Getting barrels is one of the most exhilarating things you can do kitesurfing. It’s the fear of the unknown, not knowing exactly what will happen, whether or not your are going to make it out the end of the tunnel or get a beating like no other when you see that lip start to throw over your head. As no two waves are ever alike, there is no “step by step” way to explain how to get barreled. Rather than listing a step by step way to get barreled, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to learn to recognize when a wave will barrel, followed by correct positioning on the wave and kite placement.
1. Look at the bottom of the wave. Rather than looking at the lip to see if the wave will barrel, look at the bottom of the wave. A wave barrels when the swell hits a shallow reef slowing the wave down at the base while the top of the swell continues until it throws over creating a barrel. If the swell isn’t moving fast enough, or the water is too deep a wave will not barrel. Knowing this helps you recognize if a wave will barrel. Look at the bottom of the wave as the wave starts to break; you will see the bottom begin to slow down dramatically and the swell steepen fast. If the wave is at 90degrees and you still see the bottom slowing down, it’s a good chance it’s going to barrel… Everything moves very quickly in a matter of seconds, so be ready!
2. Be Further back than you think you should be. It’s a lot easier to speed up than to slow down with a kite attached to you, especially if the wind is cross offshore. You want to position yourself so you see the lip of the wave throw several feet in front of you. Most barrels happen quick, so you want to be in it from the beginning. If you are in front of the barrel and try to slow down, it will most likely be over by the time it catches up to you.
3. Do your best to get the lines to angle parallel to the wave. Line drag is what will ruin the majority of kite barrels, especially if it’s a bigger wave with a thicker lip. It’s not always possible, but position your kite by either edging harder (sending kite forward) or barring downwind (making your kite drift back) so your kite lines will go out of the barrel rather than drag through the lip. Very few waves have a perfect wind direction, but by positioning your kite to the closest ideal point will help you out a lot.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG!
1. Eject! You’re going down, Eject! Use that kite to get you up and out of danger. By steering you kite back out to sea as you fall, the kite will pull you up through the lip and out the back of the wave.
2. Keep the kite flying! Most important thing of all! Fly, fly, fly that kite! Do your best to keep that kite flying, lines down in the surf is a worst case scenario.
3. Tuck in your elbows! Getting tossed around in the surf with your elbows out can make you unintentionally fly your kite into the water. A simple trick that I tell everyone when your fall, (works for freestyle crashes as well) place your hands as close to the chickenloop (center of bar) as you can and pull your elbows into the side of your body. By doing this you minimize the amount you can fly your kite as your arms cannot move.
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