Kitesurfing Tips and Myths
By Kiteboarding Champions Sam Light and Susi Mai, Pro Kitesurfer Kellen Hall, Kiteboarding Pioneer Kinsley Thomas Wong, Kiteboarding Instructor and Pro Jeremy Lund, Kite Instructor Captain John Von Tesmar, 14 year old sensation James McGrath and 9 year old Kiteboarding Prodigy Evan Drye
Interview by Kurtis Shipcot
“Did you hear about the kiteboarder that got dragged across the jetty, bounced across the highway and then slammed into a semi-truck?”
If you’re a kiteboarder or are thinking of kiteboarding then you’ve already heard the kitemares. Maybe you even had a few of your own?
I am a surfer that fell in love with kiteboarding in 2010 when I was lucky enough to attend the first annual Virgin Kitejam as their official Eyewear Sponsor. It was a who’s who in pro kiteboarding and about 40 people total.
The event took place on Sir Richard Branson’s private island known as Necker in the British Virgin Islands. Branson is the rebel billionaire behind the Virgin Brand and in my opinion a really cool guy.
I had just learned to kiteboard prior to the event by our first pro kiteboarder and Team Rider Jeremy Lund. Jeremy has been a regular instructor at the Virgin Events and owns New Wave Kiteboarding School in Jupiter Florida. Needless to say I was a unique project. I basicaly put him on the spot when I called him and said, “I’m going with you and I need you to teach me to kiteboard before the event.” We had 4 days!
Did it work? He’s a pro and made it happen. I was a down winder (meaning I couldn’t kite back to where I started from) and survived with cool tips from all the pros and of course Jeremy making sure I didn’t disappear forever. Now years later I’m humbled every time I pump up. I’m still in the early stages and feel like a kook next to the pros.
So how can you and I improve our kiteboarding skills? What should EVERY kiteboarder do for peak performance?
I thought I would get 8 unique perspectives ranging from PKRA World Tour Veterans, a 3X “King of the Air” Champion, West Coast and East Coast Kite Instructors, A triple S Wild Card Entry Winner, a kiteboarding pioneer and 2 kids already being marked as future World Champions.
Sam Light – Red Bull “King of the Air” regular on the podium, 1st Place Overall Triple S Inviational, and star of the #FreeRideProject. Sam is from Hayling Island Great Britian, but competes and podiums all over the world (Bonaire, Russia, Holland, Venezuela, South Africa, Morroco, France, USA). Not only does he kill it, he’s a really cool guy.
Susi Mai – Growing up in a windsurfing family Susi split time between Germany and Italy only to settle down in the Dominican Republic. She now travels the world, but calls DR home. 3X “King of the Air” Champion and finished top 5 for 6 years on the PKRA World Tour. Co-founder of MaiTai and much, much more. Susi is very down to earth and YES, she kites better then you.
Jeremy Lund – Professional Kiteboarder and owner of New Wave Kiteboarding. He taught me to Kite and to date has taught over 2000 lessons. Also an expert snowboarder, snowkiter and great friend.
Captain John Von Tesmar – Owner of Kite The Bay. He is the go to instructor for all the Techies in the Bay area. He is an avid kiteboarder, surfer, sailer and loves the foil board. An adventurous guy with all the cool toys.
Kinsley Thomas Wong – A true pioneer of the sport. He brought Kiteboarding to the Central Coast of California and is a true waterman. Kiting, paragliding, surfing, free diving and world traveler. Founder of Pismo Beach Kite Expo and owner of Xtreme Big Air.
James McGrath – Tapped as the next up and coming East Coast kid. He does everything water. Kiteboard, surf, wakeboard, SUP. He has gills already and comes from a kiteboarding / waterman family.
Evan Drye – At only 9 years old Evan is already a National Team Rider for F-One. Google this kid and be very scared that he is that good with only 1 year of kiting under his belt. Great family and stoked to know him.
These kiteboarders are all amazing and their passion for kiteboarding is contagious. So the last time I had their ear I had to ask them, how can we improve our kiteboarding?
Today I’m stoked to share their answers with you.
1. Why do you love kiteboarding?Sam Light:: I love Kiteboarding because it’s an amalgamation of all the sports I enjoy. It’s so diverse and every session is always different, which keeps me coming back and means I never get bored as it’s impossible to master. I really like the exploration and the constant search for that perfect location.
Jeremy Lund: It’s like having all the power in the world. The power to move faster, the power to fly higher and the power to get pulled into big waves.
Susi Mai: The reason I fell in love with kiting is because it gave me an incredible sense of freedom. I also love the people and the lifestyle that come with the sport, and the fact that it keeps you healthy and fit.
Kellen Hall: There are many reasons I love the sport. Ever since I rode out on my first run I’ve been hooked, Kitesurfing is very multi diverse depending on the conditions either grabbing my surfboard or hitting some kickers, sliders or stomping my new favorite trick heart attack with a mute grab.
Kinsley Thomas Wong: I have always been learning to be the best at whatever sport that I do: paragliding, scuba diving, surfing, kite boarding, snowboarding, Mountain biking, etc. So it just a natural thing for me to do.
John Von Tesmar: For its freedom of movement. It’s connection to nature. The exercise. The adventure.
James McGrath: I love kitesurfing because it gives me a release from stresses of school and other things. I have always been into many water sports growing up and kitesurfing is my favorite one for sure.
Evan Drye: I love to chase the wind, going fast and doing tricks but there is nothing like good wind days where you can boost high!
2. What are 3 tips every kiteboarder can focus on for improvement?
Sam Light: Not trying to run before you can walk, taking a step back and perfecting the basics. Having a specific trick to practice and build up to helps.
Time on the water! More than anything just getting out on the water as much as possible makes a huge difference. Cross training, either surfing or riding cable in a closed setting with less parameters will give you a chance to practice your skills before transferring them to a kite.
Susi Mai: The first thing people forget to do while kiting is to RELAX. The next thing I would suggest is to not be afraid to try things, people sometimes have way more potential than they think, but they are hesitant to try. The last advice is that it’s very good to kite around people who are better
Kellen Hall: This is for on the water. Stance, Kite Placement and keep it powered up on whatever level your at or a new trick you are trying.
Jeremy Lund: When learning new tricks, if it does not feel right don’t try it. Wait until you can fully visualize it in your head and the conditions feel perfect.
Fly the right size kite for the conditions. It is very hard to learn any aspect of this sport if you are under or over powered. Have someone take a video of you riding or trying your tricks. You will be amazed by how easy it is to recognize your own mistakes.
Kinsley Thomas Wong: practice everything: unhook, strapless, strap – BOOT
John Von Tesmar: Keep trying new and different gear. Kite different spots. Value your timeon-water.
James McGrath: Every kitesurfer could focus on, for beginners pointing the board up wind and edging hard to stay up wind. For intermediate, getting the kite to 12 o clock and boosting big airs and learning steps to technical tricks!! For anyone above this, keeping the kite low and throwing technical tricks!!
Evan Drye: Body & Kite position along with pushing themselves to try new things
3. Who trained you or influenced you?
Sam Light: I wouldn’t say I ever been trained as such, I’ve always just rode for myself because it’s fun and I want to improve and further myself, and the only way is on the water! There’s to many people to mention who have influenced me, I try to learn something from everyone I meet.
Susi Mai: I was influenced by the people I was on tour with at first, people like Aaron Hadlow and Ruben Lenten. My most steady influence throughout the years, however, was Andre Phillip. He was my mentor and friend, always giving me the right advice at the right time!
Kellen Hall: I have been blessed to have help by Legends Dennis Vassilinin and Billy Parker. Also some heavy influences through out the years, Alex Fox, Andre Phillip.
Jeremy Lund: In 2004 I spent several months struggling. As I got to know all the locals they all helped me get better and become the Kiter I am today.
Kinsley Thomas Wong: myself :-)
John Von Tesmar: Paul Menta
James McGrath: The number one influence on me is my dad!! He has taught me how to kite board, he has taught me so much about wave riding because that’s all he rides!! The other person on the top of the list is Damien Leroy, he has helped me so much with tricks, wave riding and how to progress the sport in many ways! I am also very grateful for everyone who I have met thru the past couple years Matt collins, Jon Modica, all the guys at Jupiter Kiteboarding, Ray, Jeremy Green, Jeff, Gary and Alexandra Menk and everyone at Juno Kite Beach!!!
Evan Drye: We have a bunch of good guys on the coast that have influenced me. Russell Groves has spent hours on the water with me. I’ve become friends with Pro Rider Jeremy Lund and he has really helped me out a whole bunch in person and with his video analysis. Also Pro Rider Kellen Hall.
4. Outside of kiting, what can people do to improve? What does your cross-training, nutrition, mindset look like?
Sam Light: I’ve always struggled to do exercise that’s not fun, I’ve never really been to the gym much in my life, but I’m always exercising whether it’s, wakeboarding, skateboarding, trampolining, swimming, golfing, or sailing. Recently however I have joined the gym because I want to get even fitter, as there are times of downtime at home when keeping my fitness up will keep me on my game ready for the next session/trip. I always try and eat healthy, they say you are what you eat right!
Susi Mai: There are many things you can do when you can’t kite. One big thing is to be in shape, and if you can achieve that by doing other fun activities then it’s even better. I don’t like the gym very much so I try to stay busy doing things like Yoga, surfing, SUP, wakeboarding or even just kicking around a ball. All of those things keep you on your toes, they increase your body awareness and coordination and will help you in your kiting. It’s also good to watch videos of tricks you might want to learn because sometimes we can see something, then visualize ourselves trying it and actually do it on the water.
Kellen Hall: There is so much to do off the water when there is no wind. Starting out with a healthy breakfast in the morning. A lot of cable park, gym, biking, hiking, swimming, surfing, paddlesurfing, spearfishing, snowboarding. That’s just a list of 10 things off the top of my head there is so much more. What does your cross-training, nutrition, mindset look like? Breakfasttwo pieces of dave’s bread with homemade jam, two eggs, prosciutto and a side of granola with chopped up fresh fruit. Lunch is usually publix sub. Dinner, it’s good to have a big dinner healthy, no fast food. This will get you ready for the next day of kitesurfing .
Jeremy Lund: Just staying active in general will keep your muscles and joints loose which will help keep you from getting injured. As far as nutrition I try to eat a lot of protein, fruit and veggies. But I still drink my carbs.
Kinsley Thomas Wong: Exercise every day: SUP, surfing, mountain biking, paragliding, eat a lot of fresh fruit for breakfast/smoothie, fresh fish and vegetable. No dairy
John Von Tesmar: Surf, sail and wakeboarding. I like to get out and do something adventurous daily, but rest is good too. I’m into gentle endurance training-skateboarding (the cruising kind) keeps your feet/ankles strong and legs in shapes from pushing. Switch riding is good to keep up balance. I also get my water time in with swimming/surfing. Home stretching/ yoga. Occasional gym workouts.
James McGrath: To improve your self, always stay fit, eat healthy, try other water sports, stay confident, never give up, and go BIG!!
Evan Drye: There are a lot of good videos on Vimeo and You tube of riders doing tricks and stuff. I watch it as much as I can. I also use a trampoline with ski rope that is tied around a tree limb to practice my handle passes.
5. If you had to train an average kitesurfer for 4 weeks for a kitesurfing competition and had a million dollars on the line, what would the training look like?
Sam Light: This ones a tricky question, I’d probably employ coaches and trainers for fitness techniques and a gym schedule/ diet schedule as they would be better than me! Depending on what type of competition it was, I would probably set up camp at the competition site, as the best way to prepare for a competition is riding every day where the competition is going to be held, so you really understand the conditions and wind. If it was a rail event I would get them riding cable all day every day.
Susi Mai: I would be writing a check for a million dollars to whomever I am betting against and filing for bankruptcy. It would be impossible to train someone to compete at an international level in 4 weeks because there are too many tricks that take years to master.
Kellen Hall: It would be intense! Starting off with what kind of comp it was I would be in the gym a lot of cross swimming and cable park. And of course a lot of dedicated free-riding.
Jeremy Lund: Cycling in the morning to build cardio with out extra wear on the knees. Kiting each day focusing on one trick at a time. We would then put the tricks together in a routine and practice it until he/she could do it with out looking.
Kinsley Thomas Wong: Smoothie for breakfast, SUP/surfing in the morning, paragliding, then kitesurfing, and fishing/free diving, then Cook the fresh fish and enjoy your day. This was how I live for the last 15 years until my injury.
John Von Tesmar: Leg workouts first. Running hills or something to charge up those big muscles. Also core workouts. Static stretches to promote stability strength.
James McGrath: If I had o train some one with a million dollars on the line I would take them to Hawaii and buy them the best gear on the market!!
6. What are the biggest mistakes and myths you see in kiteboarders trying to improve?
Sam Light:: I always see Kiteboarders just riding around ‘mowing the lawn’ not trying anything, I think a lot of people don’t actually push themselves enough in a controlled manor. You need to get comfortable crashing, learning how to crash, whether its unhooked or hooked in if you crash enough you will realize with a bit of hard work and dedication that the possibilities are endless. The only thing holding you back is your mind. If you truly focus on a goal or trick you want to learn it’s so important to take the stepping stones and practice every aspect of the trick before just ‘hucking’ something haphazardly.
Susi Mai: The biggest problem is that when people try things over and over by themselves, they have no idea what they look like when they are doing it. The best way to fix that is to have someone film you or have someone who knows what they are looking to tell you what you’re doing wrong.
Another myth is that a bigger kite doesn’t always mean it’s better, more power can actually be a bad thing when you’re learning stuff.
Kellen Hall: Your stance is a huge part of kitesurfing, using your body is critical to keep you steering upwind and without having to work the kite as much as possible. Knowing on what beach to go to depending on conditions and wind direction. When beginners start jumping a huge thing is sending your kite to far past 12.
Jeremy Lund: The biggest thing is people riding hunched over. The front leg should be straight with very little weight on it. There should be a straight line from the forward ankle all the way up to the forward shoulder.
Flying the wrong size kite is also common.
Kinsley Thomas Wong: Not having fun. Smile and have fun!
John Von Tesmar: The lack of vision to see how movements really work. Understanding what must happen, then executing it.
James McGrath: Lots of people when they’re riding work the kite to much , once you have the speed park the kite and go!! Also many people stay parallel with the kite when edging, you can edge like that but you will go up wind a lot faster if you point the board into the wind.
Evan Drye: Make sure you’re on the correct size kite and board. Bigger is not always better. If you’re over powered to much it’s harder to edge against the kite so it’s harder to do jumps and do tricks. Smaller kite and board and work the kite!
7. Any new technology you recommend for kitesurfers? Videos, apps, equipment? Anything you’re stoked on right now? How can surfers reach you or follow you?
Sam Light: I really enjoy riding with music, it helps me forget everything that’s going on around me, it really gets me in the mood to throw down!
I can be reached at any of the following: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sam-Light/119589751421489 Instagram: http://instagram.com/samlight1 Website: www.samlight.co.uk
Susi Mai: I like to keep it simple ;) but there are definitely fun things out there to play with. My regular gadgets include: Soloshot (automatic cameraman), GoPro3+ (POV cam) and Waterfi (waterproof iPod shuffle). You can follow me below: Facebook: facebook.com/susimai Website: www.susimai.com Twitter and Instagram: @susikite
Kellen Hall: Any new Cabrinha gear with some Kurtis Surf Goggles. A weather app is good to have so you can check the forecast.
I’m super stoked on life and meeting new people. It’s always a stoker day landing a new trick.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kellen-Hall/1403085993261570 Instagram: @_waterboii
Jeremy Lund: Yes, Please check out my online leaning program at NewWaveKiteboarding. com. We use video submission to coach by voice overlaying step by step instruction, video comparison and slow motion breakdown.
Kinsley Thomas Wong: Go travel, enjoy life and do these every day: smoothie for breakfast, SUP/surfing in the morning, paragliding, then kitesurfing, and fishing/free diving, then cook the fresh fish and enjoy your day.
Hope to see you soon bro, Kinsley Website: www.friendsofKinsley.com Facebook: XtremeBigAir or Kinsley ThomasWong
John Von Tesmar: I am loving foil board riding! The smoothest feeling ever! And you can ride for hours and cover huge distances. It’s challenging to make transitions but feels great when you do! I’m gonna have to go for a foil-sesh after this interview, Ya!
People can follow me at KiteTheBay.com.
James McGrath: For me personally I would go with Cabrinha kites and all around equipment, they have the best all around kite gear for beginners to advanced!! Favorite food: sushi, Music: pop, Sponsors: Kurtis Eyewear, Jupiter Kiteboarding and Cabrinha.
Evan Drye: Yes definitely Mr. Jeremy Lund offers online video training, you send a video of you riding and he sends it back with tips that will help you with your riding. Check him out at newwavekiteboarding.com. Videos, apps equipment? I ride a quiver of F-One kites 5m -10.5, along with F-One boards and always with my Kurtis Surf Goggles.
I just got back from the Surf Expo in Orlando and got to meet some really cool people. I’ve been traveling a lot and have trips to Florida, California, Hawaii, Dominican Republic and Europe slated for this year. Also I’ve got some really good sponsors Gulfport Boardsports, Kurtis Eyewear -Team Rider (stoked to help people save their eyes with Mr. Kurtis), Engine Harnesses (Team Goon) and I’m a National F-One Team Rider.
You can follow me at Facebook: Evan Drye Instagram: @evandrye YouTube: Evan Drye Kiteboarding
I hope you enjoyed the interviews with Sam, Susi, Kellen, Kinsley, Jeremy, John, James and Evan.
My intention was to gain information that would help improve our kiteboarding. To ask questions that I haven’t heard asked before. Implement the tips and get a glimpse at what makes these riders so good. Did it help you?
I love kiteboarding because it is pure STOKE. It allows me to ride for 3 hours without paddling. How much time do you actually stand up in a 3 hour surf session?
Kiteboarding has opened doors of opportunity and friendship in my life that wouldn’t have been possible with out it. It’s allowed me to travel all over the world and meet incredibly interesting people. It’s an adventure and challenge every time I pump up, but it’s a challenge I look forward to. Most importantly, it’s made me enjoy onshore winds. As a surfer it was always offshore winds I craved. Now it’s double the pleasure.
As always keep in touch with us and please let us know if any of the above insight helped you improve your kiteboarding.
Kurtis Shipcott No Fried Eyes! KurtisUSA.com