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Tips on Going Upwind by Jon. O.
I just learned to go upwind (at sherman during a flood ) and I sent this to my friend who wanted tips. Figured I'd repost it here since learning to do this is so fresh in my mind.
If someone else with more experience has more tips or I said something that is bad form, let me know or just post a reply to correct it.
Overall, it took me about 8 hours in the water to go upwind. Once I could get up and ride, about 4 hours more in the water to actually go upwind. I've gone upwind every time since (when I need to) so it hasn't been hit or miss so far.
Also, having to land at a shitty place like Little Baja with big rocks in the Sherman channel seems to be a great motivator . I wouldn't recommend Little Baja to new people, it's totally dangerous even if you crash the kite before the rocks (way before) and self rescue to the rocks and use the 5th line to get the kite over the rocks and onto the grass (crazy 5th line technique). Bad idea unless you are totally comfortable, understand the density of rock vs. human bone and have someone to assist. I probably shouldn't have mentioned this at all Sherman is not a spot to learn, Alameda and Bodega Harbor are much safer.
I was on a 12m Vegas with a 158 board (I'm 5'8" 175lbs) in 20mph winds generally. Huge board probably helps a lot, but it sucks wheeling down the back-side of Sherman chop.
I think the key is to just boil it down to "how can I edge harder while maintaining speed?"
My tips (sorta in order of importance):
!!!Make sure you trust the kite and can *lean back hard* against the harness. If you can't, you won't go upwind. Once I could lean back and commit, I could go upwind. Probably would have helped me to wear the harness and lean against a tree or something to feel the harness hold me and know what it would feel like with the kite pulling.
-Water-start and go downwind a bit to get board speed, then turn and point upwind more. Don't try to point upwind straight from the start, you don't have any speed and will sink. If you are sinking out right after you water-start this is probably the problem.
-You are really fighting -- fighting the kite, the wind, and the water. Think aggressively and quickly and act like you are standing against mother nature and going to hold your position, no matter what gust hits. You can't be slacking off, relaxing, or trying to chill to overcome the force of the wind. Stand against it and mean it . Growl at the wind and sheet IN so you can lean against the kite!
-You are trying to find a balance between being sucked downwind and overpowered to sinking and being underpowered. You have to ride right in this gap. It's kinda scary having the kite pull you super hard or going really fast the first couple times, just stay calm and THINK faster/more precise to overcome your fear. Make decisions or panic/bear off -- those are the two options.
-Bend knees and twist them a bit forward, turn your heels toward the back of the board and your toes toward the front (kind of like a surfer), and crouch a bit like you are when you throw the bowling ball, like a surfer (not so much though) or like "Charlie's Angels" stance. This should make your hips/shoulders point upwind. Also, push the bar back and down behind you a bit (that gives you something to lean on and makes you twist forward).
-Watch your speed, if you start slowing, you need to correct it *right now* because you are losing speed and will sink if you don't correct it in 5 seconds. It's a constant manipulation of speed, there is really no cruise control at 15mph. If you are slowing, you can bear off downwind to pick up speed, fly the kite in sine waves (I seem to do this a lot to keep powered up), or sheet in/release depower or both. Parking the kite may not give enough power to stay fast and edging, you may have to sine it -- just do it so you don't get too much power and pulled off your edge.
-If the kite gets too far forward (near the 3 o'clock edge of the window) you will lose power. Sine the kite backward (figure eight) on an upstroke a bit to move it back in the window.
-While sining the kite: sheet in on the downstroke and steer upwind more (a bit), sheet out on the upstoke. In down, out up. Kite will stall or go upward real slow if it's oversheeted. You steer away (upwind) a bit more when it goes down to compensate for the extra pull from downward power-strokes, but you end up riding in a straight line (pretty much).
-Put pressure on heelside, but also be aware of the "yaw" (see pitch, yaw, roll in flight) of your board/feet. Yaw is like when you walk, pressure forward with one foot and back with the other (like scissor legs). You need to manipulate this to prevent skidding out. You can edge harder if you push on the heelside and also push backward with your front foot (point the nose of the board higher upwind).
-Push hips forward and edge with your whole body, not just sitting and trying to edge like you are on the pot.
-You will feel when you get your edge in and it will kind of make the board feel smoother, softer and like you are carving. When learning upwind, if you feel this, try to maintain it/go back to it.
-Depower kite with sheeting strap so you aren't overpowered and getting pulled off your edge if you can't hold the beast down.
-Keep the kite at 45 degrees or lower so you can lean against it and edge. If it's high, it will pull you off your edge because of the vertical (rather than horizontal) lift.
-Don't depower so much that you can't edge, you need to lean back real hard and the kite must have power to lean against. If you depower too much or wind drops, sine the kite fast and hard to maintain power. Flying sine is an easy way to control power and adapt to changing wind, chop, etc. Bigger faster sine-waves if you need lot's of power, little slower ones if you just need a little. I do this a lot to make sure I don't fall in backwards or to get power during a lull.
-Spot a fixed point and shoot for it when you look up, but don't get distracted by it, the kite is more important.
-Sheet in if you are losing power, sheet out if you are overpowered. This too is constant manipulation of power. If you are sheeted out and still overpowered, sheet in the depower strap like 2 inches (small amounts do it).
-If you end up in the water, get back on the board stat (but be calm and deliberate). The whole time you are in the water, you are drifting downwind. If you crash the kite, get it back up fast, this sucks you downwind more than simply floating with the kite up.
-When you land back at the beach, sheet in your depower (but don't hindenberg the kite) to ensure you don't get lofted, can walk safely, etc. It just became habit for me, not sure if it's good form/technique. Plus, it will be depowered next time you launch (hopefully).
-Don't think you have to keep your front leg straight all the time, bend it for chop, to get in forward twist stance, etc. Do whatever feels like you should to keep your edge.
The main thing is to edge and remove any situation that prevents you from edging. Just think to yourself "how can I edge harder?" It might be you need more speed, so sine the kite. It might be that you are overpowered, so depower/sheet out. It might be that you can't get on the edge, so fully commit to leaning back against the kite (and keep the kite below 45 degrees).
I think if I see someone who can't go upwind I could probably figure out why pretty easy, so having someone who knows how to go upwind watch you for a minute might help resolve some habitual bad form you have.
Key is to think "how can I edge harder while maintaining speed" and you have to make your own decisions on what to do to achieve that goal given the techniques listed above.
You must know what tools you can use to edge hard and use those tools to adapt to the current situation. Sometimes you might pull the depower strap, sometimes you might just sheet out on the bar -- you have to know what you can do and implement it accordingly.
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Just want to give props to Jon O. whoever he is and to Ollie for this post. I have been having a hard time staying upwind consistently. After reading this post and really focusing on the advice given I have been able to ride for a couple of hours without ever doing the walk of shame. This is THE BEST writeup on going upwind I have found on the net.
Hey thanks for the tips on up-winding. Perfect for what I'm working on right now so great to have your ideas to think on.
If you ever care to share your thoughts on changing direction (such as a sliding turn) I'd be an eager audience. It seems most of my loss of territory downwind is because I end up dropping my butt in the water every time I change tack and then I have to re-stage the kite and dive it again to get back on the board.
Thanks for the tips. I finally made it upwind today, and reading over these from time to time have been instrumental in accomplishing this. I even growled at the wind last week at third.
I wanted to add a few things that I've learned along the way and what original points really stuck out to me while still fresh in my head.
I absolutely agree that you must be powered up. I was out at Alameda today on my 12m as it started dropping but was still tipping into 20 knots from time to time. I made a lot of trimming adjustments and often sheeted way out, but having the power allows you to really use it when you're in control.
One of the hardest parts for me was going into an uncontrolled snowboard-like snowplow-style movement when I tried to edge too hard. Firstly, when it happens, I found that continuing to bounce uncontrollably in this position always ended in a crash; head downwind with the kite and sheet way out until you regain your edge. It seems to happen when you aren't digging in enough with the back foot, but just simply trying to push the board away from you with both feet.
It can also happen in chop, as you come down off a wave and catch a little air, which increases your speed. I found that using my legs as shocks, going over the small swells, and then digging in hard upwind as soon as I was back down helped me a lot. You gain a lot of power in that point, so use it. If you end up in the air at all, point downwind for the landing and then edge back in quickly.
I found that I was often riding with the kite too low to the water. Not only is the wind gustier and weaker, but having it higher up allows you to very quickly increase your power by dropping the kite down and back up. As soon as you feel like you're not fighting the kite and start to lose speed, you probably need more power. Any time you have too much power, edge hard upwind and then straighten a little, then hard again.
Sold all my gear; ebbs and flows; see you next season.
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