With the advancements in light-wind-specific kit it’s never been easier to get out when things are marginal. Of course, those light-wind conditions do bring their own unique challenges. Whether you’re pushing the bottom end of your existing quiver or trying to squeeze the most out of the latest dedicated light-wind kit, the principals are the same. Here are a few pointers to help you make the most of the days when you’d normally be stuck on the beach.
Relaunching; good luck… The biggest challenge (and risk) in light wind riding is relaunching. Just because your 18m monster gets you going in 10 knots, that doesn’t mean it’ll relaunch when you drop it. In fact, that long leading edge and high aspect ratio mean it’s more likely to just stick to the water! The moral of this story is simple; never go out further than you can comfortably swim back in! And of course, light wind means less people on the water to see if you’re in trouble, so don’t ride alone and do practice your pack-down and self-rescue before it’s too late.
Efficiency is king. Probably the biggest mistake made in light winds is being too heavy handed and footed. Heavy footed means stomping on the rail and expecting the board to behave as it normally would. Do this in light wind and all that’ll happen is the board won’t start to plane and you’ll drag the kite round to the edge of the window, i.e. you’ll stall! So, instead of just burying the rail and hoping for the best, keep the board flatter, take a more centred stance to keep the maximum planing area on the water and allow the board speed to build before edging too hard. Board speed means faster apparent wind and this is what will get (and keep) you going. if your board speed is dropping, ease off on the rail pressure and work the kite to build more speed again.
Don’t choke! Another common mistake is ‘choking’ the kite. This means over-sheeting, or pulling the bar too far in. In light wind, the kite will simply stop, and worse, it may back-stall (fly backwards). It’s air moving over the leading edge that’ll build power in light wind, not static grunt from the sail area presented to the wind. Avoid this by keeping the bar further out and allowing the kite to build speed, working it nearer the centre of the window where there’s more power. As your board speed builds and the kite develop more power, then you can let it fly further forward in the window and start to edge more.
Beware the luff. While we need to be careful not to choke the kite, we don’t want it over-flying either. Over-flying, or ‘luffing’ is when the kite flies past you – out of the back of the window – and then drops to ground as air pressure on the top of the canopy forces it to adopt a nose-down attitude. This is most likely to happen when stationary or walking to/from the waterline and is usually caused by too little bar pressure and tension on the back lines. Avoid the dreaded luff and subsequent ‘hindenburg’ (kite falling out of the sky) by keeping some tension in the back lines while moving to or from the water. Not so much that it starts to back-stall, but enough that it doesn’t rush forward and over-fly when a gust hits. Of course, once you’re in the water and moving you need to ease off and make sure you don’t choke the kite (see above). As with everything in light-wind riding, it’s all about ballance and moderation to squeeze the most of the kit and conditions.
Like everything, light wind riding take practice, but it’s worth it. And don’t forget, your Local British Kitesports School is the perfect place to book a refresher session or some coaching to hone your skills. Find your nearest school here: https://www.britishkitesports.org/training/uk-kitesurfing-schools.html