Why Strapless Kitesurfing is overrated (or why you should strap yourself more)?

When in my kitesurfing youth, I stumbled upon a promotional DVD from a Stance’s magazine issue (a now online, French paper mag). That was the first time I saw a cool curly hair guy called Mitu Monteiro performing his, now famous, flawless strapless tricks.


At the time, I had never heard of, let along saw, such a thing. Even if it looked impossible, it opened a complete new world to me. Just like watching Ronaldinho do impossible stuff with a football. Even if I’m still unable to nail half of those strapless tricks (I have never been really keen in trying fancy tricks over and over anyway), it definitely opened my mind to strapless kitesurfing in waves.

It took me 2 or 3 years before I even considered to take the off the straps from times to times, but eventually never put them back in again! You will ask me why writing such a polemic title then? Well this is because of a recurrent observation made by many of my guests who come to Peru looking to ride waves with us. Looking retrospectively on wave kitesurfing, this is what I usually recommend: Here are 4 good reasons why strapless kitesurfing is overrated.

Or a debate Strapped VS Strapless.


1. Strap More.

Everybody should, especially if you’re a beginner.

kitesurfing waves

My first steps wave riding, here during a local contest in Lobitos a looong time ago. 

Start from the beginning. If you’re taking your first steps as a guitar player, you’re not going to try and perform a Jimmy Hendrix or a Metallica’s solo. Well, it’s the same with kitesurfing waves: start with straps, and get confortable with them before you take them off. Even better, take them off  gradually, and depending on the conditions.

When the waves are good, the general idea is to have fun, and rip those pieces off nature shaped wonders. What’s the point struggling like a funambulist and loosing all the good stuff?

Quit the straps when it’s flat or when the waves are small to get confident, but put them back on to have the most fun when it gets good out there. Because you’re just starting wave riding, there is already a lot to figure out. How to balance your body, how to read the wave, and especially how to synchronize the kite with your turns are already enough of a challenge… In the beginning, being strapless is just another variable in the wave riding equation. Trust me when I say there is already enough to manage with the straps on.

Last but not least, a beginner wave rider without straps will fall off the waves more often making the next wave hard to ride for anybody else out on the water.



2. You don’t look good riding strapless

Even if you look cool


Yes, I know, this sounds a bit mean and I’m just teasing really. But let’s face it : few riders actually have the level required to ride waves strapless. We have all been beginners at some point. As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure a large proportion of wave kiters would have a much better time and show better style being strapped, therefor jumping high, doing powerful carves and ripping waves appart. For me it’s more about extracting the most Fun out of every wave and being strapped in will help you do just that.

Over the time, I’ve seen so many guys struggling to stay into the waves and looking funny in their maneuvers all for the sake of riding strapless. I don’t say you have to be Keahi De Aboitiz to enjoy strapless kitesurfing, but fighting the wave every step on the way isn’t the idea either.

3. Strapless should not be a religion

Neither a trend

Nowadays, whatever your level, riding strapped will instantly make you an old school has-been. 

As Robby Naish said: “You’re not cooler because you don’t have straps, and you’re not riding any better 80% of the time, so it’s funny to be like, ‘well I’m core, so I’m not gonna put straps on.’ (…) I can rip the head off a wave so damn hard with my straps on.” 

How is that for a paradox :  I personally felt a lot cooler the day I took the straps off my board (I’m a southern guy French man and therefor sensitive to what’s cool) but it took me a longer time to actually look good riding the waves out straps. On the contrary, I have a few soul surfers friends who picked up kitesurfing after long years of regular surfing. Although they already ripped surfing, they did not see why they shouldn’t use straps and chose to really enjoy the full potential offered by being attached to the board. So here I was, struggling to stay on my board and trying to look cool, watching my strapped in friends nail the most radical turns or land magical airs that would have required unimaginable skills to land with a strapless board.

That’s the time I finally learned not to follow trends too much. Strapped-in kitesurfing offers great potential even to good kite surfers. But it will especially facilitate the neophyte and save the amateur from having to much of a rigid style riding a wave. Not to mention it literally gives you wings!

4. Strapless is not right in lots of conditions.

Strapless kitesurfing requires clean and perfect conditions. Although Peru has a lot of those conditions, most peoples home breaks do not.

  • On the days where the water surface is so choppy that it will make it impossible to achieve a bottom turn : strap on !
  • If your local spot turns into a mess due to strong on-shore winds : strap on! 
  • If conditions are perfect but you want to get into the barrel without the skill set of Reo Stevens and Felix Pivec : strap on ! 
  • When it’s really big and you’re not sure you should go out: strap on! 

In a lot of different conditions, being strapped will be more than useful, or it will save your ass. Most of the time it will change a bow-legged shaky session into a crazy fun free-riding experience!


Wave riding is gliding on a 3D, moving and mostly unpredictable surface. Hence why it is mostly about free riding and having fun.

Riding strapless has a really nice feeling to it but it will not make you look cooler : riding well does. And riding well means being confortable with the conditions and your equipment.

Although the “Strapless” word broadcasts a higher sense of freedom, it will actually not be the case for most riders. Do not bend to the trend’s dictatorship that has made strapless the norm and anyone strapped-in a has-been. As in clothing fashion, “trendy” can also be uncomfortable and unpractical.

In a lot of situations, being strapped-in will help you enjoy more than less if you see what I’ve done there !

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  1. Tom Atwell

    Who cares if you’re strapless?

  2. Tony Kristensen

    Super article Axel. I have almost felt “outsider” among my kite pals the last couple of years. This really put it into perspective 🙂
    By the way, when is the best time to come and try your shores in Peru for wave kitesurfing ? It would be fantastic if it could be combined with a conjunction to a snowboard roadtrip in Chile & and Argentina late august/Beginning of September

    • Axel

      Thanks Tony! Snowboard roadtrip in Chile is a great idea! INfinite Cordillera… I think August is maybe a little bit less wavy than other months but luck is more important than anything. You will still get good conditions and with luck a big decent south west swell!

  3. Mike

    THANK YOU! I agree with everything you said in this post. When I started kiting with a directional board I got my butt kicked so many times by the ocean because I bought in to the whole strapless religion.
    There was one particular brutal downwinder at Outer Banks, NC where I was getting ripped off the board every couple of minutes. A kiter I’d just met on the beach told me “dude, don’t be a hero. Leave that strapless stuff to the pro’s and do what you gotta do to have fun”.
    I put the straps back on and it made a huge difference. I could jump over waves without losing my board. I could transition without getting pulled off the board. Stoke level increased 1000%

    • Axel

      Thanks for your feedback Mike!

    • Axel

      Gracias José!

  4. StraplessMan

    Practice, persistence and drive enable all in the strapless freestyle world (At a cost, of course). If you can’t do it, you’ll have to do it or you’ll never do it (kindly make a decision either way and thus party on or get out the damn way falling of your boards!). The game gets harder the better you get. With difficult conditions and so many variables there’s more going on than any other sport on the planet. Straps remove some of those variables. I’ll tell you though people, NOTHING beats running through the air!

  5. George Meredith

    Riding with straps gets in the way of fast foot changes and quick tacks to grab incoming waves. That’s the reason I could never do it. Do the straps not bother you in this way?

    • Axel

      Thanks for your feedback George!! Riding strapless definitely gives more freedom of movement, and this is what is great about it! But obviously the cost of this freedom is the inability to go as radical on the wave as if you were strapped.

      What we do when strapped is just avoiding doing tacks by riding toeside, and only taking the back foot off the strap. After some practice you can go as much upwind as if you were riding switch. But please note that my article is not about NOT riding strapless, but only giving straps a chance in certain conditions and scenarios.

  6. Christophe

    Hi Axel
    I am a professional instructor in few sport (windsurfing, paragliding, and others) and I have write few article for magasine.
    I am an average kite surfer.
    The only problem I have with your article, is that , given me sometime, I would have wright it myself exactly the same !
    So right
    So true
    So funny to see how human don’t do what I right for him, but what his surrounding (and his balls) tell him that he should do !
    Take care
    Raid Cyclades Kite Aventure

    • Axel

      Thanks for your message Christophe!

  7. Niek

    If you’re talking about wave riding then I completely agree, but you definitely gotta take the straps off if you want to do freestyle tricks

  8. Nick Heemskerk

    Great article and I agree with most of it. But here is one more argument against straps; wear and tear on your knees and ankles. As an old guy with aching joints I can really feel my knees after a long strapped session. Without straps I can position my feet at the optimal place and angle to reduce stress, regardless of wind strength, up/down wind angle or whether I am riding toe or heel side. And in those heavy conditions when straps help you control the board better there is also the increased risk of tweaking an ankle if you go down in a wave while still strapped in. So for me, most of the time, it is worth working a little harder or riding a little less radical to be more comfortable and safer without straps.

    • Axel

      Good point Nick. Even if finding comfortable straps and giving an angle will help, Strapless will always be smoother than being strapped.

  9. Md

    Everytime I put the straps back on, I feel so limited in my manoeuvering. On very big days, the straps are definitely important as the speed down the face of a big wave is tough to control strapless. But, other than that, I love riding strapless, you become extremely good at light wind kiting, and that means riding when the waves are much cleaner with smaller kites than what is needed when you ride with straps. To each his own, my friends with straps rip and it’s more of a preference thing. I don’t care for jumping, and as a surfer, I need the connection with the board. Cheers, and keep ripping 🙂

    • Axel

      Thanks for your Input Md. I do totally agree with you.

  10. Kevin Bradley

    Thank you! Just started riding a surfboard. Thought i had to learn strapless. Riding went well– no huge problems. Transitions are a nitemare when starting on a surfboard. So my board just got straps!
    Yea I’d like to take em off someday but I wasn’t learning much getting dunked and fumbling around everytime i changed direction. Looking forward to next session with straps. Was dreading my next session without them. Thanks for the article

    • Axel

      Cool Kevin, yeah strap and unstrap, enjoy each session no matter what the conditions are…


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