Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kitesurfer’s Physical Training: How to Perform at Your Peak and Prevent Kitesurfing Accidents?

Aerobic, training, kitesurf,kitesurfing,kiteboarding

Kitesurfing is an exciting, adrenaline-pumping and shape-building sport that is one of the fastest growing in the world. It was once considered a niche extreme sport, but it can really be practiced by anyone nowadays. Learning how to kiteboard has in fact become quite easy thanks to the new evolution in technology that made the sport safe and accessible to all.
While easy accessibility makes kitesurfing more and more popular, it can also raise some risks to the beginners, who might not be in great shape and could find themselves in a difficult situation in an open water or in a wavy sea due to their lack of physical preparation.

A good physical shape is not only necessary for your great performance during a kitesurfing session, but it’s even more important in preventing accidents.

If you think that kitesurfing happens only when you are riding your board through the water, you might be misled to imagine that you don’t really need big physical effort to do that. However, it’s still a very active water sport, where high speed is involved, so let’s imagine what would happen when things get more complicated: for example, you fall in the water, there are waves, and your board is floating quite far away from you. It might take you a few minutes of bodydrag upwind to retrieve it. In this case you’ll get tired much faster than when you are simply riding and, most importantly, you will be in a difficult situation.

Another perfect example in which you might need some physical strength is when you make a mistake while performing a trick or a jump, and crash in the water with a stronger hit than normal: in this case you’ll also need to be in a reasonably fit condition in order for your muscles to handle the body’s stress without too much impact.

So even if kitesurfing has become a safer sport, it has still to be considered extreme, and for that reason we should pay a lot of attention to our physical training before we take it on.

In this post I won’t want talk about specific exercises, as there are infinite tutorials on YouTube and in many kitesurfing forums. What I am pointing out is what you want to achieve with your exercise in order to make the best of your kitesurfing session, and all you have to do is choose the kind of exercise that best fits your taste and physical situation.

The improvements in your fitness you want to reach are basically three: a good aerobic and cardiovascular condition, a muscular empowering and flexibility and a strong proprioceptive capability.

1. Good aerobic and cardiovascular condition is necessary for higher endurance during a kitesurfing session and for improved cardiac and breathing capability. This will allow you to have longer kitesurfing sessions and faster recovery between them. It’s up to you to choose your favorite technique to develop this aspect of your overall physical condition: you can choose various disciplines, such as jogging, biking or swimming.

Power, flex training2. The second improvement in your fitness is as important as the first one and involves the developing of muscular mass, but not as intended in bodybuilding, where athletes go for hypertrophic muscle development. As kiters, we are interested in the so-called Power Flex Training. The practice of kitesurfing requires strong muscles that are elastic and resistant at the same time. So working out with big weights and small extensions isn’t exactly the ideal approach: it’s much more useful to practice strength exercises that result in considerable muscular stretching. Any good physical trainer can teach you many of these exercises. Don’t forget that you also have to focus on the muscles you’ll be using most in a kiteboarding session: the abdominal and dorsal ones, arms and legs. The goal is to achieve a strong, flexible and resistant muscular structure.

proprioceptive3. The third ingredient, the proprioceptive capability, might seem a little strange, but some experts who gave their opinion for this post seem to favor this as one of the most important aspects in physical training of a kitesurfer. Having a good proprioceptive capability means better reaction to balance loss. When we move and lose our balance (I’m sure sounds quite familiar to all kitesurfers), the faster we activate the muscles that restore us back to balance, the less chance of stress or damage our body’s muscles and joints. In other words, when we lose control of our body’s position, it might lead us to move and stretch a muscle of a joint beyond the physiological range, causing damage, so the capability to contract the muscles before the balance loss happens can prevent it.
proprioceptive instrumentsTo develop these skills we must focus on our legs, and there are various methods to do so: the basic concept is to try to keep our balance in a very unstable situation. For example, try keeping the balance one leg at a time on a platform with a semi-sphere on its bottom. These exercises don’t require more than 10 minutes per day, and after a couple of weeks the results are very good: you won’t twist your ankle even if you fall into a hole on the pavement!

Keep fit and enjoy Kiting!

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Post describing what to focus on while you are training in order to get to ready to the kitesurfing season. Being fit for the task greatly helps the safe practice of the sport.
Date published: 06/11/2014
Date Update: 06/12/2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Kitesurf Line Length and Kite Behavior: Long or Short Lines?

race kites with long lines

The line length of your kitesurfing gear is a very important factor that determines how a kite will fly and produce power, and knowing how to manipulate the line length can be very useful in order obtain the best performance of the kite in a particular situation.

kitesurf line extensions

Most of the kiters don't actually focus on this topic, because the kitesurfing gear comes complete and pre-set from the manufacturers, and if we want to change it, it's normally something we do ourselves by cutting and sewing the lines or attaching some extensions.

The first thing to point out is that the kite line length determines the dimension of the window of flight, which means a wider or narrower area in which our kite will fly.

Window of flight influences our kite’s performance in three ways: 1) the higher the kite flies, the stronger the wind; 2) the amplitude of space that the kite flies in determines the speed it can reach and how long it will stay in the power zone; 3) behavior of lines: the longer they are, the wider will be the curve (caused by their weight and the wind action), and this will cause less response on steering commands.

wind speed different heights

If you understand these basic concepts, you can easily figure out how to manipulate your kite’s lines:

-        -   Shorter kite lines will force the kite to fly in a smaller window, at lower altitude. This will prevent the kite from reaching stronger high winds and, at the same time, will limit its possibility to fly for long periods in the power zone and to get high speeds. Since your kite’s amplitude of flight will be limited, it will reach all points of the flying window very quickly, giving a very fast response to the kitesurfer’s commands.

 -          Longer kite lines will do the opposite. When the kite reaches its maximum height, it will be able to catch strong winds. A wider flying window will allow it to fly at high speeds and to be in the power zone for longer time. The result will obviously be the opposite: since the space to travel from one side of the flying window to the other is bigger, and the longer/curved lines take more time to transmit commands, the kite will appear much slower and less responsive.

 -          Normally manufacturers sell kites with a length of lines between 20 and 25 meters: this is a good compromise between power and response.

 -          Short lines (between 15 and 20 meters) are used in situations of very strong and gusty winds to allow a better control of a kite.

 -          Long lines (25 and up to 40 meters) are normally used in light wind conditions or in kitesurf racing, when it’s necessary to reach the best wind possible. It’s pretty clear that if you aren’t experienced enough, using long lines can be quite dangerous: the kite will be much less responsive and it will be able to reach high speed for long period of time, generating a huge amount of power.

 -          If you are just learning kitesurfing, use very short lines (between 5 to 10 meters) before starting on the board: the kite won’t be able to reach high speed and will have a very limited window of flight, making it impossible to reach enough power that could lead to dangerous situations. That’s why the best certified schools tend to use short line set-up for their beginner students.

short lines kitesurf lesson

What is your experience with using long or short lines? Share it in the comments!

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Information about the different behavior produced by the longer or shorter kitesurf lines.
Date published: 06/03/2014
Date Update: 06/03/2014