The Vanhunks Kiteboarding Glossary

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Now that it’s kiteboarding season, we thought we’d come up with a kiteboarding glossary to sate any curiosity you have while you’re still learning to fly. Consider this your one-stop A-Z spot for all terms relating to kiteboarding. As with any sport, there are certain expressions you use that would never make sense to someone not into the sport, but to those who are seasoned enthusiasts, the vocabulary makes perfect sense.

Knowing what the words mean is important for your overall kiteboarding experience as you need to be able to communicate with other kiteboarders and understand what they’re saying if you want to progress as a rider. The Vanhunks kiteboarding glossary guide will be categorized into five sections, each representing a specific topic. The categories are:

  1. Equipment
  2. Wind & water
  3. Techniques
  4. Kiteboarding beach talk

Our first stop on the kiteboarding glossary is terms used for equipment. These will be the basic phrases you need to learn first, much like learning any foreign language to get the basics down before you can progress in fluency. If you are going to be kiteboarding Florida (or any destination for that matter), you should get these basic terms under the belt before hitting the water.

1. Glossary Guide on Equipment

Bar (control bar): Your bar is the steering wheel of your set-up, and where your hands sit while riding, to control the kite. 

Bladder: This is the inflatable inner tube in a kite lining the inside of the leading edge and each of the struts. Bladders are used to give the kite its shape to fly, and also makes it float in the water when you crash the kite.

Bow Kite: Bow refers to the shape of the kite, which has swept-back wingtips. A bow kite is the most common shape, and probably the shape kite you would use when kiteboarding or most other kiteboarding destinations. Bow kites are considered safer for learning, thanks to the bridles that allow for smoother depowering when you let go of the bar, or the kite loses wind.

Bridles: These are the lines that help maintain the shape of the kite while it’s in the air. Bridle lines are what keep your control bar attached to your kite. Not all kite shapes have bridles.

Chicken Loop: This is the loop that connects the bar to the harness hook. Chicken loops act as safety devices that allow you to hook onto your kite as well as quickly detach if necessary. 

C-Kite: Another kite shape. C-kites are recognizable by their square wingtips. The lines attach at the four corners of the wings, and when viewed from the front, it resembles a ‘C’ shape, which is why it is called a C-kite.

Donkey Dick: This is a hard prong that is attached to the chicken loop. The donkey dick, along with the chicken loop, is what keeps the kite attached to the rider’s harness. They both act together to prevent the rider from becoming ‘unhooked’ during riding time.

Delta Kite: Delta kites are a type of bow kite with a much more swept-back wing profile, like delta wings on airplanes. In most cases, delta kites are short and fat in shape. If you’re a beginner looking to buy a kite, a delta is typically recommended.

Hybrid Kite: Hybrid kites are somewhere in between bow kites and C-kites and generally aim to give the feel of a C-kite combined with the safety of a bow kite.

Foil Kite: Another type of kite design. A foil kite keeps its shape with a series of cloth ribs that hold a top canopy to a lower canopy, along with a set of strings that work together to hold the canopies flat when the kite is filled with air, similar to a parachute.

Closed Cell Foil: This is a type of design used for a foil kite. A closed-cell foil design has the front end of the kite closed off and has multiple ports that allow air to flow into the kite, but when the kite is face down in the water on its leading-edge, those ports are closed off on the inside of the kite with fabric.

Open Cell Foil: The opposite of a closed-cell foil. As mentioned before, this refers to whether or not the leading edge of the kite is open so you can see the individual cells of the kite.

Directional Board: This is a type of kiteboard that looks similar to a standard surfboard and is most often used for kitesurfing waves.

Twin tip: The most common type of kiteboard. It looks similar to a wakeboard. This board can ride in both directions without needing to change your front and back foot. These boards often have foot straps.

Harness: Your harness is the ‘belt’ you wear around the waist. It has a hook that connects you to the kite and bar.

Kite canopy: The canopy is the material surface of the kite.

Kite pump: Kite pumps are used to inflate the bladder of the kite and are essential for pumping your kite up before each session.

Leading lines: These are short thicker lines from the control bar to the flying lines. They’re used to keep your fingers away from the flying lines.

Leash: Leashes are used to keep you connected to the kite when you deploy your main safety release when your kite starts doing mean things to you.  

Rail: This is the edge of the board. A rounded edge is a soft rail, and a sharp edge is a hard rail.

Spreader bar: The section of the harness with the metal bar and hook that hook onto your kite. Spreader bars and slider bars are interchangeable, based on whether you’re riding waves or not. Slider bars are only used for waves.

Safety pin: Safety Pins are used to disconnect the bar from the harness if you are in trouble and need to abort mission.

Seated harness: Seated harnesses are popular harnesses for people learning to kite. They tend to fit around the hips, with leg straps similar to those found on a climbing harness. Also called ‘nappy harnesses’

Steering line: These are also known as flying lines. They are connected from the control bar to the kite itself. These lines make sure the wings of the kite are fully powered by the wind.

Strut: Struts form part of the kite’s inflatable framing and structure.

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2. Kiteboarding Guide On Befriending The Elements

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the most common equipment terms, we can look at terms used to explain the natural elements you’ll encounter along your way, like wind and water. When kiteboarding, it can often be tricky due to how quickly the weather changes, so it’s important for safety to be familiar with terms used to explain the forces of nature you’re likely to come up against. The next section of our kiteboarding glossary will look at the different zones and kinds of wind you can experience while going for a shred.

Apparent wind: When the rider is pulled perpendicular to the downwind by the wing, this action generates a breeze in the direction being traveled. As the rider goes faster, this second breeze blows harder. This diagonal wind speed is called apparent wind. 

Backing wind: This is an anti-clockwise change in wind direction, i.e., North to West.

Downwind: This is the direction the wind is blowing towards. As you go downwind, the power of the kite is reduced, and you don’t need to edge the board. In basic terms, the direction the rider is facing away from the source. Downwinds are an easy ride.

Hindenburg: A kite falling out of the air due to the loss of tension in the control lines if the wind drops. This would result in losing control of the kite.

Katabatic wind: This is an air stream that descends off a hill or mountain.

Upwind: Riding upwind is riding against the wind or the direction from which wind is blowing. In basic terms, this is the direction the rider is facing towards the source of wind blowing. Riding upwind is hard work.

Neutral Zone: This is the wind zone in relation to your kite, used for launching and landing the kite, or for parking it in a neutral position while in the water.

Nuking: Basically, the wind is blasting at great speeds (35-40 knots).

Intermediate zone: This is where the kite generates medium power. This is a good wind speed to cruise with. You will fly the kite through or in this zone when the wind strength is decent.

Lofting: This is the act of getting lifted vertically into the air by the kite due to a strong gust of wind. This can potentially be dangerous at times.

Luffing: When the airflow stalls around the kite, it’s luffing. It may then stall and fall out of the sky. And start back up again, yanking you forward aggressively, which means you can look forward to a nice face plant and sinus washout once the kite hits the water.

Lull: A momentary drop in wind speed.

Leeward: This is the direction away from the wind. Opposite of windward.

Power Zone: Where the kite generates maximum power. You will fly the kite through or in this zone when you want maximum power.

Overhead Waves: This refers to the size of a wave.

VAS conditions: Meaning’ Victory at Sea’ conditions. This is very rough sea conditions, generally with overhead wind waves causing severe shore break.

Side onshore: Is wind blowing from the water towards the beach. Side onshore wind blows along the side of the shore up to a 45-degree angle towards the shore.

Side offshore: Is wind blowing from the beach towards the water. Side offshore wind blows along the side of the shore up to a 45-degree angle away from the shore.

Venturi effect: This is when the wind is forced through two objects such as mountains, hills, or buildings. The constriction of the wind being forced around through the objects to pass by causes wind velocity to increase at these points and creates a strong wind beneath the structures/objects.

Wind compression: An increase in airspeed is caused when the wind rises over land or objects, and creates wind compression.

Wind convergence: This is the term used to refer specifically to the horizontal inflow (convergence) or outflow (divergence) of air.

Wind direction: This the direction in which the wind is blowing from, not to. When kiteboarding Florida, the wind is best from east, south, or southwest.

Wind Force: Wind Force refers to the power of the wind.

Wind Window: This is the name given to the three-dimensional area downwind of the pilot (the kiteboarder) that the kite can fly in.

Zenith: This is the location in the wind window directly over the kiter’s head. This is the neutral position where kite surfers can place the kite to stop moving, or prior to movement. 

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3. Kiteboarding Guide On Techniques

The next section of the kiteboarding glossary looks at the various techniques you make use of while kiteboarding. These techniques are important to familiarize yourself with as it’s essential to know when more advanced riders are giving you advice on what you need to do in certain situations.

Balance drag: This is a controlled downwind facing body drag, where you’re holding the kite at the 12 o’clock position in the sky.

Board retrieval drag: This is a controlled reach body drag, with the kite positioned between 10 and 12, usually performed to go fetch your board after it’s come off your feet and flown across the water a fair stretch.

Board start: An essential part of learning to kiteboard is learning how to get up in the water with the board under your feet. This is a board start.

Body dragging: Body dragging is an early step in the learning process to learn kite control. The kite slowly pulls your body through the water while you’re in the water, not riding on top of it. You can body drag with or without your board in your hand that is not controlling the kite. 

Boost: The action of becoming airborne quickly, usually using wave faces as kickers, or by edging on your heel side or toe side to build fast momentum.

Carving turn: This move sees you turning within an arc performed at planing speed.

Chop hop: This is a small jump caused by a wave rather than with intention through the power of the kite and the wind.

Crosswind body drag: A powered body drag while flying the kite in a ‘sine wave’ on one side of the wind window to produce power and direction with the kite.

Heelside: This is the side of a board on the edge where your heels are (opposite of toeside). To edge heelside is when your heels are tilted down below the level of your toes to gain speed to boost for getting some air in your jumps. 

Hooked: Hooked riding is when the chicken loop attaches the bar to your harness, unhooked would see the rider not connecting themselves to the control bar of the kite.

Lark’s head knot: The Larks head knot is the single most useful knot in kiting. You will use this knot to attach your flying line to your kites tow points

Landing assistant: Even the pro riders need somebody to help safely catch and land their kites after a session. You’re no different.

Relaunch: The general term for getting the kite back up in the air after crashing it on land or water. 

Regular: This is the stance you take while riding, that has your left foot forward on the board.

Riding Suicide: This is when you clip your leash right to the chicken loop. It’s a technique to recover from crashes faster.

Goofy: The stance of the rider, opposite to regular, with the right foot leading.

Sine wave: When you navigate the kite up and down to the edges of the wind window, which creates a sine wave pattern, to generate more power with apparent wind.

Stall: A kite stalls when the airflow through it becomes detached from the kite surface and becomes turbulent. A stalled kite loses lift and falls.

Toeside: When you ride your board on the edge where your toes are pushed deeper in than your heels. You can use your heel and toe side alternations to navigate and steer your riding directions.

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5. Kiteboarding Guide To Beach Talk

The final section of the Kiteboarding Glossary is about beach talk. These are just some general terms you will hear while getting ready to hit the water, after sessions, or on kiteboarding forums online. These are the final set of terms you need to understand if you want to be fluent in kiteboarding terminology.

Air style: Air style refers to hooked air tricks.

Airtime: This is a unit of measurement for how long the board is entirely out of the water when doing jumps on a kiteboard.

Depower: This is the action of reducing the kite’s power and pull, generally by adjusting the angle of the kite. Letting the kite lines out to release pressure and reduce speed is depowering the kite.

Death Loop: One of the most dangerous situations that can happen when kiteboarding is the infamous ‘death loop’ which occurs when your bar and lines get tangled in such a way as to cause your kite to loop repeatedly.

Diving: Diving happens when there is a loss of power during air time resulting in a crash into the water.

Downwinder: A kiting’ tour’ where the rider starts at one point and ends up at another point downwind of their original position. Downwinders are usually fun and easy because you’re going with the wind and not against the wind.

Free Ride: Kiteboarding that does not involve tricks or jumping is known as free riding. The main goal is keeping a good edge and ability to traverse upwind. This would normally require a board with little rocker.

Inflation: The act of filling your kite with air with a kite pump.

Overinflated: This when the kite has too much air pumped into it. Over inflating your kite can damage the seams. Kites can over-inflate through increased air pressure after being left on hot sand in hot temperatures throughout the day.

Under inflated: This is when a kite has too little air pumped into it. If your kite is under-inflated, it won’t take proper form, and you’ll have trouble flying it.

Kite mare: You’re not a proper kiteboarder until you’ve had a frightening time not being able to relaunch your kite after crashing it out in rough waters. Being in this position is truly a k#@ting nightmare.

Leading edge: This is the part of the kite that the wind hits first. It’s the front-facing part that gets inflated for the kite to take form.

Overpowered: An overpowered kite is going to give you a feeling of being on a rollercoaster, and not in a fun way. It happens when the wind is too strong for the size kite you have. A smaller kite would be better, and you won’t feel so overwhelmed in such strong wind.

Pilot: This is the person flying the kite. So that’s you. 

Powered up: When the kite’s power increases because you navigate it into the power zone to begin moving forward, then you’re powered up.

Pre-flight checks: This can be compared to what a pilot on a plane does before taking off. This is mainly to ensure everything is ready before you hit the water. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Riding blind: Basically, it’s when you’re riding backwards with the bar handle behind you. You can’t see what’s going on, so in a sense, you’re blind.

Rigging up: This is the process of getting your the equipment ready for a kiteboarding session. It involves laying out your lines, making sure they’re untangled before inflating and attaching your kite, and then connecting your kite before you hit the water.

Schlogging: This is what it feels like when riding an extremely underpowered kite. 

Send it: This is the phrase all the kiters use when they tell their mates they’re going big. More advanced kiters can control the kite in a highly-skilled way that will boost them to the moon and back.

Sheeting: Sheeting out decreases the tension on the kite lines that lead to the edge of the kite to reduce the angle of attack (AOA) and lower the kite’s power. 

Tack: The direction being sailed, normally either starboard tack or port tack. Also, to change direction, by turning upwind. As opposed to switching, which is done by turning downwind.

Tea-bagging: Ugh! Popping out of and falling back into the water intermittently due to light or gusty wind, poor flying skills. Like a teabag being dipped into and out of the water. Just with a kite.

Underpowered: Here, your kite has insufficient power, and it’s hard to get up on the water and ride when you’re underpowered. This is why kiters have different sized kites.

Unhooked: is when a kiter is not attached to the kite by the harness. It takes a lot of skill to be able to do this. So don’t try this while you’re learning.

Congratulations. If you’ve have made it to this point in the kiteboarding glossary of word wonders, you should know a thing or two about the sport, the equipment, the winds and water, and of course just some words that get thrown around on the beach. If you’re planning on kiteboarding and you realize we missed a term in this article, please don’t hesitate to pop us a mail and we’ll add it in.