After riding stable into both directions it’s usually just a small step to land the first jumps with your kite. But … there’s a huuuge difference between a jump and a real high big-air-jump! Of course it’s not only the wind force that makes the difference … it’s mainly technique that catapults you in giddy heights, says big-air-champion Bibiana Magaji who will reveal some important tips for higher jumps below.
First time I met Bibi was a few years ago when we both did the kite instructor license, and at that time already, her skills were impressive! In the meantime she became a teamrider for Flysurfer and last year won the big air title in the WKL Kiteboarding Championships.
With the following professional tips you should be able to jump higher and more stylish – maybe not 17,6 meters straight away, like Bibi jumped last year in Podersdorf/Neusiedlersee – but slowly … After all, no master fell out of the sky, right
Important: Factors like safety distance to the shore, to obstacles and other kiters/surfers and checking the weather conditions before and while riding are not subject of this post – but are explained in detail in articles like fear & respect or kitemares. One essential aspect for progressing safe is also to be aware of one’s personal limits and not overestimating one’s kite skills.
With this in mind: Have fun with Bibis high-jump tips!
How to jump higher:
Handy hints from big-air-champ Bibiana Magaji
Before I tell you how to jump higher with your kite, it’s at all first important to know how jumping works! I’ve seen lots of good kiters with a poor jumping technique which makes it impossible to get high. Yes, that’s a pity. And that’s why kitesurfers should ensure to learn a proper technique right from the start. Even when your jumps are not very high in the beginning – with a good technique at least they will look stylish!
The heart of a good jump is proper edging and takeoff. Well, first some important points about this process: When you want to jump off you have to steer the kite up quickly (e. g. from 10 to 12, if left is your better side). So far so good. Now the edging. You are not sure how to do this? Can you do a transition without sitting down in the water and without being pulled over the edge? Then everything is fine. If not, you should start practising this first, cause if you don’t know about edging, you’ll only jump far, but not high.
Ok, so those were the basics. But as you probably assume the interaction of steering up your kite and edging needs a certain timing! Imaging you ride … hm, maybe you ask yourself which course to the wind you should take and how much speed you need? Ok, let’s clarify this first: The course mainly depends on how choppy/wavy the water is. If you ride on the flat, you can step on the gas. With bigger waves it’s better to go slowly. When it’s choppy, … hm, difficult, then your speed should lie somewhere in between 😉 No, seriously, when the water is choppy the challenge is to find a nice small kicker wave for your takeoff. You ride rather slowly and look out for your wave, when you see it, you accelerate and head for it!
Now back to the timing. Imagine you ride, and as soon as you want to jump, steer your kite up and at the same time start to edge. Due to the upsteering the pull of the kite increases, you have to lean back and powerfully push the edge of the board into the water.
(Note: When you get pulled over the edge and you slip away laterally, you don’t need to jump anymore. Then get back and try it again from the start.)
Next step: As soon as the kite is on 12 (or a little further) you pull the bar and jump off. Pull when the kite is up, not earlier and not later! It’s exactly the same moment when you have to push you off the water!
What to do with the bar: You ride, hands stretched, bar as far away as possible, which means kite depowered – but still with enough power to go. For the steering impulse push hard with your back hand, but note that the bar stays pushed away during upsteering. It’s about keeping the depower way as long as possible until you pull the bar all in for the takeoff! The more way you have left for pulling, the more lift you’ll get.
As I want to remain objective, here’s some extra information: Some C-kites and C-alike kites behave different – you can also take off with the bar pulled all in and still get maximum lift. But, if you should ride a kite like this, you hopefully know, what you’re doing … therefore I’m not going into the details here.
Ok, so now we’re finally up in the air. Keep the bar pulled in during the flight phase, and just before the landing you steer the kite forward again. If you come from very high above and want a smooth landing, you should do a landing downloop – but this is something for real heights and experts, so let’s come back to this topic later.
Which kite size should you take? For real big airs you’ll need a small kite … and of course the right wind! The smaller the kite, the faster you can steer it up and the more lift you’ll get. My personal favourite is an 8. Although with a 7 I can jump higher in stronger winds it also gets down again quite fast. The smaller the kite, the less hangtime it offers and you drop down faster. Furthermore small kites tend to be more “nervous” as they are very quick – which makes it more dangerous to do tricks in large heights.
My recommendation: An 8–10-m kite, pretty good powered, but still being able to get into the water on one’s own. Very lightweight kitesurfers should better take smaller kites. If you need someone else to pull you into the water you’re massively overpowered and you will not anymore be able to jump high. Remember: For big airs it’s important that you can still edge properly!
Ok, there’s also the possibility go pretty overpowered and take waves as kickers for jumps – then there’s no need to edge, so the kite can be bigger in this case. That’s how guys like Nick, Aaron, Kevin and Co. achieve their records. They go with a lot of overpower and use 3-5-m waves for their takeoff. For such jumps one needs a landing loop, or even more of them. But attention – this is only for really experienced kitesurfers!
As mentioned above, edging and takeoff are the essential parts of a jump. When the process of edging and takeoff is successfull, everything is quite easy. But don’t forget the landing tough!
To be honest: The way to higher jumps will be painful sometimes. There are horror scenarious about bad landings … broken ankles, broken rips, ruptured tendons in the knees and even people who get knocked out and unconscious (salt water is not the best for the lungs!). I was lucky so far, but I know some guys who experienced accidents like this. So of you think about getting higher and more radical the question needs to be asked: Do you know your own limits and are you willing to overcome them – or do you prefer to stay in your comfort zone?
Additionally I want to say a few words about equipment: Your kite shouldn’t be too old and not patched umpteen times. When you jump hign in strong winds the kite is exposed to high forces – and no one wants to deop down from 10 meters or higher only cause your kite packed up during the jump. This also applies to the condition lines, if not this is even more important!
The board should be rather small, as this makes it easier to handle more power in the kite. Round tips are better – not only they reduce splashing water in your eyes and face, but also they decrease the risk that you stumble over a wave or in the chop.
So far so good … you see, getting really high with a kite is a complex issue which is often underestimated. It’s an interplay of many factors. However, it is important to become familiar with your equipment, to have a good kite control (also with small sizes) and to be able to properly assess one’s own skills as well as external circumstances like wind, weather, the spot and the distance to obstacles and other people on the water.
If you want to know more about Bibi, take a look at her homepage and social media sites: