After reaching a certain basic level with hooked tricks lots of kiters want to attempt unhooked tricks too. For good reasons: Not only that this will lead to a totally new kitesurf feeling, unhooked tricks open doors to so many new possibilities! I asked four kitesurf professionals to reveal their most important tips for those who want to progress in unhooking.
Unhooked tips: Myths and reality
When it comes down to let the chickenloop off the hook some kiters hesitate even though they would be advanced enough to give it a try. Some may have heard somewhere that for unhooking one needs a lot of power in the arms! Of course the physical demands increase as unhooked moves get more complex – but primarily it’s about technique, not about strength.
Concerning unhooked riding there’s also the fear of getting hurt, and for many kitesurfers their first unhooked attempts haven’t been a good experience.
I remember when I unhooked for the first time I had absolutely no clue about this whole thing. The wind was about 20 knots and I was out with 11.5, quite overpowered. No wonder that it went badly wrong … I was flying behind my kite, totally out of control, my eyes widened in fear. Finally i missteered the kite up and I was hanging like a teabag on it before I heavily hit the water surface. As far as I can remember I hadn’t fixed the leash properly for unhooking … Ah yes, I forgot that the wind was onshore and there was not much space left to the beach. Yeah.
Of course this experience was kind of frightening – and I wasn’t really motivated to unhook again as I didn’t want to kill myself. So I decided that unhooking is only for professional riders and that I would never ever be able to reach the required skills.
But then I reached the point when I felt bored from doing hooked tricks – especially on these days when the wind was light and I had not much power in my kite for getting high. So I started to inform myself about this unhooked topic, read about it and asked more experienced kitesurfers for tips. Finally I tried it again – and surprise, surprise, I’m still alive! And besides that I’m having so much fun doing unhooked tricks and working on my skills to get better and better.
I would say: As long as one adapts his riding style to prevalent conditions and knows how to deal with his equipment basic unhooked tricks are not more dangerous than hooked ones. And no, one doesn’t have to be a perfect trained top athlete to learn simple unhooked moves.
However, as it is wit all kinds of techniques – there is always more than only one opinion about how something works the best/easiest or fastest way. The same it is for unhooked tricks – there is the basic know-how which is universal and beneath there are personal preferences and experience.
For this reason I asked four proriders about their main unhooked tips for beginners which you can read in the following.
Page two will show you the most important unhooked tips again in a short overview:
>> GO TO NEXT PAGE: UNHOOKED TIPS – OVERVIEW >>
Andrea Luca Ammann, professional kitesurfer und snowkiter from Switzerland
- Before you dare to unhook you should already be able to kite alone, know how to ride upwind properly and master basic hooked tricks. One should be aware that an unhooked kite offers no depower that he’s holding the full power of the kite in his hands. It’s important that you have the confidence in yourself that you can do your first unhooked steps – and that you show respect, but no fear from unhooking.
- For practising unhooked tricks a spot with flat water is the best. However it’s important to have enough space around – at least double line length distance to the shore or to obstacles and other people in the water, no other kitesurfers close downwind. A big kite (10 sqm+), ideally powered or slightly underpowered is the best choice for first unhooked attempts. Less power is better than too much – but at least the kite should be stable in the air and it should be possible to ride upwind.
- Depending on the shape of the kite you use you have to put a little bit depower in to avoid a backstall when unhooking (usually not necessary for C and open-C-shaped kites). How adjust the depower line: When you pull the bar all in the kite should fly stable and not stall back. The safety leash must be attached in suidide mode (that means safety plus chickenloop) so that it doesn’t pull in case of a crash. Before you start you should know what the suicide mode means and which effect it has. (Note.: As every bar may have a different setup check the manual first!)
- For practising unhooking and hooking back in the kite should be at 10-11 (or 1-2) and it shouldn’t not move. So put both hands close to the middle of the bar to avoid missteering. Go towards your kite to reduce the tension of the lines, unhook and ride some meters, then hook back in. When there’s too much power in the lines for hooking back in, go more downwind, follow your kite to reduce the tension. When there’s too much power you can also grab the chickenloop with one hand, let go the bar and hook back in whilst the kite is depowered. Finally, when you feel comfortable with unhooking and hooking back in, you are ready to practice simple unhooked tricks.
- When you feel like losing control, always let go the bar! The kite will immediately lose power, fall on the water and you can hook back in and start again.
Linda Viktoria Oloffson, Profi-Kiterin und -Snowkiterin aus Norwegen
- First of all, before you go for unhooked tricks, get comfortable unhooking and hooking back in. Bare off downwind, unhook, keep riding for a few meters and then hook back in. This is important as you will get a feeling of how the kite steers and pulls when you’re unhooked. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will get.
- Learn how to pop without using the kite. Most people learn how to jump by sending the kite to twelve and pulling the bar. That’s the way you usually do it for hooked tricks. But for unhooked tricks you’ll need a different technique. Instead of using the kite, it’s about to learn how to edge against the kite, keeping it at 10-11, go with speed, then pop without sending the kite up, take off and throw your legs behind you. This is called a “gayley”. If you know how to do a proper gayley, it will be much easier to take the next step to doing a proper unhooked railey.
- Commit! Once you’ve decided that you are going to do your first unhooked railey, you have to go all in for it to work. If you don’t do it full-hearted, you can be sure that you’re going to crash. So go for it, push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and don’t be a wuss!
- Is it also possible to start unhooked tricks with an unhooked backroll instead of a railey?
I started by doing a railey, as for me it felt less intimidating than doing an unhooked backroll. Also it opens up for so many other tricks: You can build the railey into a railey to toeside, s-bend, railey to blind etc. … But if one is very comfortable doing backrolls and wants to try that first, then give it a go! Whatever feels easiest!
Mike Mayer, austrian kitesurfer and international teamrider for Airush
- Is every kite suited for first unhooked attempts?
In general, every kite is ok for the first tries. Unhooking and hooking back in as well as simple moves are possible with every kind of kite as long as it’s size suits the conditions. But for advanced unhooked tricks like handlepasses C-shaped or open-c-kites are a better choice, as they offer more slack (when the kite stops pulling as the back lines slack) for passing the bar. So if you plan to learn unhooked tricks it will work better with a wakestyle kite cause it offers all the required qualities for this discipline. Before you start unhooking, make sure that you trim it properly – there shouldn’t be a backstall if you pull the bar close. I would also recommend to go not overpowered for your first unhooked attempts.
- What’s the key factor for unhooked tricks?
The pop is essential for landing a trick successfully. It has to be consistent and powerful. It’s important to do a trick with slightly angled arms as this is very helpful for following tricks like handlepasses, it creates more momentum and keeps ways short during rotations. What you should absolutely avoid is long unhooked riding – as the longer you ride unhooked the more body tension you lose, but body tension is also a substantial factor for landing a trick! Try to always keep in mind the sequence for an unhooked trick: Heading slightly downwind, explosive edging (loading), pop and takeoff. If you have to stop due to any reason, better hook in again and start from scratch.
- What’s the difference in edging/takeoff between hooked and unhooked tricks?
The first step is quite similar as you have to ride a little bit downwind. The main difference lies in the loading and edging. For unhooked tricks you have to edge longer and more powerful – if you would do the same for a normal hooked jump the result would be an unintentional twist after taking off.
Helen-Giovanna Döpke, professional rider from Germany
- I would recommend to try your first unhooked tricks in light to medium strong winds since this way you’ll be in better control of your kite and it will be easier to unhook in light wind than in strong winds. A spot with a lot of space and therefore enough time to prepare for a trick is ideal. Make sure you also have a lot of space downwind, in case you crash! Also it is easier to edge and pop on flat water than on choppy water.
- You might want to start off with a board with footstraps even though you might already have some experience with riding boots. Some uncontrolled crashes will be inevitable when you’re starting to do unhooked tricks and therefore you’re better off with a board you can separate yourself from easily.
- One of the best tips I ever got for unhooked tricks was to keep both hands very close to the centre of the bar. Ideally you’ll get used to holding the bar with the depower line going through between your index and middle finger of one hand and the other hand right next to it. This might feel a bit weird in the beginning but it really helps not to accidentally missteer the kite during a trick and you will have much better control over your kite for unhooked tricks.
- Most kitesurfers prefer one side for doing tricks. But when you’re getting the hang of your first raileys on this side make sure you also try and learn the railey to the other direction. I think it´s always better to be able to do tricks to both sides, as there are spots where it is better to jump to the left and others which offer better conditions for tricks to the right hand side.
- It’s part of the game that you will crash when you practice unhooked tricks and you will make mistakes … like steering the kite up during the trick, not loading the edge long and hard enough, not getting high enough and then not having enough time to bring your board back for a landing. My advice: Make sure you fully commit to your trick and stay motivated even after taking crash after crash! If you want to progress faster, make sure to really focus your sessions on learning that new trick and make sure to try it at least 10–20 times per session. It’s alwo helpful to ride with friends who can give you feedback and helpful advice. Or maybe even let someone film you and analyse the footage to figure out what you need to work on.
Find a summary of the most important unhooked tips on page 2!