Strapless Riding by Jon Modica
Most people spend a good portion of their lives searching for that "ultimate" feeling, hobby, or sport. For me, strapless kiteboarding has allowed me to express that ultimate form of freedom. Jeremy at Jupiter Kiteboarding has asked me to share my strapless riding experiences. Here are some of my thoughts and recommendations based on my experiences and board theory.
Let's Talk Boards
The first and most important thing I need to mention is that there is not one board that fits all riding. Make sure you pick a board for the local conditions. If you live in a place that blows over 16 knots or so consistently, you can ride a more traditional surfboard. For places like Jupiter, I recommend something a bit more lightwind-friendly. Jupiter has a lot of smaller wave days where a 6'1" just isn't going to be fun.
A board that gets loose and gets going quickly in light air can turn a mediocre session into a lot of fun. Strapless boards are always a balance between control and maneuverability. Add a wider tail, and you get planning earlier, but max out your bottom turns. Add concavity and you can turn on a dime, but start to reach a max speed earlier. Quads are a great thing, but be cautious of losing feel if you're a back foot heavy rider like myself. For kiting, I prefer boards with a little wider nose. A long board seems to catch wind and chop more. Also, when doing airs, a wider nose helps me keep the board to my feet, without losing the volume needed.
Your First Time Out
The first time you go out, you're going to be frustrated, confused, and probably get a few cuts on your feet, but ultimately, you will have an amazing new experience. Try and wait for a day that you feel comfortable riding, something like 13-18 knots with small to no waves. Welcome to the best thing in the world!
You're inherently going to want to be able to "do it all" right away, but let's take it one step at a time.Here is a list of things to do in the order I feel makes the most sense. Most of these aren't thorough or complete, but here is a start...
- Going upwind - Just play around and get used to going upwind. I think you'll find it to be a lot easier than with a twin tip!
- Practice gybing - There are many ways to gybe, but all of them require a simple two-step process. First take your back foot and move it next to your front, then take your original front and move it back. KEEP THIS SIMPLE! NO jumping to switch stance AND DONT DO THIS IN REVERSE ORDER!!
- Toeside turns - These are great to help you learn to ride waves.
- Strapless Air - Eventually you'll want to jump and do airs. DO NOT GRAB THE BOARD. DO NOT GRAB THE BOARD. DO NOT GRAB THE BOARD. You will never learn to balance the board properly under your feet if you're always reaching down for it. Your goal for jumping should be to hit a small wave and learn to "balance" the board under your front foot. It helps to push down on the tail at take-off to get the nose up. From there you just need to feel it out. It takes A LOT of practice. Have fun with it and be patient!
- Tack or 360 spin - I love this trick. It's not that hard, but a great way to transition and impress your buddies. You want to transition your kite from low to high very smoothly. As your kite gets almost to neutral you need to be almost at a halt. Throw the rotation right when the kite gets to 12 o'clock. Throw the nose up like you are about to do a back roll on a twin tip, but slide your tail when doing it so you don't leave the water. (It will make sense when you try it) After the spin, dive the kite fairly hard to get going again!
- 180 Ollie - A really fun trick. Start by doing a standard 180 riding heelside and then try the more popular toeside 180 later on. The key to the trick is to always be rotating. In other words, don't try to jump - get high up, and then rotate. Start it early and continue it through till landing. When you rotate, you help the board stick to your feet.
- Back roll - Not an easy trick, but a lot of fun. Learn by hitting a steep face and push the board really vertical so it wants to come into your hand naturally. If you are reaching too far, you will have a hard time rotating around. Wherever you look your body tends to rotate, so start the rotation early!
If you have more questions, check out www.losethestraps.com.There are several individuals that can offer another perspective that might help explain it. Otherwise feel free to send me an email.
***** THIS MIGHT NOT BE BEST FOR EVERYONE, but it is what I recommend.