How to kitesurf on a yacht charter in Croatia? Learn from Vedran Bosnić, kitesurf instructor
From an early age, he fell in love with extreme sports; first, it was skateboarding and aggressive in-line roller-skating, then surfing and kitesurfing, and finally windsurfing. In all these disciplines, he competed in numerous domestic and international competitions, like the IFCA (International Funboard Class Association) European Championships from 2014 to 2018.
Combining his expertise, experience, and knowledge with the best windsurfing equipment on your yacht charter, Vedran guarantees a quick, easy and painless windsurfing learning curve. „I have learned to kitesurf on a professional level in 3 years, this depends on physical predispositions and the `feeling` you get when you are out on the water; a sort of a `sea intuition`”.
For charter guests to learn the basics, even try jumping or developing speed, you won`t need 3 months or even 3 weeks. After only just 3 days, you will starts kitesurfing on an intermediate level.
Hello, Vedran, and thank you for putting aside some time to talk to us. Let`s start by you telling us a little about the sport of kitesurfing in general?
Kitesurfing is a very interesting sport. Basically, it allows you to do an extreme sport in a very safe way, if you practice it correctly and follow instructions. You can be independent on the water, and even try some jumps, about 2-3, meters, in a matter of weeks.
What if you have less than that? Let’s say, for a 7-day yacht charter. What can guests expect to learn during this time?
We can try doing jumps if the student feels he is up for it or capable.
How safe is kitesurfing really?
Very safe. If you listen to your instructor, it is very, very safe.
Can we start right now or do we have to warm up? Stretch? What do we need to know before we start?
The way the school is done is that you always have to go through the safety procedures and the theory of flying a kite before you actually get one yourself. The theory will be more about the control system, the bar, how to move the kite, and how to make the kite pull or stop pulling you if you need it to. What happens when you drop the kite in the water and how to pick it up from the water and also the safety systems I mentioned earlier. These are very important – kitesurfing on the water is extremely safe with modern equipment.
It wasn`t safe in the past?
20 years ago it was a different story; there are many youtube videos of some pretty nasty accidents, due to equipment failure. There are stories of people not being able to de-power the kite, the result of which is being dragged across the beach. But this will not happen to you or your charter party, because by following my instructions to the letter, you will be safe. Now the systems are very modern and the equipment is really tough, very hard to break. There are also numerous ways of dis-attaching from the equipment and letting go before anything bad happens – this is what we are going to talk about in the safety part of the theory. This relates to how to lose or gain power from the kite, how to dis-attach yourself from the kite
What does de-power mean?
This refers to influencing the kite in a way that it stops pulling you.
Let’s switch gears: start by introducing us to some kitesurfing basic, as you would charter guests on their holiday…
We can start by learning from shore or from the beach club on your yacht charter. Most charter guests prefer learning from the beach club of their yacht charter, so I will assume that this is the case. The main difference between learning from the yacht and from the beach is that the quality of the coastline is varying i.e. depends on a lot of factors. For instance, if you have a wide area with sand then it is not so hard. You can use shorter lines which will make the kite pull a lot less – this is ideal for beginners because the speed of the kite will be slower.
But if the beach is pebbly or rocky, you will have to pay way more attention to details, because it is a lot less safe to launch from shore than from a superyachts’ beach club. Bare in mind that we will not be dealing with hard shore-based launchings on a yacht charter holiday; this is only for informational value.
What is the best time to go kitesurfing on a yacht holiday? Seeing that the guests are constantly surrounded with fantastic food and premium drinks, the question is can you go kitesurfing after lunch? Or slightly buzzed?
I would not recommend it either. Rather, wait for some time and digest your meal fully, before going to the water. This is mainly because you are connected to your kite with a harness, which is a sort-of-a belt that goes around your waist and it needs to be tight, for you to be able to connect the kite to it, and if you just ate it could cause some problems.
Wait, if I am connected to the kite via harness, how do I stop it from taking me hundreds of meters into the air?
The most important thing is training to detach from the get-go. This means that E.V.E.R.Y time I say „Let go of the bar“ you let go of the bar. But with this, we are entering the complete kitesurfing safety theory. This is the school stuff, the actual theory of kitesurfing.
So, basically, the bar can move in a few ways. The bar (the „steering wheel“ of the kite if you will) can be moved in several different ways: away from you or towards you. This will make the backside of the kite go down or up, compared to the front. This will also move the trailing edge of the kite in a way that it catches more wind or releases wind power. So basically, when you pull the bar inwards, you are pulling the wingtips of the kite, „closing“ the wind and increasing the attack angle of the wind into it and so the kite pulls more because it catches more wind.
So the only thing preventing me from going up with the kite is letting go of the handle?
Yes. If you let go of the bar, the bar will always lock in full de-power position, which will open the kite up. The kite will fly to either side of the window and drop down, without power. It will just fall down, in the water or land, without pulling you.
Remember, every time you think you are not in control of the kite, just let go of the bar. Your first reflex in kitesurfing should be letting go of the bar, and listening to me, your experienced instructor. If you do these things, you will cancel out 99.99% of potential problems.
Ok, I am super-hyped up and ready to do some kitesurfing. When`s the best time to go?
It depends on the spot we are kiting in and the wind that we have that day. Usually, instructors watch the forecasts and then see when are the best hours for kitesurfing. And if we are in a good spot, this usually means that you can kitesurf the entire day. Thankfully, with a chartered yacht, we are much more mobile, which enables us to pick the right spots in exactly the right time.
What can be learned in a day? Most charter guests come to Croatia for a week to ten days and do not necessarily have plenty of time to go kitesurfing each day. This means flexible timetables or what?
The progress depends entirely on you. It depends on how much „feeling“ with the kite you develop, how quickly you will be able to grasp the kitesurfing theory and put it to practice, and, of course, how long you can actually last in the water, holding and „fighting“ with the kite.
If you are relaxed and get a feeling really quickly, we can get you on the board and riding in about 2 hours. You need to grasp the basics of kite control; how the kite moves and how it pulls. This is best done by explaining the theory with practical elements. But before all that, some vital information regarding safety. A safety briefing, if you will.
The kite can move and fly in an area similar to „half a dome“; it can fly above your head, left and right, to the side ( about 180 degrees from your full left to your full right ), and everywhere in front of you. Your back is always facing the wind and you will never turn around, so basically, you always have to face your back to the wind so you can be squared with the kite.
Now, the way we tell the positions of the kite is by the hours on the clock. So, if you picture the clock from 9 to 3, so the upper side of the clock, you will find the kite in different positions,. It can range from 10 to 2 `o clock. 12 `o clock means that the kite is directly above your head, directly on top of you and this is our neutral position. Whenever you are putting on the board or looking at the board in the water, you will „park“ the kite in neutral i.e. 12 o’clock and you will keep it there because this is the position in which the kite pulls the least.
The kite then cannot fly either to the left or to the right and if we go left side and you let go of the bar, the kite will de-power and it will fall on either side, depending on where it is. You cannot be exactly at 12 o’clock the entire time, because the wind will keep pushing it. Also, the kite will start falling to either side. The kite will first fall to 11 o’clock, then 10, then 9 `o clock, which is when the kite touches the water.
If you let go of the bar, the kite will stay at the edge of the window, which means it will be high up and really far to the side, whichever side it is falling on. When you get the kite in front of you, basically, it will catch a lot more wind than when it’s up top at 12`o clock, or anywhere on the clock. If you keep it at 2`o clock on the right side, the kite will always want to go all the way as far it can go against the wind, and that is the spot where it will going to stop. The kite cannot go behind you when it is at 12`o clock, because the wind will keep pushing it forward.
The lower the kite is to the water, but in front of you, not to the side, the more wind it catches and the more power it has. Even if you let go of the bar, the kite will still catch the wind, and it’s gonna pull until it goes up. Another important safety measure is knowing the way the bar works, regarding the safety mechanisms on your harness.
The first safety is letting go of the bar. Whenever you don’t feel in control, you let go of the bar. Letting go of the bar will save you from almost anything in the water. But on the beach, those 5-10 meters you get dragged on the water will count a lot more if there are rocks or sand. So we want to completely negate the kite`s pull. If we have an issue on the beach, we pull the second safety. It is called a quick release, and that’s the way of disconnecting the kite; you get the big red thing on the harness and push it, so the kite de-powers drastically. This means that the kite is attached to you via leash only; this also means that the kite is flying on only one line and that it cannot catch the wind, falling down instantly.
This is called „killing the kite“ i.e. pulling the quick release. The kite will just fall down without any power the second you pull it. There are 4 lines that connect the bar to the kite, but only one line connects you with the bar. The last safety step is completely de-attaching yourself from the kite, by disconnecting the leash from the kite. This frees you of all connections with the kite, but it is easier to find someone who is connected to the kite, than a swimmer swimming far away from the kite. Thankfully, you will be on charter and will have a crew who will constantly keep an eye out for any trouble. And will get you with the tender at the first sign of trouble.
So, even if I let go of the bar the kite will pull me, in certain positions?
Until the kite reaches the edge of the window, any clock position. It will want to fly forwards, where the leading edge points. Remember, the power zone is always in front of you and downwind from you.
The kite will fly, it will pull as it goes up and when it reaches above your head, it will stop pulling because it reached the edge of the window. The amount of wind you are catching goes down, as the kite goes up.
Okay, now I`m definitely ready, excited and eager to do some kitesurfing!
Before that, we still need to go over the bar.
The bar is colour-coded. It’s a lever you pull – you can pull it right, left or push it away for de-power and can pull it in for power. The backlines of the kite are connected to the bar. You will leanr on a 4-line kite, basically, 99% of the kites are flown in a 4-line configuration, which means you have 2 connections on the front of the kite and two connections at the wingtips, at the back. The two front lines on the leading edge go straight through the bar to your hook, and this is where you are connected with the kite, also called a chicken loop. If you think that’s funny, there is also a thing called a donkey dick.
Hahahaha, what`s a donkey dick?
I know it sounds funny, but even the International Kitesurfing Association uses this term. It describes the part of the hook, which is a safety measure that will make sure that the kite is never dropped off the hook accidentally. So the donkey dick goes through the hook and under the chicken loop, and makes the connection safe and strong.
The next connection you have with the kite is called a leash ring, a line with a carabiner, which you need to connect to the leash ring. This gives you a full connection to the kite and the ability to power and the de-power with the bar. The left side of the bar is always red and the right side of the bar is always blue.
What are the speeds I can expect when I first start to kitesurf? How fast can you actually kitesurf?
You do not need to be very fast, the control systems are very efficient. Actually, you need to avoid fast movements, you want smooth and gradual movements.
What about max speeds?
Depends on where, when and how you are surfing…
Is this enough info before we start or do we need more?
We need more…
As I said, it’s very important to grab the bar with the left hand on the red side of the bar. When we pull left or right, we want to keep the same amount of power that the bar is setting. As you are grabbing the bar, the bar will always snap into full depower.
The first thing you will do with the bar is to pull some power to „feel the kite“. Basically, whenever you pull the bar in, the kite will pull you through the harness, through the chicken loop. The way we feel is to pull a little bit and to see how much the kite is pulling back. You want to pull to feel the tension in the lines, but not get pulled. The wind is never constant, and that’s why I can’t tell you to „pull it 15 cm and keep it there“. The wind will be stronger and weaker, and this is what we call „kite feeling“.
Kite feeling, interesting…
Yes, by keeping the bar straight and feeling the kite, you will be able to establish how much energy you will have to invest into certain actions. We need to pull just enough to the left or right so the kite stays in its position. The kite will always steer to the edges of the window, meaning you have to steer it into the power zone.
Ok, does this all mean that I have to wear a helmet and a life jacket?
We do not use life jackets, but helmets we use. You have to understand, all of this is because you have to have a good grasp of the theory and the terminology because once we get into the water, you will have to know certain things without me explaining them to you on the spot. Once everything starts happening, you will be grateful for this lengthy intro…..
Why no lifejacket?
Because the kite pulls you up, out of the water
What happens if the kite pulls to the edge of the window and it de-powers?
You just let go of the bar and you swim. Luckily, the charter crew will always be on stand by with a tender in the vicinity, in case of any complications. This is a big reason why it’s always best to have good support when you are starting to learn.
But, if the kite is attached to me, won’t it pull me or prevent me from swimming?
No, because it will always fall to the edge of the window, where it will not catch wind.
But what if the kite sinks?
The kite will never sink because it is inflatable…
When we step into the water, the first thing we are going to practice will be raising the kite to 12`o clocks with the left side of the bar and then letting go of the left side and allowing the kite to slowly fall down. You will have to have the kite under control until you step onto the board and start riding.
But, I don’t know how to surf…
Doesn’t matter, we will deal with it on the water, later. As long as you understand how the kite flies, getting on the board is very, very easy. The first thing we will practice will be keeping the kite at 12` o clock. Always be gentle with the bar, it’s a steering wheel. The second exercise will be flying the kite in several different positions, as I name them: 1` o clock, 11`o clock, 2`o clock and you will want to keep it steady and in the positions I call out.
Once you can fly the kite in this way, you can go into the water for the first time and move the kite on the water. In the sea, the first exercise will be moving through the water with the kite. Whenever you are in the water with the kite, you will want to steer the board by steering with the bar.
The first proper exercise we will be doing is the Superman. This is a way where we can go into the wind without the board. What we do, first we are gonna keep the kite on the left side of the window with the right hand and we’re gonna try and keep the kite steady at 10:30 ` o clock, without using our left hand. We are going to try to steer the kite with one hand only, without the kite falling down. If you do it correctly, the kite will slowly pull you to that side, which means we have one hand free to extend it forward into the position which we call Superman.
You have to make sure your body is straight and your hand extended to the side, to make sure your resistance is lower and you go faster through the water. Steering like this will mean that, wherever you point your hand, that’s where you will go, acting like a sort-of sailing boat.
How will all this be happening without me falling off the board?
You will have foot straps on the board.
Do the foot straps come off?
Yes, easily. Whenever you fall, the board will disattach completely, and you will not hurt your ankles or knees. The issue is then, how to recover the board? If you are surfing alone or without support, this can be tricky because of waves and currents. But, thankfully, the charter crew will always keep an eye out for these situations, helping you to recover the board. I will be on the tender and in direct radio link with you, via the helmet.
The second I see that you can surf correctly and that the board is not far from you, I will teach you how to recover the board on your own. If you go alone and you lose the board, you will have a hard time returning. These will be the first several exercises we will be doing. A very big part of kite surfing. If you ever go into kitesurfing more than this course, this will be very important and this is how kite surfing is thought throughout the world.
The main issue with board retrieval is that we cannot wait for the board. Yes, the board is being pushed by the waves towards you, but you are also getting pushed by the waves, as well as the kite catching some wind. Even at zenith, at 12`o clock, the kite has enough power to over-pace the board. So, if you wait, the board will never come back to you.
So, how do you retrieve the board then?
By doing something that is called a zig-zag. Going against the wind to the left side. You want to go into the waves. The waves are always going to be parallel with the kite at zenith, so when you are going to the left side, you want to cut into them. Not directly, but at a 45-degree angle, meaning you will have to zig-zag across each new wave until you reach the board.
That seems complicated. In the end, kite surfing sounds extremely overwhelming. I could never imagine this much detail and information in a simple action. It sounds dangerous and hard.
You couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s not dangerous and easy, but this all needs to be explained for your safety. Even though you will have me and the charter crew at your disposal, you will have to make some split-second decisions on your own. I could throw you in, and maybe you do really good or really bad.
Let’s give it a shot then. Let’s suppose that I`m strapped now and we did all the exercises and I managed to Superman it a bit, my feet are on the board and Im trying it for the first time.
If you got to this point, a lot of basic stuff is done, but you will need further training for being independent in the water. You need to get through the landing and launching procedures of controlling the kite.
So, there is still much to learn?
Yes, this is only the beginning…All of this could be done on your first day, the things we mentioned, all the information.
There always has to be an interesting story for the ending. Please, share some of your most interesting, scary or legendary stories…
Most of the scary stories are basically human errors. The equipment is made in a way that it never malfunctions, so only personal mistakes account for accidents or injuries. Also, the funniest thing about teaching and doing this job is watching people panic. Our basic instinct is when you get pulled, you pull back and then you get yanked through the water. These falls are spectacular but totally safe.
Lastly, you do not have to swim or walk back when you fall, because you will learn on a yacht. You can also use the yacht to lean into the wind, which is more efficient than starting on a beach. Yachts are really nice, very effective with your time, thanks to your yacht crew and the tender, which will always be at your disposal.
Thank you, Vedran, for your time and willingness to share your knowledge and experience regarding kite surfing. This short intro will surely help many enthusiasts familiarize themselves with kite surfing, which offers high doses of adrenaline for next-to-nothing risks, particularly on a yacht charter holiday in Croatia.
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