21 April 2016
Grab rail and tuck in on your backhand
I love grabbing rail and pulling into tubes on my backhand. I think there’s a massive advantage with grabbing your rail - you can get yourself in a really tight little ball and push through and fit in the tiniest of sections and also lock into your board and maintain control and composure throughout tight parts of the wave.
Probably the biggest difference between getting barrelled surfing opposed to kiting is that surfing barrels you’re not restricted by the kite at all, so you can stay in the barrels longer and have more control. Whereas kite-assisted barrels tend to be shorter and basically ‘get in and get out’ before you’ve really stuck the kite.
I like to ride in the barrel hooked-in pretty much all the time. I have played with getting barreled unhooked, but I really find riding hooked-in gives you an added advantage of being able to sheet in and out the kite while you’re in the barrel. When you’re riding unhooked you’re really limited to just the one speed and just doing self-adjustments. I’ve definitely had some fun barrels over the years unhooked, but the best ones I’ve had and the longest ones I’ve had have definitely been hooked in.
Here are some tips to help make the most of backhand barrels.
- Look down the line and visualise where the wave will start to barrel and where you need to pull in
- Position your kite so it’s drifting down the line at the same speed as you’re travelling on the wave. If it’s flying too fast it will pull you out in front of the barrel, too slow and your lines will go slack and your kite will fall from the sky.
- Keep the kite a little lower than 45 degrees and edge against it to keep tension in the lines so you can let go once you’re in the barrel and let the wave take over while your kite drifts
- When you see the wave about to barrel, do a bottom turn to pull in under the lip and sheet out with your bar
- As you’re on your backhand, grabbing your rail will help stabilize your body. The key is not to grab until you’re in the barrel. Find that sweet spot on your board and bring most of your weight to the front foot, using your back foot to steer up or down the wave depending on whether you need more or less speed. A really good way to practice your grab rail technique is just get yourself out on some flat water and send the kite downwind pretty fast, and then just practice leaning down and grabbing your rail and distributing your weight forward and backwards and moving your feet a little bit up and down the board. That’ll give you a really good feel of what your body technique and position needs to be like, and then you can take that and try it in the barrel.
Side-off shore conditions are best as the wave tends to be cleaner. Read more about conditions and getting barrelled here.
Ride unstrapped. When you’re locked into your straps and you want to grab rail, it doesn’t let you move up the board and centre your body to distribute your weight evenly enough over the board. When you’re riding unstrapped, you can move your feet into any position that you want, sometimes on really long critical barrels you actually need to move right up the front of your board. If you’re using straps it’s not going to allow you to do this.
Hooked in is best as you can sheet in or out to adjust the kite’s power
WHAT CAN GO WRONG
Lines through the lip: the biggest issue with riding your kite in a barrel is your line’s going through the lip of the wave. Sometimes the lip overpowers the lines and pulls the kite in the wrong direction but it can withstand it a little bit. So you might not be able to spend too long in there; short quick barrels are the best.
Wipeout: if you crash your kite you could potentially get tangled up in your lines because you’re still moving forward. So what I suggest in that situation is just completely get rid of your kite as quick as you possibly can. Forget about the wipeout, just focus everything on unhooking yourself from your bar and just getting rid of your kite.
If you wipeout and your kite’s still in the air, just try and keep it in the air. Like I’ve mentioned before, I say to myself “fly the kite, fly the kite, fly the kite”. If I get to a point where the wipeout becomes too intense and I’m upside down and I don’t know which way to pull the kite, then don’t fly it at all.