Unhooking is really fun and surprisingly easy, but it’s something a lot of people struggle with learning as it’s a new feeling having all the power of the kite directly through your arms. Here I just want to outline the real basics of how to go about learning it, to make it the smoothest possible journey into a new stage of your kitesurfing experience.
I’m going to assume you have the basic pop down hooked in, with some hooked in raleys and back rolls in your arsenal of tricks, as that’s really the minimum you need before you start unhooking. The pop unhooked really isn’t any different, you just need to fully commit to your pop when you’re unhooked as lack of commitment is the biggest problem.
The first step is to learn how to unhook and how to hook back in. Obviously you’ll need to take out your donkey dick to get the loop off, so this is step number 1a! You can also ride on suicide setup with your leash (i.e. hooking directly to the chicken loop, most brands now have a suicide option on the bar but not all bars are created equal!), but this is optional and at the start can be more scary, so maybe best to leave it on the normal safety and just reset it in the water if you need to.
If you have a helper get them to hold your lines on the beach so you can practice, pull in, then down to unhook your chicken loop, and down, in, then up to hook back in, simple right? Another good technique for hooking back in is to grab the chicken loop with your front hand, let the bar out and hook the loop back in. This depowers the kite and gives you some slack in the lines to get it hooked back in easily.
Once you’ve tried a few times on land it’s time to take it to the water for the first attempts. Ride along at a comfortable speed, kite at 45° (or a little higher to start with) bear off downwind and unhook. Keep riding downwind – keep your board flat, don’t edge – then hook back in and start edging again. You can see the steps in the diagram below, it’s very simple and helps build your confidence hooking back in.
Try this a few times (or even more) so you’re happy hooking back in, as the scariest part is having a fully powered kite and not being able to hook back in. If the worst happens just let the bar go and fall into the water, then reset your chicken loop and relaunch, easy.
Once you feel comfortable unhooking and hooking back in it’s time to actually pop. When you pop hooked in you can get away with bad technique, as you use the harness to hold the power of the kite. When you pop unhooked it’s very important to keep your core tight and use your whole upper body to lean back against the kite. So arms tight, and lean back hard. In the diagram below you can see the steps. You want to pop as soon as you are unhooked, as leaving the kite to drift will result in more power than you can handle, so it’s unhook and then pop ASAP!
The best tricks to try first unhooked are the raley or the back roll. The raley can be more scary, so some people find it easier to try the backroll first, try both and see which you feel more comfortable with. Just watch out when trying backrolls unhooked that you don’t pull too hard on your back hand, it’s easy to lose control of the kite, but just let go if this happens and brace for impact!
Remember wherever your chest is pointed is where you’ll go, so lean back as hard as you can so you go up instead of forwards! You can see here at the moment before take off Anishka has his body fully locked back, with his chest pointed upwards.
The pop and landing is basically the same as hooked in, just remember to point your board downwind when you land, then hook back in and start edging again. Don’t try to land edging as you’ll just trip over or rip the bar out of your hands. Again if you have any issues just let the bar go, reset and relaunch.
1 – No Commitment
You really have to commit to unhooked pop, just go for it as hard as you can. If you don’t you’ll face plant.
2 – Losing control of the kite
It’s very common that people send the kite up too much and end up dangling below the kite. Keep your hands as close to the centre of the bar as you can (I have them basically touching the deposed line), and if you need to you can always move your front hand further forwards so you steer the kite down in the air.
3 – Struggling with hooking back in after the trick
Go back to basics and stop trying the trick, just practice unhooking and hooking back in on the water, being able to do both quickly will really help you build confidence.
And that’s really about it, give it a try for yourself, or book a lesson with me and I’ll have you unhooking in no time!