|INTRO – Use the force. F-One head honcho Rafaël Salles tears up Flame Balls in Madagascar and enlightens you in the way of maximising the power from the wave in your off-the-lips|
| We had been in Madagascar for two weeks and up to this, our last afternoon, we hadn't had any swell. The swell came up in the morning but the wind didn't pick up until 1pm. By 2pm it was already up to 25 knots but as the sun disappears at 5pm in the south of Madagascar we weren't left with much time. On top of that, I don't personally get very many days to rides waves like this during the year. When I got to the spot I felt like a wild animal that had his cage doors opened after many days in captivity! Nothing felt normal. I'm regular but I can ride goofy but hadn't for some time and these waves were big and powerful. I was hitting them as if they were little choppy waves to begin with and crashed a lot. Luckily the kite was never caught up in the waves though.
This wave is called Flame Ball. It's quite a long, perfect, predictable left. It always breaks in the same way so you you don't get any surprising sections in front of you. That is a really big help in getting the approach right for your bottom turn and off-the-lip. I come from windsurfing, so my wave riding style is more aimed at big carving bottom turns and re-entries or aerials off-the-lip, rather than going for tubes or a slashy style. Most of the waves I ride are usually set-ups like Ponta Preta in Cape Verde and One Eye on Mauritius which are both quite off shore, so difficult and not fun to unhook at. I'm used to that so I ride hooked-in, but you can do off-the-lips unhooked.
I ride a 5'6" x 16.9''. I find the nose catches the wind a bit too much on a longer board and it's hard to keep it flat and not pointing up to the sky. A shorter board isn't stable enough to make big carving turns and to maintain speed.
A lot of an off-the-lip like this is down to instinct.
Choosing which wave to go for is simple; I pick up the bigger set and try to take the third wave of the set. The first wave of the bigger set usually carries a lot of wind chop and the third is much more glassy.
We were able to make four or five bottom turns on that wave that session, so the first turns were really good for warming up on the wave. As the wave progressed it got smaller but more powerful and would begin barrelling, so it was time to go for the aerials.
I try to leave my final decision of where to make my off-the-lip until I'm at the top of the wave.
The wind was a little too offshore ideally, especially at the end of the wave where it was turning around the reef, so I had to use the power of the lip to push me in front so that I didn't land behind the wave. I was also a little over-powered so it was difficult to go for really big airs, so I tried to stay in contact with the wave through the move.
On that kind of lip you have to come out of the bottom turn with enough speed to get up to the top of the wave.One of the tricks is to hit the lip already carrying some forward movement. Try 'jumping' off the wave just before the lip breaks so the power of the wave only has to assist in pushing you forward rather than having to create the whole movement. If you can do this and make yourself as light as possible the wave will have more energy to really push you off-the-lip.
Don't be mistaken, it is difficult timing your movements correctly to match that moment. Your kite should also be quite depowered so that the offshore wind isn't pulling you back into the wave. You can keep your kite fairly high for some flight assistance before sending it down for the landing like on a classic jump. Sheet back in to get the parachute effect for the landing.
I dream of spending two weeks on this wave to learn more...
Read issue #35 HERE