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TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 19 copiar 1200x800 - Strap In

Strap In

Wave riding without straps on your surfboard has long been seen as the coolest way to show off your Slater-esque GOAT skills. But RRD founder Roberto Ricci and team rider Carl Ferreira have come back round to the idea that riding with straps has its benefits and could lead to further evolution in wave riding. Team rider Ralf Bachschuster (pictured here by Jurgen Tapp) no doubt agrees.

PHOTOS: Samuel Tomé (unless specified)
TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 8 - Strap In


I’ve been riding strapless for over 10 years, and just recently I started trying out a bit of strapped-in riding. I’ve been getting a lot of mixed responses from people about this, mostly negative… Why is that? I think most kitesurfers are led to believe that riding strapless is ‘cool’ while riding with straps is ‘uncool’. And I must confess that’s something I also thought for a while, that strapped-in riding was more for the older generation.

However, I think the strapped-in movement is coming back from the early days of kiting and it’s really cool. I threw my straps on for the first time in years, and was busting tricks that took me years to learn strapless! It gave me a limitless feeling of what was possible on a wave, and even on the flats. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing better than being strapless in a place like Mauritius where you have a perfect barreling down-the-line wave that you can surf, but riding mostly in Cape Town where it’s choppy and unpredictable, throwing some straps in the mix is a lot of fun.

Being strapped in you can really maximize the use of the kite on the wave, doing bigger turns, flying off the lip, throwing kiteloops, backflips, frontrolls… the list goes on. You’re able to really send it, we are KITEsurfing after all, so why not maximize the use of the kite. Let’s combine freestyle and Big Air with wave riding, and make this into the ultimate division – it’s surfing in the fourth dimension, showcasing the true meaning behind kitesurfing.

Whichever you choose, it’s your style, and at the end of the day, it’s all about having a good time on the water.

TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 10 1260x754 - Strap In
TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 14 1260x754 - Strap In
TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 15 1260x754 - Strap In
TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 17 1260x754 - Strap In
TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 16 1260x754 - Strap In
TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 11 1260x754 - Strap In
TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 12 1260x754 - Strap In
TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 6 1260x754 - Strap In
TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 20 - Strap In


The idea of riding straps on a surfboard for kiting started at the very beginning. There were no other boards except surfboards for using as kiteboards. I remember cutting off the nose of my 6’3 surfboard to be used with a two-line kite in 1996-97. And I was actually very happy using that board because I was able to stay upwind with it and do jumps and everything else possible to do with a kite in those days. Then as kiting in waves evolved and went through all phases of getting deeper and deeper into the critical part of the waves, being able to actually move your feet around the deck of the board was becoming a key point for some of the real talented riders to increase their performance level, make sure they could control the board while riding, and be more free to move their body around the board. That was kind of what started the whole strapless movement.

TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 2 1260x754 - Strap In
Cape Town: Kitesurfing South Africa on December, 12, 2023, (Photo by Juergen Tap)
TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 3 1260x754 - Strap In
Cape Town: Kitesurfing South Africa on December, 12, 2023, (Photo by Juergen Tap)
TheKiteMag 56 RRD Roberto and Carl 4 1260x754 - Strap In
Cape Town: Kitesurfing South Africa on December, 12, 2023, (Photo by Juergen Tap)

I think it’s difficult for the average kiter to ride a surfboard without straps. We went through a phase of having this super sticky wax on the deck because riders were losing their board too often and for the average kiter to take a board without straps and go out there was a mission. It became a big fashion because of kiters like Airton and the whole movement of incredibly talented riders; they wanted to push the boundaries of the sport, which they absolutely did. It’s so great to see these riders performing the way they do. But unfortunately, we forget that the average person that wants to wave ride has a hard time even getting over the white water and going through the lineup without straps. We completely pushed this type of kitesurfing in waves, trying to increase the level of performance, and thinking that normal kiters could ride perfect waves in Mauritius, Cape Verde, South Africa or Australia. But if you go out in Scheveningen, Sardinia, where I live or anywhere in the Mediterranean where the big market is, conditions are choppy, waves break quickly and they are onshore, which is not great for strapless riding. Pushing the view that riding without straps is cool because you can be a surfer and dream about doing bottom turns in perfect glassy water, is really pushing the sport in a direction that doesn’t belong to everybody. The average kiters that go out and buy a surfboard are between 30 and 50, or even older – I’m now 60 and I still love to ride my surfboard with straps, because it allows me to be in control, get through the white water, do snappy bottom turns and off the tops, be totally in control, and just have fun mixing up jumps and aerials in total control.

I think the industry has made a big mistake in pushing strapless riding so hard. To me that is really going backwards instead of forward. To use an analogy, it’s like the invention of electric bikes that has opened up mountain biking to more people to have more fun with less effort, and then, instead of developing a better motor, you take the pedals off! So then you have to pedal with your feet on the ground because it makes you look more radical… So really we shoot ourselves in the foot by taking straps off the board. And I think now good riders are putting straps back on their board, which is the right approach to wave riding because that’s where the market is and that’s where the average kiter can be out there and still have fun, jumping and wave riding with the straps on the board. Let’s push the sport in a good direction that is healthy and that is the right direction for most people out there.

Even if someone calls you a kook for having straps on, you can hold your head high that you went out, rode those 20 or 30 waves, did a couple of aerials, did a big jump, and there you are, so stoked because you had a great day, not a frustrating one. That’s what it’s about. Straps are cool. Straps are fun. Let’s go for it! Let’s be open-minded and see how we can have the most fun in the ocean. Kiting was invented so we could fly…

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