Is kitesurfing dangerous? Kitemares and how to avoid them

I think that every passionate kitesurfer would agree if I say: Kitesurfing is fun – which is the main reason why we do it. Of course you could also play chess … (which for sure for a lot of people is also fun – but in a different way. I just assume this, cause I do not play chess.)  The fact is that in safety matters chess has it’s nose ahead. In kitesurfing it’s  inevitably that dangerous situations come up from time to time. Wether it happens out of inattentiveness, carelessness, due to material problems, over-estimation of one’s own skills, sudden weather changes or whatever.

So the question is: Is kitesurfing dangerous? Yes, sometimes for sure it is! Even if you take all security precautions, play by the rules and pay attention all the time – wind, water and the weather in general as well as other (kite-)surfers are aspects that you cannot influence and that are not always predictable in their behaviour.

Is kitesurfing dangerous?  It depends on the situation. Some crashes look harder than they really are – but it can be vice versa too.

Wether it was your own fault or not – I don’t know a lot of kiters who never had the one or other frightening situation during their kite career; Sessions that you never forget and the very thought of it causes goose skin.
I talked to some kitesurfers and asked them about their worst kite situations  – their very own kitemares – and what they have learnt from this experiences.

After that you can read  about tipps how to avoid or at least defuse dangerous situations in kitesurfing – so that the fun stays in the foreground.

Ist Kitesurfen gefährlich? Kommt ganz auf die Situation an.
Water wind and waves are natural given factors that are neither controllable nor influenceable by us kitesurfers.

Is kitesurfing dangerous? Kiters talk about their very own kitemares

Dora, lives in Rhodes, started with kitesurfing 2008 and is working as Office Manager at Airriders Kiteprocenter:

My worst kite experience happened in Faliraki which is a spot on the east coast of the island Rhodes. It was in october, the wind was super strong and the waves about three meters high. Although my friend told me to take the 5 sqm, I took the seven and went to the water. It didn’t take long till I lost my board in the high waves. After some time I was somehow able to come out of the wave-washing machine, relaunch my kite and finally also find my board again. The wind was side onshore and so I managed it to get to the beach. The wind was getting stronger and stronger and so I could just put my kite on twelve and wait. My friend George had already seen me and was on the way to help me.

Suddenly I felt that someone grabbed me by my harness from behind. There was a guy which obviously wanted to help. Then I noticed a second guy next to him which started screaming “Down, down!” all the time. Apparently he meant my kite. So all of a sudden he grabbed my bar from behind and started to pull – only on one site. The result was a kiteloop which due to the strong wind was so heavy that the one guy couldn’t hold my harness anymore and I was pulled into the air.
I was flying over all the packed umbrellas on the beach and passed a baywatch tower in the same height. For me everything seemed to happen in slow motion. I know that I was thinking “If I release now for sure I get speared from one of the umbrellas“.  The kite pulled me on and on until finally the wall of a hotel came closer. Or let’s say I came closer to the wall! So I looked down where to “land” and pulled the Quick Release over a wooden beach path which seemed to be the better choice for me. I was enough alert to bend my legs so my knees were protected when I crashed hard on the wood.

In the meantime George was also there, had fully released his kite and ran to me. He asked me if I was hurt and I was waving with my left hand which was ok. It didn’t work out with the right hand – I couldn’t move it. There was something wrong, but due to the shock I felt no pain at all.
Later on, in the hospital the doctors told me that my forearm was broken. Actually it’s a kind of a wonder that this was the only broken part of my body! By the way, the two guys that wanted to “help” had vanished into thin air.

What I learnt out of this kitemare? It makes sense to listen to the advice of people with more experience. Who knows if the same would have happened If I had took the smaller kite. And ok, it’s also  unreasonable to go on the water if a storm is coming up and even the conditions on their own (with high waves, onshore wind and a lot of obstacles on the beach) are dangerous. Also I could have been more attentive so that this guy – someone who obviously had no idea what he was doing – wouldn’t have been able to grab my bar, but everything happened so fast that time.

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Sandro, Breitenbrunn am Neusiedlersee – international teamrider for Liquid Force, kiting since 2010 and working at Westcoastkiters:

It was 2012 at the spot Balneario in Tarifa. I arrived with my girlfriend and was totally impressed of this spot – a supernice beach with water smooth as glass. However, the wind was offshore. On a day when the Levante was really strong I pumped my 9 sqm and I thought that it should be ok. I could see white tips, but just more far out on the sea and so it was hard to say how strong the wind really was. 
So I went out and did two legs with high jumps and kiteloops, but then switched to my 7 kite for some freestyle. Just as I launched the 7 the wind was again getting stronger – so no freestyle conditions anymore. I went on doing kiteloops till finally I heard a strange noise. At first I didn’t notice what had happened, but then my kite started to loop on it’s own for two times. I was gasping for air when I noticed that one of the frontlines was ripped! Due to the offshore wind I was pulled out on the ocean. There were no local riders on the water who could have helped. I released and thanks to the fifth line this was no problem. Finally I managed it somehow to swim back to the beach with my kite and my board.

No one was there anymore, not even my girlfriend. She went away to  find help at a kiteshop and alerted the coastguards. So did the photographer who took these pictures.

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For me this was the worst experience I had since I started kitesurfing. Well, it was not so clever to go out for a session on this day. Luckily I was able to save me on my own. If not, the next beach would have been in Morocco. With hindsight, what I would do differently now: Never go out with offshore conditions on the open sea, if there is not even one of the local riders, a kiteschool or a rescue boat on the spot.

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