IS KITESURFING DANGEROUS?
Tips for safer kite sessions:
- NOT WITHOUT A COURSE. I’m preaching it all the time, on and on: Learn to kitesurf without a kite course and a qualified kite instructor is super risky. During professional kite lessons you not only learn essential techniques like proper launching and landing or the kite relaunch on the water – you also learn how to react in dangerous situations. If you don’t know how Self Rescue works, the best way is to ask at a kiteschool (you should also train the several steps in detail. More information about safety matters you may also find in my article about kitesurfing behaviours.
- LEARN HOW TO LAUNCH & LAND. Most accidents happen during launching or landing a kite – so to say on shore. What you can do: Especially as a beginner you should practice the launching and landing process again and again to get used to it. Before you start, control if the lines are positioned in the right way and also if they are ok (no knots or scrubbed parts). Don’t let someone start your kite who doesn’t have a clue how to do it or no one told him or her how it works properly. In case of doubt or on spots with gusty winds, obstacles and so on it might be better to waive to your session. Always keep in mind: Safety first!
- KEEP DISTANCE. Enough distance to other people (about two line lengths) on the water, like swimmers, windsurfers, sailing boats etc. is important to stay on the safe side. The safest way is to kite downwind from the others. But keep distance is not only the way to deal with persons, it also applies to all other obstacles. Most severe kite accidents happen due to collisions with obstacles like walls, buildings or trees – and cause there is not enough distance to react and release in time.
- DANGEROUS LINES. A kite line wrapped around a finger or limb may result in severe injuries. Not to think of having the lines around your throat. What to avoid with lines: Swim to the kite when the lines are loose in the water. If someone drops his kite on you from behind and you are into the lines, you should tell him to release immediately (if he doesn’t do it by himself). The same applies of course if you shoot another kiter with your kite. Do not try to relaunch if one person is inside the lines! When you launch or land it’s important to watch out for people or animals in close proximity.
- KNOW THE SIGNALS & RULES. Every kitesurfer should know the general signals and rules of way. Well, it’s not only important to know them, it’s also important to act upon – so that a lot of misunderstandings and dangerous situations can be avoided. Additionally as a kitesurfer you should not wear blinkers, which means: If anyone has a problem or needs help on the water or on the beach, don’t ignore it – it’s just rude! If you want to read more about this topic, you’ll find it in this article.
- ESTIMATE CONDITIONS PROPERLY. What to avoid: Taking a kite which is far too big for the wind conditions and so and not controllable. Concerning forecasts it’s super important not only to watch out for the basic wind speed but especially for the gusts – which may be much stronger! In case of doubt take the smaller kite for a trial. If there are other kiters on the spot, you can orientate on their kite sizes and ask what they recommend (it might not be bad to ask an experiened kiter …). Furthermore, kitesurfing with offshore wind conditions without a rescue boat on the spot is always a high risk. In this case rationality should win against kite craving.
- FORECAST-CHECK. Before starting a kite day never forget to check the forecast for weather changes, thunderstorms, storm warnings and so on – especially when you go kiting on places where the weather is not stable. Weather changes can happen so fast that you don’t even notice them, for example if the “black wall” comes from behind whilst you are on the water. It’s a good strategy to look around yourself during your session. If a thunderstorm is coming up, leave the water immediately.
- EQUIPMENT-CHECK. Controlling the safety system of your kite stuff regularly is essential: Check out if the Quick Release works out properly. Take a look at the lines and watch out for knots or scrubbed parts which may break – in case of doubt change the lines. Also your kite and the harness should be regularly examined for weak points. Super important: The safety system of your kite should be up to date and the bar must fit to the kite. For detailed information about this topic you may want to read this guide about kite equipment.
- ESTIMATE YOUR OWN SKILLS. Unfortunately a lot of kitesurfers overestimate theirselves. Especially concerning the decision which kite size may be the right one. Again and again it happens that kitesurfers take far too big kites – and this leads to a lot of dangerous situations. Ask experienced kiters and be honest to yourself. This also applies to the question if your current kite equipment fits you or if you are simply overstrained with it. Think of it: Safety is more important than your ego! Check out this article for more details about kite systems and this guide to find the right board for your skills and needs.
How to react if it comes to a horrible scenario and you find yourself right in the middle of it?
STAY COOL. Sounds simple – of course it’s not. Ok: Stay as cool as possible. Try to avoid panic, cause it’s making things worse. What makes sense: Use your imagination. Try to go through certain dangerous situations visually and think about how you would react reasonably. Get familiar with the safety features of your kite and don’t be scared to use the Quick Release from time to time just for practice. What especially happens to experienced kiters is getting too casual and negligent. Also if you have been kiting for many years, keep in mind to stay attentive and take necessary safety precautions.
I would recommend to read this super useful tips for the 13 most common kitemares on kiteboarder.com – really worth reading!
In this sense I could only wish you heaps of amazing sessions without any unpleasant incidents!
Though my question for you is: What about your kitemares – did you experience any and if yes, what did you learn from them? How did dangerous situations affect your life as a kitesurfer?
Looking forward to your stories! Aloha, Anja