I was contacted by a local beginner recently who had taken introductory lessons elsewhere but is looking for some spot specific tips. He has managed to start gaining ground upwind but is still struggling with consistency, below is segment of an email in our exchange:
Most of my students have little issue with riding upwind after just a few successful rides on the board, but it is common to meet kitersurfers who have spent years struggling with staying upwind and the “walk of shame” (carrying all their wet gear back upwind).
You can see the symptoms of these training scars at your local beach. “Experienced” riders who put up a larger kite than other riders and are stuck “mowing the lawn” and typically have difficulty gaining any distance upwind. They are stuck edging hard against the power of their kite, which makes for less comfortable riding as they are stuck fighting the kite power. Even skilled kiteboarders who choose to ride an overpowered kite to get the highest jumps possible almost always learned proper jump mechanics and timing on a smaller kite.
Cnce you are confident flying the kite, master these steps and you will be heading at steep angles upwind:
work the kite aggressively to board start and build speed downwind
use the board to redirect this speed upwind
use subtle edging technique while twisting the head, chest, hips, and board upwind
keep weight predominately on the back leg
The previous post on teaching theory goes into detail on how significantly the first experiences with a kite effect your progression and some advice on reversing “training scars” if you are stuck at a plateau. The advice/lessons I provide for those struggling with upwind riding is actually to do a lot more downwind riding!
Arranging a downwinder or taking a boat supported lesson allows you to focus on building and controlling speed downwind without worrying about losing ground and getting back to the beach! Take a size smaller kite with you on these downwinders. This will make you a more aggressively kite pilot and significantly increase your kite flying skills and board start technique which will pay dividends once you are on a regular sized kite launch and landing from the same beach.
I hope this helps anyone stuck at the verge of unlocking upwind freedom. Post any questions/comments you have below or book a lesson this summer!