Mark My Words
WORDS - Mark Shinn
INTRO – Rounding out a year of exclusive Kiteworld column inches, two-time world champion, Mark Shinn, offers a few pointers to bear in mind the next time you ride
I seem to have written this column more often than not while travelling on a plane. Right now I’m at 32,000 feet and cruising at 780kph on my way to Hurghada, Egypt for three weeks of flat water fun. I’ve had a few ideas for topics this month but nothing really stood out until I put my mind to the business of running next week's clinics. I find it odd that in kiting there is really no culture of tuition past the first steps. Perhaps it's not that odd at first thought, but it’s not the norm in other, more established sports: most tennis enthusiasts have a coach; most golfers will play a round with the club pro to get tips and pointers on their game; there isn’t a soccer team in the country without a coach... in fact the better you get at most sports, the MORE tuition is deemed necessary.
I wonder if it’s immaturity (in as much as the number of years kiteboarding has existed) that causes this or whether there's simply a general feeling of “I know best”. I can't say that windsurfing or surfing has a better culture of learning but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve got it right. With the cutting edge of PKRA level riding becoming more and more technically demanding, I believe younger riders might soon be looking for a faster way to reach the top – and that surely lies in the realms of outside help.
One of the first things I tell students who come on one of my coaching clinics is that very often there’s a need to go backwards before you can move forwards. Much like the golfer's elusive swing, having the basics of your technique dialled perfectly will set you up for great things. There are some tricks that can be achieved with the worst technique imaginable, but the folly of your ways will soon become apparent when you move onto the next progression, where poor technique will really hinder you.
It's unlikely you'll have a coach on hand for every kite session and it's extremely difficult to take on board the explanation for every trick on your 'to do' list. So I try to give students the foundation of good technique and then help them understand how to watch a new move, and mentally break it down into its different component parts, so that they know where to start in their own learning cycle.
Here are a few guides that you might find helpful to bear in mind the next time you ride:
Unless you’re making powered handle-passes (where the rules are slightly different) you should never, ever, ever (get my drift… don’t do it!) start your rotations with the board. What I mean by this is, as you leave the water anyone watching should have no idea what move you’re going to make. The basic pop is the same for every jump, railey, back loop, board-off or kite loop. Get yourself into the air and then make the rotation with your head and shoulders – trust me, the rest of your body will follow. The worst example of this is with back loops, and the most common complaint being that as soon as you get more than two feet out of the water you over-rotate. Starting the loop with your pop means that you have no control over your rotation speed and your landing chances are reduced at best, and in the case of multiple rotations, are simply down to luck.
CONTROLLING MULTIPLE ROTATIONS
Have you ever wondered how some riders can launch themselves into the air and then rotate seemingly endlessly and still land on their feet? Well, it’s just a trick! The best way to control your rotations is with your legs. If you want to rotate faster, tuck your legs up as tight as possible. When you want to slow down, extend them. As you come down from your jump, look at the surface of the water and try to judge how much time you have left before you land – and then use your legs to ensure your board touches the water first. Most people do this naturally to some degree (eg. the classic over-rotated back loop picture where the rider has stretched their legs out as far as possible in a bid to touch the water before they go into the next spin), but thinking about it will introduce a new level of control into your jumping.
OPEN YOUR EYES
This is another obvious piece of information but one soon forgotten in the heat of the moment. 99 times in 100 your body will end up going where you’re looking. Making a conscious effort to spot your landing will vastly improve your consistency and avoid many a salt-water enema. I know it’s a common piece of advice, and every instructional DVD ever made finishes a trick description with “spot your landing and ride away”, but trust me, it really does work! Think about it and you’ll see for yourself.
VISUALISE, VISUALISE, VISUALISE
Throwing yourself into a new trick with no forethought will almost certainly not bring the results you're looking for. Whichever point in the trick you can’t clearly visualise doing will be the point where it goes wrong. Play it over time and time again in your head, work out where the kite needs to be for each stage of the move, decide which body position you should be in for each kite position, imagine your landing position and try to familiarise yourself with all the parts before your first attempt. If you crash, try to figure out what you did wrong and be ready to counter it in the next attempt. Remember that your brain can only handle one thought at a time when trying tricks, so have that one thought clear in your mind for each attempt and repeat it to yourself over and over until it becomes second nature and you can move onto the next point.
There’s one more nugget of information I’d like to impart. If you could draw a graph of anyone’s learning progression it wouldn’t be a steadily rising line; progress is almost always made in steps. You might feel like you’re not making any progress at all and become disheartened, but don’t give in. Your next session could push you beyond the plateau of stagnation and onto the next stage of rapid improvement. No one can be sure what triggers that spurt into the next quick-learning phase (personally I always tried to instigate it with equipment tuning and modifications) but you can be sure that once you reach it you’ll be busting out tricks you never thought were within your reach. Don’t think that professional athletes never hit the invisible barrier that seems to halt progress, because they most certainly do – but rest assured it passes. The ultimate aim of kiteboarding is to have fun, so relax, enjoy yourself and wait for your moment... it’s coming soon!
Find more on Mark and his boards at: www.shinnworld.com
This column is in issue #28. Read this whole issue online for free, click here now