Kitekahunas - Learn Wave Kitesurfing: Lesson 4

Surfing a wave - backside riding and turns on a wave

If you have any questions about this lesson, ask our virtual instructor by commenting at the bottom of this page.


Previously learned in Lessons 2 & 3 of this wave kitesurfing course

So far, in Lessons 2 and 3, you have learned your four turns both on your strong and on your weak side. You have also learned to determine, where to do your turns. You have mastered to combine your turns together, add one after another in a smooth slalom line. You have got used to placing your hands together at the bar.


Now you can start wave riding

You have now completed the basics of wave kitesurfing. It is now time for the big moment, to ride your first wave. As you will soon experience, wave riding is one of the most exhilarating feelings you may enjoy in your lifetime.

wave riding

Surfing your first wave will be easiest with the wind direction parallel to the wave line. So when you face the wave, the wind should come either from the right or from the left. If the waves roll parallel to the shore line, this resembles a wind direction side-shore from the right or side-shore from the left.

For the wave rider in the video, the wind is blowing directly from behind. These are the wind directions with which you should start. All other wind directions, for example the wind going with the wave, or towards the wave, are more difficult and you should avoid these conditions for now.

The easiest way to get onto a wave is with the backside riding technique. It is called backside, simply because your back is facing the wave. To enter the wave, you can either get onto it from the seaside, riding after the wave and by overtaking it. This is possible because a kitesurfer is faster than a wave is rolling forward. Or you can get to a wave by riding from the beachside towards it, and turning downwind onto the wave.


Backside wave riding

When you are on the wave, surf it with your back facing the wave. In principle you can do this by either going downwind or upwind. Usually, you would surf the wave by going downwind. On a downwind course, you can have more fun, as you are now more flexible with your maneuvers.

When you are on the wave, you will feel the power of it pushing you firmly forward. When you feel the wave’s power, push against it, mostly with your back foot. With the power of the wave thrusting you forward, you don’t need the power of the kite any more. So you can push the bar forward, to de-power the kite, so it does not pull you off the wave. You basically park your kite in the sky, de-powered, drifting along with you.

You are now similar to a surfer. You have used your kite to get onto the wave, but once you are there, you switch your kite off and you enjoy surfing the wave. Put more weight on your front foot to accelerate your speed while wave riding. Go down low on your board to gain stability, by getting your body’s centre of gravity as low as possible. This also looks very stylish. You can go even lower, if you are wave riding strapless.

You can perform your slalom turns on the wave, by surfing from the bottom of the wave to the top, and then back down. This is easier than the turns in a smooth slalom line, which you have learned about in Lesson 2 of this wave kitesurfing course, because when you are performing this maneuver you simply "drift" your kite. This means that you push out the bar and you keep your kite in one position. You can drift the kite high up, which is easiest. Sometimes, you drift your kite low, when the wind is strong to have less power. You don’t want the kite to pull you off the wave. The kite should create as little power as possible. You want to switch it off for a moment. Your aim is to enjoy wave riding and feeling the power of the wave. Performing these turns on the wave, will give you great pleasure and joy.

wave riding cape town

slalom lines while wave riding

Sometimes these turns can also serve an important purpose: When you surf a wave downwind, your riding speed will be accelerated by both the power of the wave and the remaining power of your kite. So, often you will go very fast, sometimes even faster than your kite is drifting along with you. If this happens, your lines will go slack and your kite becomes uncontrollable, and may even fall out of the sky. To prevent this from happening, you need to slow down your speed a bit, and you can simply do this with your slalom turns. Just like a skier or snowboarder slows down his pace going downhill by doing slalom lines, you will slow down on the wave, and some tension will remain in your kite lines.


Getting off the wave

When the wave is about to break, you need to get off it, to avoid crashing with it. You can go forward out of the wave, riding towards the beach. For this you pull the bar to get some power from your kite and the kite will pull you to the front of the bottom of the wave. You can then watch joyfully as the wave is breaking just behind you.

Only a kitesurfer or a windsurfer can get so close to this spectacle of nature. It is nothing but a privilege to witness the wave breaking powerfully from such a short distance away.

wave riding video

Alternatively, you can go backwards out of the wave, away from the beach, just like a surfer would do. Then simply look out for the next wave, pull the bar, and use the power of your kite to ride to it.

Repeat this enjoyable maneuver. Ride onto the next wave and surf it, play with it, de-power your kite and feel the power of the wave or ride with turns on the wave in a smooth slalom line, while drifting your kite. You will soon discover that every wave is unique.


Backside wave riding when the waves are big

Backside wave riding can be done with any wave. However, typically you prefer this riding style to surf big waves. Other, more advanced maneuvers, like front-side top turn, as we teach you in Lesson 5, are rather difficult to perform on big waves. But backside riding is easy to learn, easy to perform even on big waves, it looks very stylish and it is great fun.

Kite wave riding

Once you feel comfortable with backside riding, play also with riding the wave frontside. The principle stays the same, but now you are facing the wave.


- Surfing your first wave is best and easiest with the wind direction parallel to the wave.
- Easiest is backside wave riding.
- Feel the power of a wave and play with extending and flexing your body. For instance, while on the wave, get really down low onto your surfboard.
- Perform and practice your slalom turns on the wave, going up and down on it, from top to bottom and back to top, while drifting your kite.
- Use this slalom technique also to reduce your speed on the wave and to prevent your lines from going slack.

Hints to other kitesurfing Video Lessons:

Lesson 2: How to start wave kitesurfing - turns with the right timing
Lesson 3: Your furst turns with distancing and usage of the entire wind window
Lesson 5: Frontside top-turn

wave kitesurfing instructor

Wave riding Video Course

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