Aug 16, 2008

Wave Riding Tips by Ben Wilson

What sort of board should I get?

Definitely get a surf board, there are 2 main options here - epoxy (pop out) and polyester ( regular surfboard construction). Both have their benefits the epoxy is generally tougher and will handle smaller hits and knocks without getting as damaged. Epoxy is also more bouyant which can make them a little bouncy in chop and less of a feel through turns. Poly boards have more flex and sit in the water giving them a more of an alive feel. You have to be way more careful with a poly board and generally they will not last as long an epoxy. Remember both boards will still break. My advice to newcomers is to get an epoxy board designed by a surf shaper. In the long run you will get better value out of an epoxy as it will last longer through your learning process. Once you really get into it and know exactly what you want in a board then you can opt for the more refined and customized poly board.

What do I ride? I ride both - When you see me on a polyester board I am trialing new designs that will appear in the next production board line from Slingshot

What about size?

I ride the same size board as I surf. This is ideal because I can travel with fewer boards and I can surf the board in the morning and kite it in the afternoon. However you need to be paddle fit to surf a smaller board. A good rule of thumb is to get a board 2” longer than you. Eg I am 6′foot and I ride a 6′2. If you are built like a brick then get a board with a bit more volume or a touch more length.

Do I need straps?

This is tricky and is different for everyone. We have had some people come to our wave clinics who have never been on a directional before and start riding strapless straight away. So it is possible to learn without straps. Most people feel more comfortable in straps and then progress to strapless.

Straps are useful in some situations and I still use them from time to time.
If its really nuking like 30+ and really bumpy I sometimes strap up to get the most out that session. Straps also let you experiment with new moves that you can then progress to strapless riding.

Why do you unhook so much?

Unhooking gives me a much more natural stance when I riding and I use the power of the wave to ride the wave instead of the power of the kite. Being hooked in tends to pivot you on your waist where the harness is. This doesn’t allow for a natural surfing style as when I am unhooked i have a fully open stance and can surf the wave the same way as i do without the kite. Please note that not all wind directions suit for un-hooking, so I only do it when the conditions allow.

I tried unhooking and can’t hold the power.

90% of the people we have come across don’t have their kite trimmed correctly to unhook or have kites that allow to un-hook correctly.
What you need to do is have your kite in its optimal position when the bar is pulled down against chicken loop. That way when you unhook it keeps it flying perfectly.
If you unhook and kite begins to stall or fly backwards it means it is over sheeted - Pull on the depower strap until you achieve optimal kite position with the bar sheeted fully in. If this doesn’t work, you may need to look at other kite options

What size kites…will my freestyle kite work in the surf?

More than likely it will but generally you don’t need as much power from your kite as you are on a bigger board and you really just want enough power to get you around in the surf.I am using the REVS from Slingshot and really just use 2 sizes. I am 84kg.
The 11m works for me from 10 kts up to 20. If I can’t unhook on the 11 then I change to the 7m.
Again we see a lot of people with too much kite up when they are riding the waves. The smaller the kite the quicker it turns and its also easier to shut down the power when you are on a wave.

Getting off the beach

Make sure you are in at least knee deep water so you don’t break your fins out when you get up on the board.
Head slightly downwind initially to generate speed.
Keep up a moderate amount of speed but control it so you don’t get launched when you hit the first wave or whitewater.
To get over whitewater bend your knees and suck up the wave and let your board ride up over the foam. Kite position is really important. Keep your kite at 45% or better still have your kite pulling down as you hit the foam. This will pull you down and help you stick to your baord. A combination of these 2 skills will ensure you stay on the board with or without straps.
If the wind is light you will need to move your kite to generate enough speed to penetrate the waves.

Catching Waves

From out the back
This technique is used when there is a decent swell and the wind is cross on or side shore.
Turn in front of a swell and get enough speed to stay on the moving wave.
As the waves steepens you will feel the power of the wave replacing the power of the kite.
Turn your kite down low in front of the wave as you begin to take the drop. Keep the kite low and make small adjustments as you ride along the face.
Initailly start out on the shoulder of the wave but as your confidence increases you will be able to take off closer to the pocket of the wave.

Whip at technique
This is great fun and basically involves doing a turn on the face of the wave to catch it.
It works in most wind directions.
1, Ride out with moderate speed
2 As you see a wave you want to ride bear away slightly downwind to get more speed.
3 Initiate the kite turn as the wave passes under the kite and spot you turn on the wave
4 Turn on the face off the wave maintaining speed and ensure your kite finishes low and in the direction that you are heading.


The most important thing about doing any turn is kite position – you need to be doing the turn while you have no power or pull in the kite, so it’s all about having the kite set up in the optimal position before you do the turn. The best way to do this is by keeping your kite low and moving in the same direction as you with subtle adjustments while visualizing and anticipating your turns well before doing them.

Please, if you have any further questions contact me through

I also have a global clinics and a full instructional DVD –

New – Wave riding coaching clinics in Bali and USA and Baja Mexico

SMACK – wave riding instructional DVD