Kitekahunas - Learn Wave Kitesurfing: Lesson 5

Frontside top-turn

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Previously learned in Lessons 2, 3 & 4 of this kitesurfing waves course

In Lessons 2 and 3 you have learned your turns on flat water. These turns form the basis of wave kitesurfing. In Lesson 4 you have surfed your first waves and you will have discovered, how rewarding this is. While doing so, you are in great harmony with the forces of nature, constantly reacting. While on the water your body becomes flushed with adrenaline, and the hours thereafter you will have felt what the surfers call being stoked. You have now enjoyed the pleasure of backside wave riding.

From here on, the content of your lessons becomes more technical. The main topic of Lessons 5 and 6 is the front-side top turn. This maneuver, performed with lots of power and speed, creates extreme joy for the rider and it also looks spectacular for observers from the beach, mainly because the rider can create a lot of spray from the wave during the front-side top turn.

how to kitesurf waves


Frontside Top-Turn when kitesurfing in waves

A well-performed frontside top-turn is a highly difficult maneuver, which requires a lot of practice, perfect co-ordination and timing between a variety of movements. Later, and as we will explain in Lesson 6, you will usually initiate the maneuver with a bottom-turn in front of the wave. You start with a bottom-turn to generate this extra flow and power that you will need for a perfect top-turn.

But lets simplify matters first, and begin with a top-turn initiated out of riding towards the wave in a straight line. Again, similar to backside riding of a wave, as we have discussed in Lesson 4, it is best and easiest to perform a top-turn with the wind direction parallel to the wave line. So when you face the wave, the wind should come either from the right or from the left. If your waves roll parallel to the shore line, this resembles a wind direction side-shore from the right or side-shore from the left.

You should approach the wave riding toe-side, also called switch. Spot the wave and plan a turn from switch into heel-side, perfectly distanced, so you reach the apex of your turn in the pocket of the wave, with maximum power on the lip of the wave. During the top turn, you will experience high G-forces on your body, absorbed mainly by your legs. You will have to withstand this force with your legs, pushing hard. The spray you can throw during this maneuver with the tail of your board and with your fins reflect the strong G-forces during the top turn. Try to stay relaxed during the maneuver, despite the high forces your body has to absorb. You will soon realize that the key to a well-performed top turn is that your body stays loose. Your top turns will get tighter and the spray you throw will get higher.


In the beginning, select small but clean waves to practice the top turn. The cleaner the wave, the easier the maneuver will be.

Approach the wave riding toe-side. You will be aiming to turn on top of the wave, just before the wave breaks. In Lesson 3 you will have learned the right distancing of your turn, in other words, you want to perform your turn at the correct point on the water surface. Now, in addition to this, as the wave is moving forward and changing its shape, you also need to gauge, where this turning point will be. Your turning point should be on the moving wave, just before the wave is about to break, which is called the peak of the wave. Predicting the shape of the wave and finding this peak point requires experience and practice.

Kitesurf waves cape town

If you take the wave too early, its curve will not be steep enough and your top-turn will not be as spectacular. If you take the wave too late, it will have broken already by the time you reach it. Even with small-to-medium sized waves this can potentially be dangerous, because the white-water can be extremely hard, or worse, the white-water can “kick against your board” and may even injure your legs. Therefore be cautious when you learn reading the wave. Take it easy in the beginning, risking a less than spectacular top turn, rather than taking the wave a fraction too late.

It is better that you take slow steps towards your timing, when you want to hit the wave, just before its peak. You can cautiously experiment with how this feels, when you hit the wave too late and smash into the white water. But do this slowly and cautiously, moving with only a little speed into the wave. With this you will gain experience with how a wave feels in its various stages. After a while, you will even enjoy doing powered top-turns on already broken waves. Please choose only small waves to practice this, so as not to injure yourself.

So as you see, timing is everything when you perform a top turn. You not only need to carefully co-ordinate the timing between moving your kite and controlling your board, but you also need to gauge the timing, when the wave will break, and perform your turn at the point on the water surface, where this will happen.


When the wind comes from the left, parallel to the wave, your kite will fly in the left side of the wind window, whilst approaching the wave, riding in switch. Just before you reach the wave, you initiate the top turn maneuver by sharply sending your kite into the opposite side of the wind window. You will need to do this, because during the top turn you will sharply change your riding direction, from going away from the beach to going towards the beach. If you did not send your kite into the other side of the wind window beforehand, your kite would pull you over the crest of the wave.

kitesurf waves tutorial

As we have discussed in Lesson 2, when you have learned the basic turns, you move your kite into the other side of the wind window by giving your kite a strong pull with your back hand. It is very important that you don’t try to continuously fly your kite over to the other side of the wind window, but that you give your kite a determined pull with your back hand.

Depending on the make and size of your kite, you can give this pull in different ways. If your kite is agile and small, you can give this pull simply out of the wrist of your back hand. If your kite is slow, or if you have to use a big kite in lower wind conditions when kitesurfing waves, you can move your back hand towards the outside of the bar – just as a freestyle kiteboarder would do before a kite loop – and then give your kite a strong pull to move to the other side of the wind window.

Give the kite your steering input with one determined strong pull, because then you don’t have to worry any more about your kite. Instead you can fully concentrate on the timing of the wave and the sharp turn of your board in the pocket and on the lip of the wave.

MOVEMENT OF YOUR BOARD and the Spray when kitesurfing waves

During the top turn, you turn your board sharply on the fins into the new direction. If you did not do this, you would simply carry on in the old direction and go over the crest of the wave and miss it. As you turn your board sharply, the tail of your board and your fins will throw spray off the lip of the wave. This spray is particularly impressive to watch by spectators, but is even more enjoyable for the rider who is performing the move.

Kitesurf waves tips

Throwing the spray is one of the most awesome scenes and spectacles of nature that you can experience. Just after you perform a sharp turn, you may almost come to a halt. If you get this right, your kite is now already in the other side of the wind window, pointing towards the beach. Pull the bar to gain speed to ride off the wave.

You can perform a frontside top-turn maneuver either “stand-alone”, out of riding toe-side towards a wave, or more powered and spectacular from coming out of a bottom-turn maneuver. The latter we explain in Lesson 6, where we will summarize the top-turn.

Hints to other kitesurfing Video Lessons:

Lesson 6: Frontside top-turn after bottom-turn
Lesson 7: Focus on frontside bottom-turn
Lesson 8: Focus on frontside top-turn
Lesson 9: Backside top-turn after bottom-turn

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