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 Post subject: Hard Lessons
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 11:01 pm 
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Location: Florida
We have had a number of tragic accidents since October worldwide including a recent one in Miami. There were individual factors involved in each circumstance as is usually the case. I was delaying posting the accounts until after the holidays out of respect. They will be uploaded soon.

A common factor to several of them was experienced riders launching in excessively gusty conditions, perhaps without realizing it. More accurately perhaps without realizing how small their factor of safety was in riding in such conditions. If it seems too gusty, it probably is.

In several of these severe accidents, other kiteboarders thought about going out BUT DIDN'T because they felt uneasy about the conditions.

Listen to your gut, if it doesn't feel right, don't do it. Even if your gut is OK with it, if the winds are excessively gusty or squalls are moving in, DON'T go kiteboarding.

What is excessively gusty? Well, in some of the cases squalls hit with very strong winds. You always know what gust range comes with a squall, right? NO, generally not at all. So, you are gambling that it won't be that bad if you choose to ride in it. In other cases squalls weren't present but winds were still highly variable, in some instances due to land shadowing effects.

I have been trying for sometime to recover actual windgraph records for some of these severe accidents with little success. So, it is hard to give specific wind speeds at this point for some of the accidents. Still, if the gust range is much above 10 to 15 kts. your hazard level has gone up and your factor of safety has gone down. Does this mean you will be killed or even have a serious problem? No, not at all, it just means the odds have changed. The higher the gust range and more erratic the winds, the lower factor of safety you have. Many of us know it is certainly more work and less fun that more even winds.

Another factor in some of the cases in addition to riding in excessively gusty winds was rigging too big. In some cases just a BIT too big. Again, accidents are related to factors of safety and time of exposure. The longer you ride with a low factor of safety, the higher the odds of a bad session. TRY to pick reasonable winds and particularly TRY to pick a kite size and type that will be slightly underpowered or right in the middle or "sweet spot" for that kite. AVOID intentionally rigging to be overpowered, PARTICULARLY in excessively gusty weather. AVOID squalls and stormy weather.

Wind direction, AVOID ONSHORE WINDS. That old tune again, jeez. Will it nail you, no not necessarily. Still the odds of an accident go way up IF you ride in onshore winds. It has happened over and over again.

Another serious consideration is to CAREFULLY PICK YOUR LAUNCH AND RIDING AREA. Back to factor of safety again, can you launch and ride 25 ft. from a seawall or building downwind and not have problems? Sure you can but if you ride long enough and in variable conditions someday you may really miss the lack of an adequate DOWNWIND BUFFER ZONE. Bad luck can strike on your first launch or your 200th, so there really isn't much predicting this. The best thing to do is to select the BEST launch you can, even if it means driving or walking further. Hint: STAY AWAY FROM THE HARD STUFF, it can really hurt. Launch, get offshore and stay offshore until time to come in. Riding too close to shore, you can be lofted/dragged and bashed with no time to react.


Now, lets combine ...

Excessively gusty winds,
Onshore winds,
Rigging too big a kite,
Insufficient downwind buffer,
Other riders choosing not to
go out because of conditions,

Many and even all of these conditions are common to some serious accidents AND each one drops your factor of safety. Analyze your conditions and choose well.


To be continued.

In the meantime, read over the following document. It has been derived from the analysis of a lot of accidents. It won't necessarily save you from having an accident but in hindsight over many accidents in the past, it certainly might have helped.

http://www.kiteforum.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=2300704


Last edited by RickI on Fri Jan 07, 2005 8:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 9:23 pm 
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PLEASE, forget for a moment what you feel you are capable of ...

the winds and gust ranges you can handle, managing through storms and squalls, how close to shore you can ride, beach jumping, launching and landing close to and upwind of bystanders and ALL the other MARGINAL practices experience (and even lack of experience) can compel you to perform. Just because "other guys are doing it" doesn't mean you won't be pounded to a pulp someday for copying their example.

SOMETIMES, fate steps in and administers a reality check and instructs in the harshest way possible what is and is not safe, responsible riding practice.

Please get back to basics because sometimes we aren't allowed to skate by and the consequences can be life altering or terminating.

USE DISTANCE ALWAYS from shore, each other, boats, whatever.

PICK YOUR WEATHER CAREFULLY AND MONITOR IT CONTINUOUSLY.

PRACTICE PROPER UNHOOKED LAUNCHING AND LANDING WITH A FUNCTIONING LEASH ATTACHED TO YOUR BODY.

NEVER JUMP, EVEN SMALL ONES ON OR NEAR SHORE. LAUNCH, GET WELL OFFSHORE AND STAY THERE UNTIL TIME TO COME IN.

BE READY AND PRACTICED TO DEPOWER YOUR KITE IMMEDIATELY AND WELL BEFORE YOU ARE DRAGGED AND/OR LOFTED.

PICK YOUR GEAR CAREFULLY FOR EXPECTED CONDITIONS TO HIT THE LOW TO MID WIND RANGE FOR A GIVEN KITE.

IF YOU DON'T FEEL TOTALLY COMFORTABLE WITH CONDITIONS, DON'T RIDE.

and more, for other ideas checkout the Safe Kiteboarding Guidelines and other aids.



Sometimes, we get caught in marginal practices and the price may be way too high to pay. We have had a lot of avoidable accidents, it would be great to see them decline in number.


Have a care out there, life and kiteboarding are too good to give up through carelessness.


Last edited by RickI on Sun Jan 09, 2005 8:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2005 11:10 pm 
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This sport is so new. We are still defining across the sport worldwide what the common standard of care should be. We can say consider " ...." based upon some accident analysis and reasoning. Some people will read over it, consider it and maybe even modify their riding habits. Lots of others won't and will copy what they see at the local riding area, whether sufficiently cautious or perhaps not. With enough time, marginal practices (riding too close to shore, bystanders, going out in excessively gusty and squally weather, etc.) we will reap the requesit statistical quantity of casualties. Some of us will look at those accidents, try to draw lessons from them and try to pass on those ideas. It is fairly hit and miss, but what else is there in these early days? We need to do better at getting the word out in effective ways.

It all comes down to information. Developing it, getting it out to riders, having them consider it and sadly package it with strong reasons (accidents and fatalities), to take the ideas seriously is the challenge.

We need to talk about this here and at the beach. The devastation of a serious accident to a rider's life, family, friends career is a HARD reality to accept and manage through. A long, painful rehabilitation and absence from the water are other painful sacrifices demanded of such misfortune.

Trying to avoid such hardships through knowledge, judgment and good technique is the way to go.


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 Post subject: Thanks for the reminder
PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2005 5:29 pm 
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Rick:
Thank for the reminder. In Southern California, we have not had much wind since November, and the only winds we get now are storm driven winds which are very gusty and unstable. I have been tempted to go out, but with Rick's reminder, I will seriously evaluate the conditions before rigging up. I will wait until spring or the clean stable clearing winds (that happens sometimes). It is better to wait for the right conditions than to risk injuries.


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 Post subject: Re: Thanks for the reminder
PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2005 6:01 pm 
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Francis wrote:
Rick:
Thank for the reminder. In Southern California, we have not had much wind since November, and the only winds we get now are storm driven winds which are very gusty and unstable. I have been tempted to go out, but with Rick's reminder, I will seriously evaluate the conditions before rigging up. I will wait until spring or the clean stable clearing winds (that happens sometimes). It is better to wait for the right conditions than to risk injuries.


Hello Francis,

I am sorry to hear about your poor wind prospects at present. We feel and share your pain here in Southern Florida. Much of our summer here fails to provide readily useable winds in some years. Sometimes we have thermals which if you are fortunate you may get some sessions in before the storm clouds march to the coast from the Everglades and Zeus starts to hurl thunderbolts at intrepid riders.

At other times we have tropical systems fraut with powerful storm cells or squalls. A fellow was out when a not real ugly "looking" squall moved in a couple of years ago, was teabagged across the beach and into the top of a palm tree. He fell to the pavement hitting his head and entered into a coma. I sincerely hope he came out of the coma but I never heard what happened. Then there are the depressions and hurricanes, enough said there, bad karma by the truck load with sudden violent squalls.

If you have a predictable "off season" wherever your ride, plan for other outlets than kiteboarding. Windsurfing, surfing, diving, biking, whatever. It isn't worth tilting towards a hospital stay by launching in excessively unstable conditions. Here is an IMPORTANT point, end and beginning of season hazards. Many of our severe accidents worldwide occur at these times, particularly at the end of season in temperate latitudes (October, November, December). Mother nature starts to toss out more violent cold fronts at these times. Weather conditions are marginal, winter is just starting in the fall or hanging on in the spring. Pick and choose your weather. Until technology provides a fool proof automatic kite depowering system, the best protection you have is your knowledge, judgment and good technique. Failing that, Katie bar the door as some will be destined for a slam in.

If the season is on, as it is here in Florida currently, pick and choose your weather as excessively gusty stuff can come on at times. Also be SURE to pick a kite size, type and line length suitable for anticipated winds. Target your kite system to perform at the low to medium wind range for that particular rigout. Rigging too big can pop you over the edge into some truly bad luck sometimes.

Someone coined the expression "live to kite another day." That is your gut talking, it is worth listening to.

I hope the stable winds come soon!


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