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Bryan Lake Hitting the Kiteboard Kicker
Following last week's guide to building your own kicker, this week's kiteboarding tips covers how to hit a kicker. With wakeboarders, skateboarder, and snowboarders all blasting off of kickers, it is only natural for kiteboarders to want to do it too. If you have never hit a kicker before, then it might be time to break the ice and give it a shot. There are several important factors to be aware of when hitting a kicker with a kite, so we have written up some key safety tips and a step-by-step tutorial on how to properly hit a kicker.
With any kind of action sport it pays to be careful. This runs through my head when I first see a kicker I want to hit: Is the ramp anchored properly? Does it move? Where are the anchors? Sometimes anchors can be put in a bad place such as right in front of the ramp, so know where the anchor is. You would hate to ding your kiteboarding equipment, or your even worse, ding yourself on an anchor. Also ask, Is the kicker just sitting on the sand? Next, I always find out how deep is the water. If it is too shallow then I would consider moving it out into deeper water or just not hitting it. After that I always wonder what the texture of the ramp is like. Is it slick, grippy or wet? A good couple of rides by to check out the situation is always a must. While riding by you always want to make sure the kicker is wet. So if it isn't, give the ramp a good spray on your practice ride by. Lastly and most importantly, hit the kicker unhooked with a modern leash setup that has a quick release and is hooked to a flag line. That way it is not a big deal to just let go of your bar and kite if something goes terribly wrong. Many people have a misconception that being unhooked is dangerous or scary, but in reality it is a much safer and more effective way to hit a kicker. Oh, and don't forget your helmet.
Setting up the ramp: Proper positioning of a kicker is critical for kiting. It is more important than other sports because you have to get to the kicker via kite. I have noticed the angle that works best for positioning kickers is a broad reach. A broad reach is the sailing angle slightly downwind of a reach. Basically you don't want the kicker to be perfectly perpendicular to the wind, or facing dead downwind.
Your approach to a kicker is also critical. After you have decided to give the big kicker a go and you have considered all the safety precautions, it is time to mentally commit yourself. Envision what it is going to be like going off the kicker and landing it perfectly. Kickers can be extremely intimidating the first time you one. Once you ride up and over the ramp that first time, the intimidation jitters will go away. Lastly, speed is very important on the approach. If you are going way too slow on the way up to the ramp then you are probably not going to make it up the kicker and may fall. Or, if you are going too fast then you risk losing control.
The less time you spend on the ramp the better. From my experience, it is much easier to hit a kicker going fast than going slow. The most important thing to do while going up a kicker, is to look at the horizon. That is an old water skiing tip to help beginning jump skiers out. It seems to help me out on the kite, too. It makes the ramp less intimidating, keeps you level and makes the ride up the kicker easier. Next, as you are sliding up to the lip of the ramp you are going to want to think about popping off the top. Remember to keep your kite parked; it will make the ride more stable and comfortable.
If you have made it into the air and off the kicker then you are doing great. Once in the air, simply enjoy it, pop a grab or do whatever you like. However, hang time does not last long and you are going to have to start looking for your landing. If you can see where you think you are going to land then that is great. Just try to put the landing gear down or your board onto the top of the water when it is approaching.
While looking for your landing, try to think about just putting your board down on top of the water when the right time comes, and then just ride away. Make sure that your knees are bent and ready to absorb the shock of landing.
After feeling a little more comfortable just going off the kicker, it is time to start thinking about tricks or your favorite maneuvers to try off the kicker.
How to Build a Kicker -
Learn How to Construct Your Own Kiteboarding Kicker
How to Self-Rescue - Learn How to Self Rescue Properly in Deep Water
How to Stand Up Paddlesurf - Learn How to Stand Up Paddleboard