Issue #92 – Mind Over Matter

Mind Over Matter - KW #92

Master your mind for maximum kiting performance

If you’re on the hunt for extra ‘mind gainz’ to really maximise your time on the water then here’s a few things to think about. We’ve set them against a backdrop of big moves that dropped in Cape Town this season, caught through the lens of Ydwer van der Heide 


Mind Over Matter - KW #92

Words: Matt Pearce / Photos: Ydwer van der Heide 


The early professional athletes probably didn’t go in for things like visualisation techniques and ‘mindset seminars’, but it’s all the rage for the modern sportsman or woman. These days even the brawniest of jocks know the value of getting their mind straight for optimum sporting performance. The right coping mechanisms can give you a serious edge when it comes to improving your riding and overriding the mental blocks and stresses that so often hinder your progress. We’ve broken it down for you..


Mind Over Matter - KW #92Photo: Ydwer van der Heide / Rider: Jerrie van de Kop


As an exasperated rugby coach once told me, ‘Proper planning and preparation prevents p*ss poor performance’. He was right and you can vastly improve your chances of sticking that trick you’ve been working on before you even leave the beach by focusing on what you want to achieve out on the water. 


This is called visualisation and it’s a useful tool but, rather than getting caught up thinking about how awesome it’ll feel to land a trick that you can’t yet do, try to think about what the various steps are going to be and how you’ll tackle them instead. This allows you to call on past experience and to work out which components of a trick are going to be the most challenging. 


Let’s say you’re going for your first basic kite-loop. You should already be in full control during a sent jump, gaining good height and hang-time and be able to land softly. You should also be used to landing some of your jumps at speed, understanding how to control your board when ‘coming in hot.’ 

So now you can start thinking about the bits you don’t yet know how to do. Do you understand how hard you have to pull the bar to loop your kite? If not, it’s a good idea to learn to carve while doing a down-loop to get used to the movement and steering feel of a kite as it passes around the different parts of the window. Have you read up on when it’s best to initiate the loop? Straight after you take-off will result in enourmous power and a harder to control technique. Looping the kite on the way down, just after the apex of your jump, is often the best way to learn, but how much height is best? 

Olympic bobsled drivers visualise every turn of a course countless times before they pitch down it so that, when they do, nothing comes as a surprise and they’ll know how to react. You can employ the same technique when learning something new behind the kite. 


Mind Over Matter - KW #92Photo: Ydwer van der Heide / Rider: Lasse Walker


‘Everything you want lies on the other side of fear’ is a phrase that has perhaps lost a little of its impact after finding its way into countless memes in recent years, but it’s true. So often it’s your own feelings of fear, rational or otherwise, that stop you achieving what you want to in any walk of life. Kiting is no different.


Fear is an unconscious reaction to what the mind perceives as a potentially stressful or dangerous situation, but it’s something you can overcome by noticing and then rationalising the sensation of being afraid. 


Ask yourself, ‘What am I afraid of?’. Is it the fear of simply not achieving something and feeling bad about yourself as a result? Are you worried that more experienced riders may laugh at you if they see you crash a trick they can already do? Are you, perhaps quite sensibly, concerned for your safety and what’ll happen if you miss your turn or lose the board on your next big set wave?


One way to deal with these concerns is to treat every feeling of fear as a question to which you’re able to respond with a rational answer.


Yes, it will be frustrating if you crash a trick, but the positive feeling when you eventually land it will far outweigh any negative feelings you felt before. Yes, it might be embarrassing to think people are sniggering at yet another crash but, seriously, anybody who laughs at another kiter who’s trying to progress is most likely having a lot less fun and they’re not worth your concern. 

Although risk of injury is an ever-present when it comes to pushing your riding level, you’ll often be overplaying this in your head. So do your research and be honest with yourself: how badly hurt do you really think you might become? Is this move a logical next step in your own progression? Is it worth the risk? 

It may seem obvious, but if you’re mindful of your riding level and something feels a bit risky for you right now then you don’t have to do it. But, if after consideration you realise you’re just being a bit soft and a trick is well within your limits, then grit your teeth and send it! What’s the worst that could happen? (Ed – actually it’s best not to think about that sometimes).


Mind Over Matter - KW #92Photo: Ydwer van der Heide / Rider: Ruben Lenten


There’s no strength without struggle and no glory without sacrifice, so eventually you’ll need to learn to deal with setbacks and failures. You might have had a full day of missed handle-passes, perhaps you just couldn’t bring yourself to go for that first kite-loop, or you were crashing tricks or bungling waves that you’d normally breeze through. Whatever it is, there are a couple things to keep in mind.


Firstly, having failed something or having had one bad day on the water doesn’t define you as a rider. It may sound cheesy, but it doesn’t mean you suck at kiting and it’s not a sign that you should just jack it all in and take up golf (not that you can’t do both of course!).


Tomorrow may well be far more successful, so look ahead towards that and try and compartmentalise the challenges you faced today and put them to one side so that tomorrow you’re fresh and raring to try again. Also, reflect and learn from your mistakes. If you’ve just had a frustrating session full of failed trick attempts, then ask yourself what lessons you can take from that. Use the failure as a lesson and you’ll improve as a result. You may also find that although you did badly at one thing, you actually progressed in another area that you hadn’t expected to, so look for positives at all times when ruminating on a less-than-stellar session.


Mind Over Matter - KW #92Photo: Ydwer van der Heide / Rider: Steven Akkersdijk


Part of what makes kiting so utterly addictive is that there are countless new things to learn and ways to progress your riding. However, sometimes we can get so caught up in learning new tricks or improving an area of our riding that we don’t stop to appreciate and enjoy success when it happens. 

This is a real shame as it means that, over time, you can start to lose that zeal to get out on the water and it’s hard to stay motivated when you aren’t allowing yourself at least a moment of fulfilment after learning something new.


So, next time you’ve finally stuck something that’s been on your list for a while, take a couple of minutes to appreciate it. It’s these heady moments that make it all worth it!


Of course, above all, remember that you’re doing this for fun and there are plenty of worse things you could be spending your time doing, even if you have had an ‘off day’. Keeping that in mind will take the pressure off and, perhaps without realising it, you’ll ride better as a result! 


Mind Over Matter - KW #92Photo: Ydwer van der Heide / Rider: Nick Jacobsen 


This feature first appeared in KW #92 in April 2018. Subscribe to the magazine for six issues a year of the original international kitesurfing magazine, rooted at the heart of the sport, packed with awesome features and the latest news, reviews and expert commentary every issue.

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