FAQ about Kitesurfing VOL. 3: The kite etiquette. Behaviour rules for kitesurfers

About bad habits, No-gos on the kite beach and how to prevent them

Basically it doesn’t matter which kind of sports you choose: There are always people who can spoil the fun for everyone.  Sometimes more, sometimes less – and often times it’s just small things which get on our nerves. But nevertheless you have to wonder where some people lost their good manners. It doesn’t matter if you are on the top of a mountain or at the beach – we should always take a big amount of respect, fairness and courtesy with us.

A good coexistence within the kite community – who wouldn’t wish for this?

Here I collected the most annoying behaviours which you typically experience on a kitespot (there is no claim for completeness ;)). Mostly these things happen without any bad intention (and there are so many thins which just happen in the heat of the moment, because one is completely stoked or just due to inattentiveness or forgetfulness … well, that’s human. And it can happen to everyone of us, from rookies to experienced kiters or instructors.)  For this very reason I think it’s important to raise this issue to remind, which behaviours to practice and which to avoid – and to think about basic kitesurf behaviour rules.

I should warn you: If you’re interested in this article, take your time. As I could not stop myself from delving in details and quoting some (funny) examples, the text became quite long. FYI: After complementing the part “rules of way” with additional details it became quite extensive and so I moved it to the end of the article (this doesn’t mean it’s unimportant – quite the opposite!)

Kitesurf behaviour rules

No-go: The “this doesn’t concern me”-attitude

Since about three minutes somebody is standing on the beach – with his kite in the air waiting for anybody to land. He showed the landing signal for more than just one time. It’s not the case that there are not enough people on the beach. But they are busy with other things or are acting as if this has nothing to do with them. This is not the way it should be! Ok, ok … of course it’s normal that people are engaged in conversation, sorting their lines, watching the hustle and bustle on the water or whatever – after all we are on a kitebeach yet to have fun.

Help launching or landing a kite should be a matter of course among kiters. Ignorant behavior is just antisocial. (c) H. Fuchs

Nonetheless, guys – please, keep your eyes open on what’s going on around you!  Being attentive on a kitespot is not only  a matter of courtesy, but rather a significant safety factor. Of course, an experienced kitesurfer will have no problem waiting a little bit longer till someone comes for a landing or he will even do a self-landing.  But imagine a beginner in gusty winds or a girl with 50 kilos and totally overpowered and no one is paying attention?

Apart from the fact that gusty and strong winds on the shore can be very dangerous it’s not so funny to be ignored in such a situation. So if one is watching a kiter heading to the shore with too much power in his kite it should be a matter of course to provide help through holding him on his harness. Is this asking too much? I don’t think so. In my opinion within the kite community it should be natural to pay attention and assist each other with launching/landing or if someone has a problem – even if you don’t know each other personally. It should be part of the game.

What’s important: If you are not sure if the potential launching or landing assistant knows how to do it, ask first! Sometimes there’s no one on the beach except a walker who offers to help. If he has no idea how to land a kite, you must tell him exactly what to do.

Sometimes you can just wonder about what's going on ... (c) H. Fuchs
Sometimes you can just wonder about what’s going on there … (c) H. Fuchs

Don’t forget to tell him that he has to hold the kite after landing till you reach him and take the kite (or how to put it down properly). Same applies if you are unexperienced and not sure about what to do if another kiteboarder asks you for helping him with his landing – please don’t be afraid to say this before you do something. And no, it’s not embarrassing at all! Safety should always come first.

I don’t want to interfere, but … 

Another situation which is often discussed: A non-experienced kitesurfer wants to go on the water with a kite which is far too big. It’s 35 knots, others are more than overpowered with their 9s, he wants to launch a 14. Well … is it ok to tell him that this is not a good idea?  Or is this bad manners? I would say no. Apart from the fact that safety is most important a lot of kiters are thankful for this type of support and tipps cause they may have no experience with strong or gusty winds or the condition of this beach. On a new spot we all head from scratch.
However – I am sure that thanks to interfering a lot of accidents have been prevented. You cannot forbid someone to go if he wants to kill himself – but at least you didn’t just sit back and watch doless.

Choosing the right kite size in an important safety topic. (c) Helmut Fuchs/kitejoy

There’s also the weather topic: Imagine the wind gets stronger and stronger and black clouds are approaching very fast … a thunderstorm is coming up or passing by. However – thunderstorms can affect the wind very intensively – even if they just pass by (suction effect!). Yes, you can deliver a warning if somebody wants to go for a session in such conditions. My opinion. Of course, everybody is responsible for himself. Nevertheless – to overlook a black wall of clouds or lightnings in the background can happen to all of us. Again: Better safe than sorry – no one wants to experience a kitemare, right?

But, please, always be careful (in all those situations): You don’t have to behave as if you were the beach sheriff who knows everything better and is responsible for everyone. Show respect, be polite and don’t treat the others like idiots!

Kitesurf behaviour rules: As a kitesurfer you should always keep an eye on clouds and upcoming thunderstorms. If in doubt, get out of the water. (c) H. Fuchs

What if you are a beginner (or new on a spot) and you feel treated like a child by people who tell you what to do (or not to do): Breathe. Calm down. And always remember, that everybody has go go through it. Even the one who is playing teacher to you has been a greenhorn once. Give a sh… to your ego. In some years you will be the one who is giving advice to the others.

Attention, please!

And what about behaviour on the water? Also here ignorance should be completely out of place. It someone crashes very hard, watch out if he’s ok ok. If someone is hurt, ripped his kite or has any other problem, please ride to the beach and get help. If someone has no chance to get back to his lost board he might be superhappy if someone brings it back to him (if you know how to do it!). (I think I mention it again and again how important it is to know how to do an upwind body drag? ;))

Usually crashes look more spectacular than they are. But yet you should check if the crash pilot is ok – should be also part of the kitesurf behaviour rules. (c) H. Fuchs

A very well known situation for kitesurf beginners: Being in the water with your kite, the waterstart works out very rarely, it’s super hard to position your board … and all these other kiters around you! I was so grateful to the ones who checked the situation and kept distance to me – which reduced my stress level a lot. For sure it can be annoying for the others if a beginner who practices is always in the way. But this is part of the game. You never know if this beginner will be a pro kiter in some years or if he will help you if you are the one who has a problem. It’s all about karma!

For the beginners: It helps the others a lot if you do not keep your kite on twelve all the time. Especially if someone wants to pass by upwind from you it makes sense to put it on 10 or 2 which makes you less an obstacle.

Help each other: an essential habit everyone should  practice from the outset of his kite career. (c) H. Fuchs

Keep distance!

Looking around if you want to jump or turn is something which is often forgotten. This can lead to dangerous situations. Even those who are usually careful may become negligent when spending a lot of time alone on the water with heaps of space and no need to take care of others during their maneuvers. (This I know from myself ;)) The best way is to act always as if you were not alone – which means: Watch out for other kiters or obstacles before doing a maneuver – in both directions.
The general rule for any maneuver is to keep distance (two times the length of the lines).
And also keep distance from the beach! This means: All the posers who prefer to show off close to the shore should realize that mostly they provoke more trouble than admiration.

Very important: Take a look around you before doing a trick! (c) Helmut Fuchs/kitejoy

Kitesurf behaviour rules:
Smaller and bigger sources of annoyance

Very often you find ownerless boards or kites  in the middle of the launching and landing area. If there are only a few kiters (or if there’s heaps of space) this may be no problem. But if it gets crowded on the beach this can be a) annoying and b) dangerous.  A typical scenario: During launching a line gets tangled in a board or kite which is lying around.
I know, I know … it’s easy to forget when you’re totally stoked cause you just landed a new trick – but we should always remember to remove your belongings from the launching and landing area (or the zone where the kiters come in and get out of the water). By the way, on some spots it’s part of the rules to wind up the lines while parking the kite on the beach.

A board in the middle of the launching and landing meadow … always makes the other kiters happy ;).  (c) H. Fuchs

What some kiters love to do: Put their whole range of boards on the shore. Sure, this looks nice and you can easily change your board during sessions. But if everybody would do this on a crowded spot? Or the coffee party – a group of guys standing on the shore with their kites in the air, talking about god and the world, blocking the others from getting out of or into the water. All this is no problem if the beach has endless space. If not, you have to pay attention and clear the path for those who want to pass by. Or simply avoid to block the entrance and exit.

Lately a guy told me I should not forget to mention this issue here: Smoking next to a kite. Actually this is self explaining. If you destroy your own kite – no problem. But if it’s not yours … you know. So just keep distance while smoking and position yourself downwind from the kite to be safe.

Always respect the locals

If one comes to a new spot for the first time, it’s clever to become familiar with the rules of this spot. Sometimes they differ from spot to spot or kitestation. What I experienced often: People who give a sh.. about these rules but yet want to enjoy all the benefits of a spot/station.
An example: Spot in Greece. The black flag is out cause the wind is coming from an untypical direction and the waves are so high that it’s not possible to put the jetski in the water – what means that there’s no rescue service on this day. A girl with average kite skills ignores all the warnings and wants to go out (“Cause there is wind, so why shouldn’t I go?) even though the station manager recommends to stay at the beach. So she starts riding, two minutes later her kite is floating on the water and there’s no rescue service and she has to swim for a looong time. It’s nobody’s fault but hers.

Kite surf behaviour rules: “Respect the locals” is one of them. (c) H. Fuchs

Another example: A guy just arrived at the station and immediately wants to go for a session. It’s 6.30 p. m. and the station is closing at 7 p. m. So he is asked not to go out anymore cause the wind usually drops at this time and the rescue service is only available till 7. He doesn’t care, pumps his kite and goes onto the water … he’s riding directly downwind (among other things cause there’s no wind anymore) and comes out two kilometers away.  No wonder that this guy became quite unpopular on his first day at the station.

One more: A guy wants to rent equipment at a kitestation, for this he has to specify his skill levels. He claims that he knows how to relaunch and go upwind in any condition – cause he had learned this in Egypt. The head instructor explains to him that it might be a little bit more difficult on this spot cause it has no flat water and the wind is not stable. Therefore he offers the guy a free upwind service to the beginner spot to find out if he can manage the conditions. But the guy claims that he doesn’t need anything like this cause he knows how to kite. The result: After a 50-meters-ride his kite crashed onto the water, he had no idea how to relaunch … and the jetski has to pick him up. Additionally his wife was complaining heatedly cause the whole rescue thing happened much too slow.

Sometimes there would be no need for a rescue if people would take the advice given by the instructors. (c) H. Fuchs

One has to bear in mind that the locals, instructors or station managers do very well know how to analyze situations and conditions. They don’t want to treat anyone like an idiot – instead they want to support the kiters and customers so that they get out the most of their kite holidays. Busybodies won’t have it easy – no matter on wich spot.

“D’you know how to go upwind?”

Before we move on to the right of way I have a girly topic for you ;D Please note that you should read this with a smile, ok? Cause it’s not a sweeping condemnation of male kiters – it’s just about some specific exemplars, namely those who are of the opinion that A) every kitesurfing girl is a beginner and B) easy to impress. I still don’t understand the logic behind this – but I’m by far not the only woman who experienced super strange situations with such guys 😉

Help! Some guys on a kitebeach just leave you totally confused. (c) H. Fuchs

This situation was quite funny for me (well, not in the beginning): We had breakfast in the kitecamp, sitting on a huge table with other guests. A guy was talking to my boyfriend and asked him then for how long he has been kiting already. Suddenly he turns around, looked ad me and asked: “And you? D’you already know how to go upwind?” My muesli nearly got stuck in my throat cause I didn’t know if I should laugh out loud or slap him. I mean, how does one get the idea to ask this as a first question?
A few months before I had completed my kite instructor license. Of course this was not printed on my T-shirt – but why couldn’t he just ask me for how long I have been kiting (like he asked my boyfriend?). Cause he had no doubt that I must be a beginner. This guy was also a swaggerer on the beach … a self-imposed expert in equipment and riding technique (which is another bad habit in my opinion).
The funny thing: He himself wasn’t really able to go upwind, not even with his 15-qm foilkite in conditions when the others had good power with 10s or 12s. Moreover he was riding in the worst toilet-posture I have ever seen. Ok, I admit: For me this was a malicious pleasure.

Look, a girl who’s able to kite … 😀 (c) H. Fuchs

A lot of kitegirls know this situation very well: Guys who seem to chase them on the water or have to show directly in front or (worse!) slightly upwind how amazing they can jump.
For all I care you can condemn me now – but I say: 99 percent of these jumps are not cool jumps but strange and uncontrolled dangle somethings without a proper takeoff. Please be honest to yourself, and then whoever feels adressed by this description: Please let it be. It doesn’t matter how good you can kite. If you want to impress a girl, choose another way! And those kitesurfers who really make impressing tricks? Yes, it’s nice to watch – as long as you don’t risk to jump into the girl’s lines and provoke more panic than admiration.

Girls on the water are very often totally underestimated. And that’s a pity. (c) H. Fuchs

I don’t know if I can translate it properly from german to english – but  as a kitegirl it could happen that you get to hear something like: “Your jumps look quite cute already.” Häh? The only direction to jump then should be directly by his throat. Not in a cute way!

Here’s a quick note for those who believe that all women who kite surf are beginners:

  • There are girls who are very good kiters (sometimes better than you) and this is totally natural (like women driving a car).
  • “Cute” is a word we don’t want to hear in connection with kitesurfing – not even if it’s meant as a compliment.

Kitesurf behaviour rules

Last, but not least:
Right of way

According to a few requests I complemented this point with some issues – but I didn’t describe all the rules in detail as they can vary from spot to spot or country. The basic right of way rules in kitesurfing are not too complicated – as you may see here or also here.

Left hand and shoulder forwards means you must yield right of way. (c) H. Fuchs

To avoid stress it’ s important before you go for a ride on a new spot to inform about the rules they have there!

And of course you should always play by the rules.
BUT: Can you trust in the others doing this too? Unfortunately no. Apart from kiters who absolutely ignore any rules and behave reckless so that you  have to avoid if you don’t want to get smashed by them – there are a lot of situations when you will have to bend the rules or walve your right of way. E. g. a beginner who is struggling with getting upwind. Why not give him way just because it’s kind?
I have made a habit of looking for which kite size the other one rides. If I have good power and the other one has a smaller kite and is fighting I bear away (also if it would be my right of way normally). I mean – whats the problem in giving away some upwind meters? Nothing happens. And maybe the other one is happy and even thankful.

ATTENTION: I don’t claim that you should not accept the right of way rules and play it. All those make sense and should be learned and respected. I am talking about individual situations, about first watching and then evaluating what to do. But: If a spot is crowded you should (apart from accident prevention) adhere to the rules without exception – otherwise it means chaos.
(The small print: There is no claim for completeness or correctness concerning the rules. Laws are changing and can also differ between countries etc.) 

The upwind kiteboarder should keep his kite high, the downwind kiter should keep it low. There’s even space for a high five, if you want 😉

A rule that deserves much more attention is this one: When crossing close to another kiter, the upwind kiteboarder keeps his kite high and the downwind kiteboarder keeps his kite low. This rule applies both for kiters riding in the same sides and in the opposite sides. Low means below 45 degrees, high means higher than 45 degrees.

Also not to forget: If riding after another one who is approaching an obstacle, let him enough space to make a maneuver. A lot of kiters don’t do this – some even seem to practice a kind of “cuddle kiting” always super close to the others. Not a good habit! However: If you are the one who comes to the obstacle and needs to turn, send a clear signal to the other kitesurfer to avoid getting sandwiched.

If you are the one who leaves the shore you have right of way – but watch out for incoming kiters who may have a problem. (c) H. Fuchs

In some situations it may be necessary to ignore the right of way rules for outgoing and incoming: Usually the kiter who leaves the shore has right of way. But if there is someone who needs to come to the beach cause he is overpowered please let him get in first. Same goes for any difficulties like being hurt or having material problems – and of course if he’s giving the emergency signal (wave both hands and bring them together). In any situation there must be given right of way to kiters who are unable to maneuvre (hurt, totally overpowered, destroyed equipment).

There’s no stress with the rules of way if you are alone on a spot.. (c) Pixabay, silviaaronadio0

Ok guys, this are some facts about annoying behaviour on a kitebeach or on the water.
Did you also experience some of this bad habits? What is the most irritating thing for you? Did I forget anything?

I am looking forward to getting your feedback 🙂

In the meanwhile – keep cool.

P. S. Do you already know the articles about how to turn fear into respect and kitemares?

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Nobody is impressed if you are throwing your tricks close to shore right near where people are launching and landing. Unless you are a paid professional with a hired camera crew on a private closed beach DO NOT DO AERIAL TRICKS close to shore . You are not cool.

[…] Launching & landing:  What to do when the beach is empty? Sometimes there’s no one there who can take your kite when you want to land. Or at least no other kiter. If asking someone who doesn’t know how to assist a landing, give him proper instructions. Same for launching, of course. Instructions should be clear and in detail – including the signs. For launching tell your assistant that he should not let the kite out of his hands before you show him the sign. And tell him not to throw it up in the air! It happened to… Read more »