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Strapless surfboard riding tips

Posted: Tue Jun 07, 2011 12:40 am
by Bob

I thought it might be a good idea to start a thread to help generate tips for those interested in riding strapless surfboards in local small inland lakes, the great lakes and in oceans.
The info below is based on my experiences, observations and figuring many things out on my own, so take it for what it's worth. I've spent the last few years riding a lot strapless in and around Madison practicing and practicing and practicing and some riding in OBX (Cape Hatteras).

I'm by no means an expert at riding strapless, so anyone with any good tips or if you disagree with my tips, please post. This is an open discussion to help others.
My personal arsenal is an Underground Freewave 6'2" board and I use it in all winds. Anything from about 15 up to super nuking. I don't change boards but just change kites.

Key point #1...practice a ton. It's the only way to get better.

*I'll assume most know how to get up and ride a little, but if not, let me know and I can go over some basics for getting set to ride. I can even do a short video if it helps.

Focusing on the board:

1) When getting up on the board, error on the side of having your feet a little forward than back. It will help plane off easier and then you can move your feet back a little if needed.
2) Find your sweet spot with your front foot and once you know this spot remember it. It will probably stay the same for most winds. Once you find the sweet spot for the front foot, it will be easier to move your back foot forward or back. If you have to move your front foot, move you back foot forward first or you might do a Wheelie and will be off balance.
3) I've also found that I like having my front foot heel close to the heel side rail and my back foot toes closer to the toe side rail. If I want to lay down a hard toe side turn or slash, it helps having the back foot toes near that rail since the push comes from the back foot even though you're still leaning into the turn. If you are going from heel side to toe side turns, or from bottom turn to off the lips this position will help with good carving or slashing on both sides.
4) If I'm NOT doing a planned downwinder on a big lake or ocean, 99% of the time I'll do a big UPWINDER and then slash my way back downwind. Going strapless and if slightly overpowered, I can rip upwind in a quite relaxing way. If so, I'll move both of my heels on the heel side rail and I'll move my back foot further forward and muddle upwind going at medium speeds.
5) Keep knees and ankles relaxed and flexed. It helps to have relaxed tension.

Focusing on the kite:

1) Lake riding waves/chop in Madison is much different compared to ocean and even Lake Michigan waves. Our waves/chop have no energy in them meaning you get one hit or 2 if you're lucky and you'll loose power. It's possible to park the kite and just do your thing with the board, but you'll loose power sooner than later and have to regenerate power. It helps if practicing in smaller lakes if doing a toe side turn to take the kite up a bit and then back down when going back to heel side and it will help you keep up the speed.
2) The more you change direction, the more aggressive the kite movements. Again...this is on smaller inland lakes.
3) knew I couldn't get through all of this without giving you some props. Years ago, I remember seeing a video of West ripping up toe side turns on his twin tips. I know, I know. Anyway...he switched his upper hand to the wrong side of the bar as the kite was just sitting there. Oh yea... I tried it right away and it's super easy to lay the lower hand in the water when laying down a strong toe side turn while controlling the kite with the wrong hand. If anyone can't visualizing this, I'll do a short video. Let me know. For sure a more advanced move, and makes laydowns super fun.
4) In Madison we have no shore break. On bigger lakes and oceans, there's not only shore break in many areas, but also currents. Jetties, rock outcroppings are good places to get into the water due to less current. If the shore break is big, you might have to wait for your spot to get out. for a set of bigger waves to come in and pass and then try to get out when it's down a little. You might even consider body dragging out past the breaks.
5) Currents can make it really hard to get the board on your feet. The wind is blowing, but the current is taking you downwind and take some power out of the kite. If you aren't fast getting the board ready, you might again want to body drag out away from shore where the current is less.

Focusing on transitions:

1) Even if you come from a windsurfing background, this will be much harder since there's no mast contacting the front of the board. It's only you and your feet. If you can do a good toe side turn in one or both directions, do the turn and then change your feet if you want to go heel side in the new direction. I practice changing my feet on almost every tack when on smaller lakes just to get better. If in bigger or more intense waves, I'll change my feet much less and ride toe side more often, but trying to get better on my switch stance. If you are not very good at toe side transitions, it might help to change your feet before turning and then lay down a heel side turn.
2) Watch videos of guys riding strapless. It will help a lot with how to do it and keeping board speed up will help with balance.
3) A closer stance is easier than a wide stance when switching. Back foot moves first or both if you're fast. Nailing them rocks. Messing up sucks.
4) If falling off a board, watch for you board as it might become an airborne missile. Can't say how many times I've fallen and first thing I do it look where my board is and see I it coming right back at my head. TIME TO DUCK AND COVER.

Focusing on gear:

1) For me it works to have a little bigger kite on Madison lakes since I can rip upwind and then have lots of speed power in turns since I have to generate my own speed. This is my preference and doesn't work for everyone.
2) If in lakes or oceans with waves that are rideable (sp?) and generate power, it's easier to go with a little smaller kite. Going downwind and coming off a face with too big of a kite sucks.
3) OBX comment only, but it might work in other areas. If the inside has the best waves AND if there's a strong current, rig a tad bigger if doing a downwinder. Can't say how many time's I've been in a downwinder and riding the inside where there's current and you'll loose speed and power.
4) Kite design? Mid aspect for sure (well mostly). Wainman Hawaii, Epic Renegades, Slingshot RPM and Rally's. Cabrinha Nomads. High aspect kites that sit far forward in the wind window kind of suck in waves unless you keep them moving. A lot of kites like this will also back stall if you ride towards them fast unless you take them up or down (sineing (sp?)).
5) I also like a fast turning kite but also love a kite that will just sit there and move back in the wind window if riding towards it. All the above kites are quick or fast.
6) Boards? If riding strapless, boards that are a little wider are easier than narrow ones. Underground Freewaves, Cabrinha Skillet and a few Slingshots fit that bill. Boards choices run a wide range of preference and can be a complete thread all on it's own.'s closing on on 12:45 and I need some sleep.

Hope this helps and please post any thoughts, comments, etc and let me know if anyone has any further gear questions.

Anyone want to cover going up and over nasty shore break or white water and breaking waves?

Thanks in advance for any added feedback, etc.


Re: Strapless surfboard riding tips

Posted: Tue Jun 07, 2011 6:55 am
by jensmadwind
lots of good info there, i will add a couple nuggets

if you can't do it on your twin tip, you will have a hard time on a surfboard.

ex. if you can't do a switch toe side turn on a tt you most likely will not have the timing with the kite to come out of the turn powered.

stay in tuned with the kite, ride fast

keep the kite lines taught and the kite ready to move at any time, when transitioning go into it with board speed and a little tension on the lines, it is easier to move your feet when you have pull from the kite.

its only water, so go for it. the crashes only make you better.

Re: Strapless surfboard riding tips

Posted: Thu Jun 09, 2011 7:55 am
by Misfit
One thing you missed is how much fun riding strapless is ;)

Surfboards aren't just for surf.
When I first got started with riding strapless with a surfboard, it was mostly on those cock-breeze days where the kite will fly but really difficult to stay upwind. I had a blast on those light wind days just mowing the lawn and working on my body position, feet placement, and jibes (see Bobs descriptions above for the more technical explanation). Those light breeze strapless days also REALLY helped me with my kite flying skills. Many many many hours out on the water trying to keep a 20.5 machine flying in 9-11 was a huge benefit that still pays off today when the breeze suddenly drops without warning. Strapless riding turned those frustrating days into sessions i'll always remember. If you kite in the Midwest, light breeze is a reality for us for the three warmest months of the year so go out, have fun, and get those light wind sessions in!


Re: Strapless surfboard riding tips

Posted: Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:28 pm
by chillin
Great thread, thanks for all the tips, really learning to ride strapless is high on my priority list this year!


Re: Strapless surfboard riding tips

Posted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 10:22 pm
by Bob

Have you been out much riding strapless yet?

Re: Strapless surfboard riding tips

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:56 am
by Dutchkiteboarder
My first strapless experience was with a Wakesurf using my kite. A buddy of mine got back from a trip from France and told me this was something fun to use. I felt realy clumsy in the beginning not feeling any straps over my feet. After that experience I haven't been back on a strapless board. :lol:

Re: Strapless surfboard riding tips

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:15 am
by Misfit

Wake surfer for wakeboarding? I hope I get to meet you at the beach sometime.. I want to get you out on a surfboard or wakeskate designed for kiting. I've got a whole bunch of boards for you to try. I bought a Cabrinha Nugget as an impulse buy while I was in Maui this winter and can't wait to give it a try on a big north on the big lake. Strapless is so much fun, you gotta give it another try on the right gear!


Re: Strapless surfboard riding tips

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:27 am
by chillin

Not much yet, bought a used board down there in hatteras and ridden a handful of times on flat water with it. I really like the feel of it but have no idea what I'm doing really :?

Re: Strapless surfboard riding tips

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:29 am
by Dutchkiteboarder
I think it was a Wakesurfer for wakeboarding indeed. We didn't had a clue what it was. His buddy in France was a distributor for Liquid Force and thats how he got the board. It was fun to play around with but like it said I felt really clumsy in the beginning. After I got the hang of it it was a lot of fun tho to use. Maybe my next board design will be a Wakesurf just for fun!

Cory I am heading out to Tawas next week. U live all the way up north in Michigan right? Drop by in Tawas! haha

Re: Strapless surfboard riding tips

Posted: Tue Jun 14, 2011 10:37 am
by snowball
Nice post !!!

Re: Strapless surfboard riding tips

Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:15 pm
by seblue
Thanks guys for all the posts. I hope to get to play with the board I got from Jimbo sometime a 6'6 Cabrina. It is not easy to play in the water when I have to watch my kids. I hope to get to one of the Tawas trips this summer. Last year was great.