NYKiter wrote:That self-rescue bit is critical. When everyone else is in the water, no one wants to come in and land you.
+1 I agree with the great advice your getting above!
For the OP, I agree that self rescue is a critical skill, and a true self rescue is not always covered to the appropriate level. Going to your safety to de-power/flag out the kite is just the first part of the skill, which can be used to self-land if your the only person recovering. Typically in that scenario though, you will get close to shore, and will be either in shallow water or close to shallow water. To practice a good self rescue, here are some questions I think you should ask yourself from time to time.
1. Do I kite in deep water, or generally in shallow flats?
2. How far from shore do I kite?
3. How cold is the water I kite in and how are the currents, tides, and other conditions?
I will accomplish a self rescue from deep water, to include at least a .8-1.0 Km swim at least once a year (either real, or just for practice). The issues you deal with in that scenario include line management, kite use (will you deflate, roll-up, and 'package' with your board for the swim, or use it as a sail to get back to land?), and swimming management. I don't currently use foil kites in water, but if you do, you should practice self rescue with those kites as well.
I got my most recent practice about 2-weeks ago, when the winds died to the point where staying upwind became difficult toward the end of my session. I had a bail-out beach about 1.5-2 Km downwind, but I elected to punch to safety and go through the drill, because it was a nice day, with warm water, and I haven't kited very much in the past 6-months, so I knew I could use the practice. I got the lines on the bar, deflated the leading edge bladder, and rolled up the kite and got it on the board, and began the long slow swim to the beach. I actually had one boat and one PWC ask if I needed help, which was nice, but you can't count on that. One of our locals did hydrofoil out to me, and once the thumbs up was given and pleasantries exchanged, he zoomed back up wind (although I believe the other hydrofoil rider that day had to self rescue as well, as a lull put his foil kite in the water, and he couldn't get it relaunched). For me, this gives me confidence should a line break, a bladder pop, the wind dies, etc. I was pretty fortunate my instructor believed in these skills and made me demonstrate all of them. It also helps me to make good decisions (cold water...no whale watching far from shore even with my best wet suit unless I have boat coverage for example).
As a final note, its always good to kite with friends as you learn, both for social and safety reasons, so plug into your local kiting network, buy some gear, and get out there!