Kitesurfing Progression: Riding Upwind

Learning to stay upwind is one of the first and most important kitesurfing skills you will want to learn as soon as you are up and riding.

Kitesurfing - Riding Upwind Image

‘Riding Upwind’ is the first in our new series of progression tutorials brought to you by Calvin Da Silva from Kitesports, a reputable kiteboarding shop based near Durban, South Africa.

Calvin is a qualified IKO Instructor at Kitesports and one of their most accomplished team riders.

BTW: If you haven’t started kitesurfing yet, but you are thinking about learning, may we suggest our Beginners Guide to Kitesurfing: Getting Started.

How to Ride Upwind

So you’re up and riding and addicted to kiteboarding! All that’s left is to ride upwind so you can forget about that walk of shame back up the beach to have another go. The key to staying upwind is to have enough power in the kite so that you can keep it in one position and ride. Keep the kite at 11 o’clock if you’re riding left foot forward and open your head, hips and shoulders to face the direction you want to ride in. Lean your shoulders back away from the bar, which automatically puts weight on your heels and sinks your board edge into the water.

Kitesurfing - Staying Upwind Image

Dean Bottcher

Correct Riding Stance

Your stance is also a key element here. Keep your hips more forward, not back as if you are sitting on the toilet. There’s a well known saying for this, but I will spare you the details for the sake of our younger more innocent readers… ;-) Also, keep your front leg pretty straight and bend your back leg – this will shift your weight back and help you to apply more pressure on the back edge of the board which will shoot you upwind. The key is to get a balance between board speed and amount of edging against the kite so you continue to go forward without stopping or having to go downwind toward your kite.

Say goodbye to those irritating walks back upwind!

Riding Upwind Stance Image

Correct Stance – Dean Bottcher

Common Mistakes

  • You keep sinking back down into the water
    Ride slightly downwind first to pick up some speed before you start edging against the kite. Also don’t put too much pressure on your back foot – this will turn the board upwind too much, effectively putting a brake on your forward momentum. You might also be ‘parking’ the kite too soon. ‘Work’ the kite in a wave-motion down and up to build up some more speed before you park it at around 45 degrees.
  • You get pulled downwind at speed
    Straighten your front leg and bend your back leg to get more weight over your back foot. Think of your front foot as an accelerator and your back foot as a brake – the more you push on your front foot the faster you go, the more you push on your back foot the slower you go. You might also be ‘working’ the kite too much. Just park it at around 45 degrees and edge harder.

As always, we would love to hear from you… if you are struggling to stay upwind, feel free to ask questions in the comments below and we will be happy to help you.

Written by

Calvin Da Silva (Kitesports)

To learn more about Kitesports, visit their website at:

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  1. Dean Bottcher says:

    Well written Mongoose. You are like the freaking best instructor eva. Your saying sh…g it don’t sh…t it was a revelation. Wish I had known that one back in the day when we were all hacking.

  2. Hi Calvin,
    I can go upwind but I feel that I should be something wrong as I get really tires too soon, after half-hour / 1 hour maximum I can’t stand on my legs. Is this normal, I’m not an olympic athlete but I feel in normal shape.
    I put almost all the weight of the body on the back-leg slightly bending the knee, and if I try this posture at home, just standing as I do on the board I do feel uncomfortable.
    Is there any hint you can tell to avoid this, or is this just normal and I should gain some more muscle =P

    Thank you

    • @am. Could be that your board is undersized. If you have a small board you have to really push your back foot to edge the board (even when theres lots of wind). Some people like this though as a small board means you are very nimble.

  3. Reading you blog on upwind riding seems a bit confusing.
    In the first para you say > don’t put too much pressure on your back foot
    in the next you say this > bend your back leg to get more weight over your back foot
    Seem contradictory, can you explain.

  4. Claudio Rios says:

    Hello inMotionKitesurfing crew, thanks for this post. I have gotten up on the board and ridden a hundred yards (approx.) about 5 to 10 times. When I want to lean back against the kite to edge the board, it feels like my board will slip forward and I will just fall backwards. How do I keep from falling back as I throw my shoulders back and place my hips forward? I look forward to your reply. Thanks in advance. Claudio R.

    • Hi Claudio,

      If I understand you correctly, it sounds like you aren’t edging hard enough. It isn’t enough to just lean backwards… you actually need to dig the heal side edge of the board into the water. This is best done by pushing your heals down and lifting your toes a bit. Try and focus on really digging that edge into the water so that the board doesn’t slide out when you lean back. Just don’t edge too hard too quickly, as you don’t want to stall the board in the water.

      It takes a bit of practice and trial and error to get the feel of it, but eventually it will just click.

      Wishing you all the best with your progression.


      • Claudio says:

        Hey Brendon,
        This makes a lot of sense. Thanks for taking the time to explain it. I really appreciate it. I feel a lot more confident already to get out there and try to learn to balance board edging vs. board speed correctly.
        All success to you,

  5. great post, greetings from Poland :)