in which the kitesurfer is travelling in. This is one of the most fundamental skills to be mastered when learning to kitesurf and a skill that differentiates kitesurfing from other board sports.

Foil kite – Unlike standard kites, foil kites have no inflatable bladders and instead feature small, square sections of fabric that inflate when air is trapped inside them.

Freeride – a style of kitesurfing that focuses on keeping a good edge and the ability to traverse upwind. Usually, this requires a stable board with little rocker.

Freestyle – as the name might suggest, freestyling involves various airborne tricks and combinations whereby the rider is subjected to enhanced elevation as a result of manipulating the kite. This style of kitesurfing is dependent on the conditions and equipment available and is just as fascinating for spectators to watch as it is for the rider themselves!

Guinea pig – this is someone who will volunteer as tribute to test the conditions or, more specifically, the wind to see if it is rideable. After a few minutes, the guinea pig will be able to convey to others whether it is worth kitting up for. This term is sometimes interchanged with the less affectionate version, wind-dummy. They are usually the unsung heroes of the kitesurfing world.

Heelside – opposite to toe side, this refers to the side of a board on the edge where the rider’s heels would usually sit. For example, if someone is described as ‘riding heel side’ they will be travelling across the water with their heels down.

Hindenburg – this describes a kite stalling and crashing as a result of lack of wind or the kite travelling upwind of the rider in the wind window, which can also be called overflying. The name is in reference to the Hindenburg Airship disaster of 1937.

Handlepass – a move that involves passing the control bar behind the back of a rider while in the air and unhooked. 

Kiteloop – this group of tricks involves the rider looping the kite through the power zone while also spinning through the air

Kitemare – a dangerous mishap or kitesurfing accident that takes place whilst out on the water. Kitemares can vary in seriousness, but some can be deadly.

Launch – a simple term used to describe the act of getting the kite in the air. This can be un-assisted or assisted, the latter of which is generally considered to be safer and favoured by beginners and novices.

Lofted – A dangerous occurrence whereby the rider is hoisted vertically up by the kite and a strong gust of wind. This can prove to be fatal, particularly when lofting occurs to riders who are near land or obstacles. Avoid getting lofted by keeping time on land with the kite flying overhead to a minimum and carefully checking the wind conditions before heading out.

Luff – this is when the airflow around the kite stalls, which can then cause it to fall out of the sky. If rippling and flapping panels occur upon launch, riders should move farther upwind to avoid a fall.

That concludes part one of our ultimate guide to kitesurfing terms. Keep a keen eye on our social media profiles for part two, which will feature terms M-Z and is set to be released in the next few days and remember, if you’re looking to buy a kitesurfing kite, don’t hesitate to browse our extensive range of equipment online today!