General Safety Tips
SAFE KITEBOARDING GUIDELINES Originally Printed July 7, 2004
The following ideas are presented to try to improve kiteboarder and bystander safety, to reduce complaints and attempt to preserve our access to ride. These ideas have been taken from the analysis of over 100 accidents that have happened worldwide over several years. Many of these accidents might have been avoided if a bit more knowledge and care were used. Kiteboarding can be hazardous to the rider and to bystanders, particularly if practiced without adequate training, safety gear, knowledge and caution. NOTE: Riders must accept that even if these guidelines are followed, that accidents, injury and even death may occur in the extreme sport of kiteboarding. Kites can exert very substantial force with little to no warning with sudden gusts, improper line attachment, mishandling, etc., resulting in dragging and/or lofting, possibly with no time to effectively react. And, NO â€œyou may not always be able to just let go or kill the power of the kite, as many accidents have established. Your ability to safely and completely depower & drop your kite and otherwise manage in an emergency will weigh heavily on your technique, preparation and reliability of your gear.
Kiteboarders should consider these ideas, area specific guidelines if applicable along with other prudent and safe practices appropriate for local conditions. Cutting corners or picking and choosing safe kiteboarding practices can seriously reduce the riders factor of safety and increase the odds of an accident. Seek local, competent knowledge regarding safe local practices as special precautions may be indicated beyond those discussed here. Safety automatically increases to some degree once the rider becomes both aware of and takes potential hazards seriously. By contrast, ignorance and indifference raise the hazard level substantially and have frequently been a factor in avoidable accidents. These guidelines have been updated frequently over the years, so please check the FKA website for the latest version. Don’t use old versions of these guidelines as important changes occur with new knowledge gained over time.
GENERAL SAFETY GUIDELINES
1. JUMP TO HELP KITEBOARDERS.
Readily help other riders with launching and landing using reliable agreed upon visual and audible communications. Whether you are starting out or are almost a pro, your help may avoid a serious incident/accident and possible restrictions. NEVER grab the lines of a flying or powered kite. Get involved with your local association or club and with area riders to try to preserve access to kiteboard. If you see someone putting your access at risk by poor practices, grab several of your friends and have a friendly talk with the guy, show some interest followed by your concerns. Riders are solely responsible for their safety and that of effected bystanders. If you are new to an area or visiting, seek out local kiteboarders, shops and/or associations for local guidelines and tips BEFORE riding. Donâ€™t ruin things for the local riders.
2. GET ADEQUATE PRO KITEBOARDING TRAINING.
Kiteboarders, particularly beginners should seek adequate, quality professional instruction. Beginners must avoid crowded areas particularly as kite control is still being developed. Beginners should body drag out at least 300 ft. (60m) from shore prior to water starting and should always stay out of guarded or restricted beach areas. Be careful in your launch area selection and be willing to drive and walk a bit further to have more ideal conditions. Build your skill and experience carefully in side or side onshore winds less than 15 kts. ideally, you should advance faster and more safely for your effort. Riders have been injured for choosing poor launches when far safer conditions were relatively close by. Be particularly careful in new conditions and at the START and END of the riding season. Many accidents occur in these times even among experienced riders. In kiteboarding, â€œDISTANCE IS YOUR FRIEND,â€ so use it!
3. KITEBOARD WITHIN YOUR LIMITS.
Know your equipmentâ€™s limitations as well as your own. If you arenâ€™t 100% healthy OR IN DOUBT, DONâ€™T FLY! You should be comfortable with conditions and your gear otherwise, donâ€™t launch and â€œlive to fly another day.â€ Always maintain an energy reserve while out kiteboarding. Hydrate regularly and wear adequate exposure clothing (wetsuit/dry suit), to deal with unexpected time in the water. Cold water kiteboarding requires additional critically important precautions as compared to warmer conditions and are beyond the scope of these guidelines. Donâ€™t kiteboard alone or further from shore than you are readily able to swim in from.
4. USE A KITE LEASH, QUICK RELEASE, HELMET, IMPACT VEST
and other reasonable safety gear. Make sure you have proper safety equipment, such as a tested, well maintained kite depowering leash securely attached to your body, a good well fitting helmet, impact vest, gloves, whistle and hook knife. Most kiteboarding fatalities involve head injury. A good helmet for kiteboarding, MAY aid in reducing injury and improve the chance of survival in many but not necessarily all impacts. A helmet is NO excuse to kiteboard carelessly. Regularly test and maintain a reliable chicken loop or kite depowering quick release. Relying upon manual unhooking alone to release your bar is UNRELIABLE based upon the accident experience. The rider needs to understand and accept that in an emergency, this quick release MAY NOT be accessible or function correctly in the critical seconds of the emergency. It is up to the rider to avoid the emergency in the first place and to aid proper function of the release through practice and maintenance.
5. LAUNCH, RIDE AND LAND WELL AWAY FROM BYSTANDERS.
Give way to the public on the beach and in the water at ALL TIMES. Be courteous and polite to bystanders. Complaints have frequently led to bans and restrictions on kiteboarding in some areas and continue to do so on a regular basis. NEVER launch, ride or land upwind of nearby bystanders. Work to keep a minimum 300 ft. (100 m) buffer zone from bystanders.
6. BE AWARE OF THE WEATHER.
Is the forecast and current weather acceptable, free of pending storm clouds and excessive gusty winds? Color radar can sometimes give a clue as to violent storm/gust potential. Are seas and wind condition within your experience, ability and appropriate for your gear? New kiters should practice in lighter, side or side onshore winds. Onshore winds have a much higher injury rate even among experienced riders and should be avoided. Offshore winds should be avoided in the absence of a chase boat. If storm clouds are moving in, land and thoroughly disable your kite well in advance of any change in wind or temperature, if necessary totally depower your kite by using your kite leash while still away from shore. Lightning can strike many miles ahead of storm clouds. Learn about unstable weather in your area and work to avoid squalls and storms through TV, radio and Internet information. Consider organizing an alert air horn and flag signal for your launch as a warning to riders of pending unstable weathe
1. USE GOOD LAUNCH AREAS. Make sure your launch is open, FREE OF DOWNWIND BYSTANDERS, hard objects, , poor or slippery footing, nearby power lines, buildings and walls etc. within at least 300 ft. (100 m), and preferably more particularly in higher wind. Too many riders have slammed into walls, parked cars, trees with better launches not so far away at all. Some riders have needed in excess of 600 ft. (200 m), to regain control in violent dragging or loftings in higher winds. Avoid kiteboarding near airports and in low flight path areas, complaints have led to restricted access in some areas. Never fly your kite in the path of low aircraft in flight, moving your kite low to the water at the first indication of inbound aircraft.
2. WHAT SIZE KITE ARE OTHER RIDERS USING? Check to see what size kite other kiteboarders are rigging and get their input on conditions. Try to select a kite size for the lower to middle part of the wind range. Do not rig too large a kite for conditions and carefully consider advice of more experienced riders. Failure to act on prudent advice has cost some riders severe injury and even death. If you donâ€™t have a small enough kite to safely launch, DONâ€™T!
3. CHECK & REPAIR YOUR GEAR BEFORE YOU FLY. Check your kite for tears or leaky bladders. If you have leaky bladders or tears in your kite, repair them before flying. Check ALL kite, harness, and control bar lines, webbing, pigtails, bridles, the chicken loop and leaders for knots, cuts, wear or abrasion. If the line sheathing shows any breaks or knots, replace them. The pigtails should be replaced no less frequently than every 6 months on inflatable kites. Inspect and test your quick release. Frequently, mentally and physically rehearse pulling your quick release in an imagined emergency situation. Make sure your flying lines are equal as they will stretch unevenly with use. If they have knots that canâ€™t be easily untied, replace your flight lines. Do not casually make changes to manufactured equipment. What ever you do must work reliably in what conditions may come.
4. AVOID SOLO LAUNCHING. Solo launching and landing are NOT recommended and should be avoided particularly in stronger winds. Launch with a trained assistant, using reliable audible and visual signals. If solo launching make sure your kite is properly anchored with a substantial quantity of sand to avoid premature launch. Never use untrained bystanders to help you launch or land. Riders have been severely injured by making this easy mistake. Rig your kite for solo launch at the last minute and launch without delay AFTER CAREFUL PREFLIGHTING as serious accidents have happened in only minutes during this stage. If you leave the kite unattended, wrap up your lines, deflate the kiteâ€™s leading edge and roll it up. It is best to place the kite in a bag to avoid UV and wind damage.
5. CROSSED KITE LINES CAN WRECK YOUR DAY. Launching with crossed or snagged lines has maimed quite a few kiteboarders as the kite tends to fly up at very high speed, dragging or lofting the rider into a nearby hard objects faster than they can react. Walk down your lines and examine them carefully. Pick your bar up and carefully look down the lines for twists, tangles or snags that could cause the kite to be dangerously uncontrollable. While you are holding your bar up look down the lines, shake your bar to make sure the center lines are connected to the leading edge of the kite. Be particularly careful, slow and methodical in high winds. Multiple, careful preflighting in higher winds is strongly advised. Rigging â€œKook Proofâ€ connectors on our kite and lines is easily done with most kites and should be rigged on all your kites and bars.
1. LAUNCH & LAND UNHOOKED WITH A GOOD BUFFER ZONE. Avoid hooking in or connecting with your quick release, while onshore or near hard objects. Practice LAUNCHING AND LANDING â€œUNHOOKEDâ€ or not connected to your chicken loop. Pull in your trim strap or rope entirely or to a point that will allow stable kite flight with existing wind conditions, to properly depower the kite before launching and so that you can readily hold the bar and release it if necessary. Always maintain minimum clear downwind buffer zones, particularly while flying unhooked. Physically and mentally rehearse managing emergency situations including just â€œletting goâ€ of your bar. Connect to your quick release once you are well offshore. Question: IF you have a proper buffer zone AND your kite properly depowers upon release, WHAT is the downside of launching unhooked? That is considering you could be spared from a real slamming one of these days if you stay hooked in during launch and landing.
2. KEEP IT LOW & GO! â€¦ to try to avoid lofting or involuntary lifting. In general, DO NOT bring your kite much above 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 m) from the ground and NEVER to the vertical, within 300 ft. (100 m) of shore or any hard object at most launch areas . Never launch, fly or land upwind and close to the shore or hard objects or stand on the beach for extended with your kite in the air. This careless practice has killed and maimed riders. This practice MAY reduce the chance of lofting but may also promote dragging and serious injury in gusty/strong wind conditions. So, if you are dragged be ready to totally depower instantly using your kite leash and ideally before the dragging starts in the first place. HAZARD AVOIDANCE IS THE KEY along with rapid preemptive, rehearsed actions. Do not fly your kite near vertical or sloped surfaces that can cause uplift and sudden dragging/lofting (walls, buildings, hills, tree lines, etc,). Avoid thermal generating areas as sudden thermal lofting can occur. Launch in the appropriate part of the wind window to avoid â€œhotâ€ or over-powered downwind launches. Make sure that there are no bystanders within your downwind buffer zone or close by in general.
3. GET OFFSHORE AND STAY THERE. Go offshore at least 300 ft. (100 M) WITHOUT DELAY after launch. Stay beyond 300 ft. until time to come in. If there are substantial waves where you need to put on your board consider body dragging outside the breaker zone first. The fun is offshore, danger to the rider & bystanders is near shore where most of the hard stuff is located.
4. YIELD THE RIGHT OF WAY. Yield the right of way to all others in the water. Riders must yield to others when jumping, to anyone on your right hand side and to launching riders. When in doubt, STOP. Kiteboarders should not jump within a buffer zone of at least two hundred feet (60 m) of others and objects that are downwind. Always be aware of the position of your lines relative to others, line cuts can be severe and tangled lines with another kite, deadly.
5. BOARD LEASHES ARE DANGEROUS. All kiteboarders are encouraged to master body dragging for board recovery. Use of a board leash is dangerous and is generally discouraged due to the hazards of board rebound or wave driven impact. Injuries have happened with both fixed length and reel leashes. Wearing a helmet and impact vest is always advised but may not provide adequate projection against board impact as the boards can and have violently hit any part of the rider and have penetrated helmets. If there is risk of your loose board hitting bathers, find another launch.
6. DONâ€™T GET LOFTED! Lofting or involuntarily lifting is one of the greatest hazards of kiteboarding. Avoiding unstable weather, keeping your kite low and getting offshore without delay are only a few of the measures necessary to avoid this threat. If despite all precautions you are dragged or lofted a short distance AND have time to react, depower your kite as soon as you start to pause. You will likely be dulled by shock so mentally rehearse totally depowering using your leash immediately under such circumstances. Total depowering using your kite leash, ideally should occur before you are lofted, still offshore and away from hard objects. Multiple gusts can hit over a short period and you may be lofted a second or third time, so ACT to totally depower your kite using your kite leash as soon as you can. DO NOT ASSUME that you will have a lull between loftings, sometimes you do and sometimes you donâ€™t. If you are air born over land, it is uncertain how and if you will come out of things. Focus on controlling your kite with small control inputs to avoid stalling the kite. Some have advised keeping the kite overhead AFTER you are lofted and to try to gently steer towards the least hazardous are to impact. Other riders have said that reversing direction or transitioning after lofting has helped to reduce forward speed. It would be wise to accept and plan for the fact that YOU CAN BE LOFTED AT ANYTIME you have a kite in the air.
1. USE ASSISTED LANDINGS BUT â€¦ SOLO DEPOWER USING YOUR KITE LEASH IMMEDIATELY IF NECESSARY! Approach the shore slowly with caution. Keep your kite low (ideally within 10 to 20 ft. of the surface), to try avoid lofting. Take care to avoid causing an accidental jump in well powered conditions while approaching the shore. Arrange for assisted landings at least 300 ft. (100 m) from bystanders, power lines, vertical surfaces, etc.. NEVER use non-kiteboarders for assisted launches or landings, as use of bystanders has resulted in severe rider injuries. Use mutually understood hand and voice signals to improve launch and landing safety. Riders have been killed standing around looking for an assisted landing when gusts have hit. IF IN ANY DOUBT, DEPOWER YOUR KITE USING YOUR KITE LEASH even if you are still offshore. ALL riders should be comfortable with depowering their kite using their leash immediately even in deep water and swimming in to avoid being lofted or dragged in sudden gusting winds.
2. PROPERLY STOW YOUR GEAR. Properly anchor (or ideally deflate your leading edge and roll up your kite), disconnect and wind up your kite lines. Do not allow your kite to be accidentally launched. Kites should be placed in a safe area well out of bystander and vehicular traffic.
Â© FKA, Inc. 2002,2003,2004
Do not fly near or over people. Give yourself 100 yards both upwind and downwind from obstructions. More experienced riders may bend this rule among other kitesurfers and windsurfers but novices should not.
Never approach power-lines, trees, signs or any other obstruction that could hurt you or others.
Donâ€™t fly a full size kite on land. You may witness more experienced riders doing this but never try this if you are a novice. It is best to walk into waist deep water before launching your kite.
Do not fly in onshore wind (wind blowing towards the beach) unless you are experienced. Your chances of doing a face-plant in the sand is highly likely.
Do not fly in offshore wind (wind blowing away from the beach) unless you are experienced. You will be blown out to sea.
Donâ€™t go out any further from shore than you are prepared to swim. Trust us, a mile is a long way to swim in 55 degree water.
Never let yourself get tangled in the lines. They will cut! If you need to self-rescue, pull only on the line that is connected to your leash and do not put any tension on any other line.
Do not jump on land. The sand can be uneven causing a sprained ankle or you might land on something hard even breaking something. Donâ€™t let goofing off keep you from kiting.
Never hold the kite from just one end of the bar. This will cause the kite to start a death spiral and put you out of control. If you find yourself in trouble, let go of the bar completely and let the leash depower the kite.
Do spend at least a few hours flying a trainer kite. Most of the kiters will have one down at the beach and will probably let you play with it. If you donâ€™t know anyone in the area, purchase oneâ€¦ can usually find them for about $100.
Do fly in open spaces without obstacles.
Always ride with a leash of some sort to depower the kite if you get in trouble. This leash should be tested before every flight.
Practice letting go of the bar in a controlled environment. This should keep you from holding on when you really get in trouble.
Consider wearing a helmet to protect your brain from your board and other hard objects you could land on.
Do ride with a buddy at all times. They can help you launch your kite and help you out if you get in trouble. At the very least, ask someone on the beach to keep an eye on you.
Do wear a life vest or impact vest. Even good swimmers get tired.
Wear a drysuit, wetsuit, booties, gloves, sunscreen or rashguard. Always plan on being out longer than you would think.
Always know where the kite is. After time, this will come naturally but if you lose position, fly it high.