A WAVE RIDING VIDEO TECHNIQUE FEATURE WITH KEAHI DE ABOITIZ
We studied Keahi’s incredible new movie, Tunnel Vision, and of course marvelled at his barrel riding prowess, but it has always been his fluid and natural surf style that inspires us to hit the water in waves of all sizes. This feature is all about letting go... with your hands, that is
Study the video below and read the Australian double World Champion’s vital tips
WORDS AND VIDEOS: Keahi de Aboitiz HEADER IMAGE: Tom Servais
There’s a lot that goes into getting the most out of your turns when wave riding with a kite, but one of the main things is what you do with your body and how that affects your board and control through turns. I have a few solid tips that helped me get the most out of my turns. Some of the techniques listed below naturally came across from my surfing, while others are small things that I’ve picked up a long the way. I didn’t even know I did some of these at first, but studying videos of my own riding over the years has also helped me improve. Hopefully these tips will translate across to you guys, too! A kite can be a big help in certain situations but it can also hinder you in terms of the lines you can draw on a wave. Maximizing the extra speed and balance from the kite, as well as also learning how to push through the limitations as much as you can is important for improving your flow and connection with the wave.
STAY LOOSE The first thing I want to talk about is keeping your upper body loose and moving. There are certain situations where you might need two hands on the bar for safety, but this can be extremely restricting when it comes to doing turns. That's why you’ll always see me with one hand off the bar in most situations.
It’s okay to switch hands during a turn but you don’t want to get stuck holding on with two hands rooted to the bar. If you watch good surfers you’ll also notice how much they use their upper body through turns, so it’s good technique to replicate this as much as possible. The biggest benefits being that it allows you to twist more and turn harder with the extra weight shift and also gives you the extra balance and control needed in powerful turns For now we’re just going to stick with forehand riding. Although some of these techniques will cross over to backside, there are a few differences which we can talk about another time. LEARN TO LET GO It might feel unnatural, but in almost all conditions you’re going to be taking your back hand off the bar while you’re turning... at least at first. A big element to keep in mind is that you want to have your front hand in the centre of the bar when you take your back off to minimise the amount the kite can turn. You can see me make this shift as soon as I set up for a bottom turn in the clips below:
FREE ARM MOVEMENT VIDEO
Watch Keahi's free arm technique in this video. Notice how he constantly swaps his hands and then watch the similarity with how he free surfs at the end. Note: towards the end of this feature you'll also find another video showing his foot movements in slow motion, too!
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Before making your bottom turn, make sure your kite is positioned correctly, which may require some set-up flying depending on the wind direction. Generally the ideal position is at 45 degrees and slightly in front of the swell line as you initiate your bottom turn. All the loops and kite movements I do before a turn is to get it to this point. Once the kite is set I’ll drop my back arm and initiate the bottom turn. You want to lead with your front shoulder and keep your back arm low for balance. Sometimes I even like to drag my back hand in the water for extra stability. Try to stay low, keep your knees bent (front knee slightly more) and maintain weight on your front foot through the bottom turn, which helps carry as much speed as possible. If you add too much back foot pressure, or turn too sharply, you'll kill your speed.
Once you get near the top of the wave it’s time to shift into your top turn by twisting your upper body back the other way and transferring your weight more on to your back foot. This will give you the projection into the top turn and help keep your speed. Make sure you bring your back arm up for balance and extra swing weight. Generally try to keep your back knee slightly more bent at this point as you come around. Depending on the turn you’re doing, it’s a good idea to look at switching hands on the bar when you’re in the middle of the turn. If I’m doing an open face carve I like to switch mid-turn, allowing me to twist even further with my front arm while keeping my speed and depowering the kite as much as possible, allowing me to carve back into the wind. If I’m doing a snap or layback turn I’ll usually keep my back hand off as I can keep it behind me for extra balance and control. As you come out of the turn it’s time to once again set the kite up in the right spot and go into the next turn!
HAND POSITIONING If you watch closely, one thing you might see me do is actually switch my front hand to the opposite side of the bar right before I initiate my bottom turn. This is an awesome tip I learnt from Reo Stevens that naturally helps you steer the kite up as you go through your top turn. Otherwise when you come out of a top turn you’ll often find your kite has dropped forward and low to the water. It might feel a little awkward at first, but it gives you even more control, especially in layback turns in cross-shore conditions, where you no longer have to worry about your kite pulling down towards the water
FOOT POSITIONING A more advanced tip, which you’ll also see me doing a lot if you look closely, is moving my back foot positioning for a bottom turn. The key to a good top turn is going into it from a good bottom turn. The biggest factor for a fluid turn is making sure you carry as much speed as possible into the top turn. If you look closely you might notice that I generally have my back foot further forward as I bottom turn and then shift it back as I go into my top turn. What this does is keeps my weight forward to draw out the bottom turn and carry that speed through as much as possible. If you have too much weight at the back of the board, or you turn sharply, you’ll kill your speed and surge the kite forward, meaning no more power for your top turn. It can be a little tricky as you’ll notice I shift my foot back as I go into my top turn, allowing me to still apply as much power as possible to the turn.
ADVANCED TECHNIQUE CLIPS: FOOT MOVEMENTS
It can be a difficult to perfect, but don’t be afraid to experiment a little and move your feet around depending on the section. A good way to think about it is if you’re doing a turn where the wave is steep, you can shift your foot back to control the power and turn harder. Alternatively, if it’s a flatter section, keep your back foot further forward so the board remains flatter, maintaining better speed through any dead sections. It’s a learning process, but if you look closely there’s a lot of subtle movements like this which you can try that will hopefully help you improve your riding. Good luck and hope some of this helps!
KEAHI’S GEAR Keahi is riding the 5’9’’ Cabrinha S Quad in most of the bigger waves in the video and the 5’7’’ in the tracking videos. “Generally I always like the slightly bigger size as the volume helps in lighter, gusty winds and also gives me more control in bigger waves.” he says. “I started playing around with the 5’7’’ in smaller, cleaner conditions and really like the smaller size for that. It does need a little more power though.” In most of the clips Keahi is riding a ten metre Drifter kite. “On Oahu we’re generally riding in lighter winds, so a ten is my most used size. It’s a little slower turning but I actually don’t mind the bigger kite and the waves are always smoother when the wind’s lighter. I like to be pretty powered for turns but can get away with something a little more undersized for barrels. I generally don’t ride anything bigger than an 11 much anymore, as I can usually make that work in light conditions if it’s side-off.”