Kitesurfing Glossary

When first starting kitesurfing it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the technical terms people use. This can make understanding the theory side of your lesson difficult, and can also be confusing when choosing which equipment to purchase. Below is a list of terms you may here and a basic description – if you can think of anything we have missed, let us know!

Air time – The amount of time a kitesurfer is in the air for whilst jumping. For bigger jumps, kiters will aim to get a long, “floaty” jump so they are able to land gently and with more control.

Angle of attack – The angle of the kite in the sky. The angle of a kite affects how much wind it catches – the kiter can change this to limit the amount of wind hitting the kite, which is useful if the wind picks up during a session. The opposite is also possible; to increase the amount of wind hitting the kite in order to get more power from the same size kite.

Apparent wind – Apparent wind is the combination of what we call “true” and “induced” wind. We use “true wind” to describe the wind occurring naturally. “Induced wind” is used to describe the wind we feel on our face when we are moving forward. Apparent wind sits somewhere between the two, at an angle dependent on how fast you are travelling. When riding along, kites use apparent wind to fly, which is why the wind window is in a different place when you are stationary on the beach as opposed to when you are riding along.

Aspect Ratio – The aspect ratio of the kite is calculated by dividing the length of the kite by it’s width. High aspect ratio kites, which are long and thin, generate more power per m2, go upwind better and are faster. On the flip side, they turn slower and are harder to relaunch. Race and big air kites are often high aspect. Low aspect kites, which are short and wide, turn quickly, relaunch easily and drift down wind better. Wave and beginner kites are often low aspect.

Backstall – Backstalling occurs when the angle of attack is increased too much, caused by pulling the bar into far or having the kite trimmed incorrectly.

Bladder – The rubber tube which air is inflated inside the strut, helping to give the kite its shape.

Board Start – The technique used to stand up on your board before riding along; done by diving the kite, rolling forward into a standing position and straightening your front leg. Board starts are a part of learning to kitesurf that most people struggle with, and it can take several lessons to perfect.

Body Dragging – Body dragging refers to a kiter using their kite to pull themselves through the water without having their board on. This is something we teach early on, and remains useful throughout your kitesurfing career.

Boost – Sending the kite over the kiters head in an aggressive motion to jump. You will hear more experienced kiters talk about going out for a “Boosting session” where they will be competing to get the highest jumps.

Bow kite – Bow kites have a concave trailing edge and swept back wingtips. Compared to a c-kite, a bow kite has a much flatter profile, which means they require a bridle to support the leading edge, rather than having their lines attach directly to it. Because of this, older bow kites are sometimes referred to as SLE’s (Supported Leading Edge). Bow kites have very effective depower ability, which gives them a larger wind range.

Bridle – The series of ropes which are attached to the kite and give it its structure when flying.

C-kite – The C-Kite gets its name from the deep C-shaped arc it has when flying. Unlike the bow kite, the C-kite’s lines are attached directly to the leading edge. Some more recent C-kites have a fifth line to help with depowering and relaunching.

Centre Strut – The middle strut of a kite, which is the largest of the struts.

Chicken loop – A rubber loop attached to the middle kite line which is run through the bar. The chicken loop is used as a way of attaching the bar to the harness a kiter wears, and creates tension in the lines using the kiter’s body weight rather than just their arms.

Concave Trailing Edge – A concave trailing edge is a curved trailing edge, which curves inwards towards the leading edge. This means that the distance from the leading edge to the trailing edge is shorter along the centre strut than either side of it. Concave trailing edges are found on bow kites.

Convex Trailing Edge – The opposite of concave trailing edge; a curved trailing edge which curves outwards away from the leading edge, so the distance from the leading edge is longer along the centre strut than either side of it. Convex trailing edges are found on c-kites and hybrid kites.

Dawn patrol – An early morning session, great for those who want to get out before everyone else!

Depower – Reducing a kite’s power. This is generally done by changing the angle of attack of the kite which limits the amount of air hitting the kite, reducing its lifting power. You can set up your kite with a different power level before you start the session (if the kite you are using is not quite the right size for the wind speed), which is called “trimming” your kite, and you can also depower the kite during the session by pushing your bar away from you.

Depower Rope – The rope which runs from your front lines through the centre of your bar.

Donkey Dick – The stick of rubber which sits underneath your chicken loop and goes into the hook on your spreader bar, securing the chicken loop to the hook on your harness’ spreader bar if your kite lines go slack. (Also known as a locking tube, chicken finger, donkey tail or DD)

Downwind – The direction the wind is blowing towards. When kitesurfing, we position ourselves so we are facing downwind, with our back into the wind.

Downwinder – A long journey downwind, usually done by a group of kitesurfers as a fun day out. When doing a downwinder it is best to arrange a pick-up location and transport to avoid being stranded miles away from your start point.

Edging – Edging your board is used to control the speed and direction in which you are travelling, the power in the kite and riding upwind. Edging is done by pushing your heels into the board and lifting your toes up, which puts the board at an angle to the water.

Foil Kite – Foil kites are made of square cells of which trap air to inflate the kite, rather than using bladders like an LEI (Leading Edge Inflatable) kite. Because of this, foil kites use bridles

Freeride Kitesurfing without focusing on a particular style such as jumps or wave-riding. This is what the majority of kiters spend most of their time doing.

Freestyle – Performing tricks and jumps whilst kitesurfing. This is for more advanced riders and can be very dangerous.

Handlepass – Unhooking your chicken from your harness and passing the bar around your back whilst jumping.

Heel Side – The side of the board closest to your heels. Riding heelside is the standard kitesurfing position.

Hybrid Kite – The hybrid kite has the better depower and relaunch benefits of the bow kite and the increased speed of the c-kite. Today, most kites on the market are a type of hybrid kite sometimes referred to as a delta kite, which have a straight trailing edge and a swept-back leading edge. 

Kiteloop – Looping the kite through the wind to seriously power up the kite. Kite loops are only used by advanced riders.

Leading Edge – The edge of the kite which faces the kiter whilst flying, which is inflated with a large bladder.

LEI – Abbreviated for leading edge inflatable. These kiteboarding kites have a hollow tube framing containing a bladder that is pumped full of air to give the kite its shape.

Lull – “Lull” is used to describe short periods of time where the wind drops.

Mega loop – A kite loop where the kite is at the same level as or below the rider during their jump.

Open cell foil – Open cell foil kites (sometimes called ram air kites) have openings along the front of the kite to allow air to flow in and fill it up. Open cell foil kites are designed for land use, as they would fill with water when crashed and no longer be able to relaunch. Trainer kites used when learning to kitesurf are often open cell foils.

Overpowered – Having too much power in the kite, which is caused by an increase in wind speed, using a kite which is too big for the wind or having it trimmed incorrectly.

Pop – Creating extra jump in your board by edging and using the tension in your lines. Pop is one of the most important things to learn when doing more advanced tricks.

Powered-up – When there is more power in the kite because the wind has picked up or because the kiter has moved the kite through the power zone.

Power Zone – The area in the sky where the kite generates most pull. Moving the kite through the power zone results in a big power increase.

Re-launch – Getting the kite back into the air after crashing it. Pulling lightly on one of the steering lines will take the kite to the edge of the wind window and then up on its wingtip, which allows the kite to fill with air and drift back into the sky. Newer kites are much easier to relaunch than their predecessors.

Send it – To move the kite through the kite zone quickly to jump.

Slider – A raised platform used in wakestyle kiting which the rider slides along on on their board (guess where they got the name from!)

Spreader bar – The metal bar that is attached to the kitesurfers harness and holds the chicken loop.

Surf – A style of kitesurfing where the rider uses the surfboard to ride waves, often without straps. A specific type of kite called a wave kite is used, which drifts backwards through the air allowing the kiter to ride down a wave towards the kite without it Backstalling.

Tack – The same as in sailing, tack refers to the direction in which the kiter is riding.

Toe Side – The side of the board closest to your toes. Riding toe side involves facing away from the kite and often flying the kite with one hand.

Trailing Edge – The edge of the kite at the rear when flying.

Underpowered – Not having enough power in the kite. This can be because the wind has dropped, the kite is too small for the wind speed, or the kite is trimmed incorrectly.

Unhooked – Riding with chicken loop not attached to the harness. This is usually done when performing tricks or riding waves. 

Upwind – The direction from which the wind is blowing.

Wakestyle A kitesurfing style focused on tricks similar to those in wakeboarding, often with unhooked or power tricks with the kite low in the sky.

Walk of Shame The embarrassing walk back along the beach to where you started from, occasionally because the wind has dropped, but more often (especially when learning) not being able to ride upwind.

Wind Window – The area of the sky downwind of the rider in which they fly the kite. This can be described as the quarter of a sphere with the diameter of the sphere being from one side to the other of your peripheral vision, extending out in front of you.