As everybody else, I was extremely shocked to hear of this tragic accident.
I am very impressed that people have been very tactful (as far as I have read so far) and constructive in their discussions.
As ideas have been collected with regards to safety, I wanted to pass one thing on to Rick, may be it is worthwhile communicating this to industry (sorry for any repetition if it has already been mentioned).
In my experience, one source of extreme risk comes from attaching lines wrongly to the kite. On several occasions, I have seen that even very good kiters attached their lines to the kite incorrectly, leading to uncontrollable situations after launch and sudden impacts.
Naish's idea of colouring flying lines (grey front, red / blue back) is quite good, but doesnt go far enough, for the following reasons:
- a lot of kiters do not know that red is always on the left, hence often ride the bars the other way around, or simply do not stick to a system of attaching the red flying lines to the left side of the kite, etc.
- some people are simply colourblind: a friend of mine can't see the difference between the red and the green ends of the lines, a big source of risk
- Colour the flying lines, as done by Naish on the X2
- Use DIFFERENT attachment systems for FRONT and BACK lines. eg. put the pigtails on the front lines and the lark's head on the kite, and put the lark's head on the back lines and the pig tails on the kite, for example.
May be this could help to avoid some false attachments of kites to the lines.
somewhere I mentioned that the wind had about 6-7 Bft, maybe more, but I don't know exactly
we thought a lot of the guy who had to let go. He is destroyed and blames himself for her death. I saw him that day when the organizer informed the riders about Silke's death. He looked awful and I don't know if he will continue kiting, since this will be a trauma.
Also all other riders who saw this happen need some time to get over it, if they will at all.
Same with the organizer of the event, it will be very hard for him to get over it.
I remember his words: "all I wanted with this event is, that we all are having a great time and lots of fun" he was not able to say more.
My sympathy goes out not only to Silke's family and friends but also to the other competitor that was involved and to the competition organizer and staff.
I was recently involved in planning for several competitions in South Florida. I mainly focused on safety in this planning. I envisioned scenarios of things that might have gone wrong and tried to plan for ways to avoid these problems or deal with them. The near uniform lack of kite leashes was a source of major concern. I came very close to requiring kite leashes for all competitors. That stance would have likely resulted in no competition and related problems. I suspect that the organizer for the competition in Germany was faced with the same problem and realities.
We have had a major wake up call with Silke's passing. We are talking about reforms and a lot of good ideas are coming out. We need to act on these ideas for the good of the sport and safety of riders and bystanders in the future. I would hope that leash use, other reasonable safety gear and riding precautions will be required in future competitions. A major precaution that is needed is to place the competition area further offshore and away from hard objects. Onshore wind conditions should be strictly avoided or extra safety provisions need to be placed into effect to deal with such conditions.
If fault has to be assigned in this accident, it belongs not with a single person or persons but with a common attitude and belief in the kiteboarding community about this sport. Skill is no substitute for good safety gear and exercising suitable caution. This sad accident could have happened almost anywhere, at any competition or on virtually any popular launch area in the World. If things continue as they have to this point, it is likely that this accident will be repeated.
The current state of things is that competitors and many experienced riders, focus very heavily on performance and almost solely rely on skill as a substitute for safety gear, i.e. depowering leashes, loop releases or other automatic release gear, helmets and impact vests. Toss in exercising poor judgment in riding too close to hard objects, each other, etc. and the deck is heavily stacked against coming out unscathed in the long term.
The point is that skill is not enough to reliably insure safe kiteboarding in an event or during a casual ride offshore, not always. The KSI has several incidents and accidents where very skillful riders made errors in judgment and suffered injury for lack of some of this readily available safety gear. This sport involves a great deal more knowledge and judgment than knowing how to throw tricks and manage kites in strong wind conditions. You can get away with this approach much of the time but not always as proven in this accident.
We need to work a change in attitudes and use of safety gear. We seem to be moving in that direction now. Thanks for everyone's concern and ideas.