Kiteboarding: Getting on a Plane
When you're first learning how to kiteboard, getting on plane can be one of the biggest challenges. On a kiteboard, the process is very similar to getting on a plane on a wakeboard, so if possible, master how to get up on a wakeboard first. You can do this in any calmer body of water, like one of North Carolina's Sounds or a nearby lake.
Before you get started, it is imperative to fully understand the current wind conditions and the mechanics of the kite and board you are using. Before you head to the water, make sure that your kite is large enough to get you up and going in the current wind speeds. Trying to get on plane in light winds is nearly impossible, which can be very frustrating.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, trying to commandeer your kite in higher winds can be very dangerous, especially if you are relatively new to the sport. The ultimate goal is to find a balance for the kite and board that you are riding. For example, taking a 12-meter wide, 4-line kite out in 10-13 knots of wind with a 5 to 6-foot kiteboard would be optimal conditions for a beginner who weighs between 150 and 180 pounds.
It is also very important during your first kiteboarding sessions to always start at a long, wide beach with minimal people. Thankfully, these are in abundance along the North Carolina coast, and secluded Sound and Ocean beaches can be found around every corner, particularly in the fall and spring months when the beaches are less populated and the wind conditions are optimal. Large beaches are key because when you are learning how to plane you will most likely end up far downwind, and far away from your initial launching point.
Once your optimal equipment and outdoor conditions are secure, it is time to get into the water. To make things easier, always learn how to kiteboard with foot straps until you are very comfortable and gain a bit of experience. Foot straps not only make learning safer, but will help to simplify the process. It is always very helpful in the beginning to have an experienced kiteboarder walk into the water with you and hold the back of your harness to help keep you stable while maneuvering your kite and board simultaneously for the first time. Once you walk a safe distance into the water, put your kite in the neutral position, lay back into the water and let the kite cradle you as you put your board on.
Once your board is strapped on and you feel secure and stable, you are prepared to make your first dive with the kite through your power zone, which is the dominant area that you will kiteboard through. With the kite resting in the neutral position, pull the kite lightly in the opposite direction from the direction you plan to go, just past the 1 o'clock/11 o'clock position, then immediately dive the kite hard in the direction you plan to go. This process will produce a longer and more powerful stroke through the center of the power zone, giving you a sudden burst of energy, and pulling you upwards and out of the water. When your kite starts making its dive through the power zone toward the water, this force will cause a pull. As you feel the pull of the kite you will also feel pressure on your board against the water, identical to wakeboarding. The moment you feel this pull and tension, start bending your knees and pointing your leading foot straight downwind.
Now that you are moving in the water, the important thing is to keep your kite from losing power and crashing into the water on your initial down stroke, which is what causes beginners to have the most trouble in the sport. Many first-timers are not aggressive enough when it comes to bringing the kite back up into the sky, through the power zone and toward 12 o'clock. Be sure to be tough and pull hard to bring the kite back up fast, in order to keep your kite from collapsing and to maintain power throughout your ride. During the upstroke, you will feel much more power from the kite and will be able to continue to plane.
Once you have hoisted yourself up and you are planing, continue the process of stroking up and down through the power zone as you apply pressure to your heel edge. The harder you edge, the more power you will need, so it is all about balancing the two. Once you are up on a plane and edging hard, you can place the kite in a stable position anywhere from 30 to 60 degrees off of the water. Take time to understand your kite and how it reacts to your power strokes. This can be the most important and most challenging aspect of learning how to kiteboard.
Bear in mind that learning how to plane takes time and patience. It is probably something that you will not master your first time, but don't let that damper your spirits.
Most importantly, make sure you learn to kite on an open sandy beach where your drop zone is clear and where the winds are not blowing off shore, in case you drop your kite. It is suggested to take a lesson with a certified instructor in order to make the learning process quicker, and more important, safer for you.