Just revised this again ...
Kiteboarder in Need of Rescue?
August 26, 2002 (Revised Feb. 12, 2009)
Kiteboarders are becoming more common on beaches across the globe. With kites and riders flying at speed through the air, the sport can provide an entertaining spectacle to watchers on shore. Sometimes the kite isn’t flying but is on the water with the rider which can cause questions about the need for rescue for watchers onshore. Lifeguards, park rangers and rescue personnel may need to familiarize themselves with this scenario as kiteboarding grows in popularity. Whether a kiteboarder is fully skilled or, particularly, if he is still learning, his kite may occasionally spend more time on the water than in the air. This is not necessarily an indication that a rescue is needed. The kiteboarder may just be sorting things out to relaunch his kite, to use the kite as a sail to pull himself into shore or may be swimming in--slowly. Riders sometimes spend quite a while doing this. The last thing kiteboarders want to do is to create avoidable false alarms for rescue personnel although when rescue is needed it is very welcome. Following are guidelines for both riders and rescuers when a kite is on the water:
1. LANDING ON A GUARDED BEACH If you are going to come into shore in a guarded area and seas are calm, consider landing, wrapping up your lines, deflating your leading edge and rolling your kite up before swimming in among bathers if you are able. If this is not feasible and a guard is present with the knowledge of how to do an assisted kite landing, signal your intent to land the kite by patting your head. Ideally the guard will respond with the same signal. Carefully lower your kite to the guard who should approach the leading edge from windward and securely grab the center of the leading edge, then walk toward the kiter to detension the lines then pivot the kite upward into a “U” shape then flip it over on its leading edge to the wind. Thoroughly anchor the kite with sand. Typically the kiter is asked to walk off the guarded beach to an appropriate launching area prior to relaunching his kite. Having kiters walk with kites in the air for distances along guarded beaches outside of designated launches is not advisable. Kiters should be practiced in solo kite landing as it is sometimes necessary.
2. SIGNAL OK IF SORTING THINGS OUT If you have to work on your downed-kite or swim-into-shore skills for whatever reason you should give the OK sign to guards or park officials onshore periodically until you land (see Figure 1). The one divers frequently use is to simply to hold one hand palm STATIONARY down on your head while looking at the lifeguard on shore for five to ten seconds. This should be repeated to verify that it has been seen and understood. You should discuss this with the guards ahead of time, as this signal isn't universally recognized yet.
Figure 1 - I am OK
3. SECURING BEFORE SURF If you are going to go through a surf zone, MAKE SURE that your lines are wrapped on your bar before hand. Start by carefully wrapping at least one wingspan length OR MORE of two lines from one side of the kite first to safely depower the kite. In strong winds this can be difficult to do and gloves can help. Also MAKE SURE that you have a firm grip on your board.
4. BE READY TO LET ROLLED KITE GO Ideally your kite should be rolled and tied before hitting the surf zone. MAKE SURE you are clear of all lines and are ready to set the lot loose into the surf before you if necessary (commonly required). Avoid tangles at all costs as wave forces on kites and line tangles are dangerous.
5. RESPECT Kiteboarders should practice self-rescue techniques and try to self-rescue within safe limits. If you are rescued, whether you need it or not, be POLITE AND RESPECTFUL at all times. Rescue personnel are generally strong watermen and have a hard job to do, which you may have just complicated! So be appreciative, these people deserve it along with your respect.
6. GETTING HELP If you need help because you are injured, excessively tired, being carried offshore by the wind or current and don’t think you can make it to shore on your own, BLOW YOUR WHISTLE (it is an inexpensive and very useful safety device), and wave one or both hands (see Figure 2). If you are wearing an impact pfd, staying afloat should not be problem (**SEE NOTE BELOW). Some kiteboarders carry waterproofed cell phones and VHF units and signaling flares for emergencies. Continue signaling periodically, while trying to swim closer to shore, IF you are comfortably able to, until the guard onshore acknowledges your signals. Other suggested kiteboarder hand signals are provided at: http://fksa.org/showthread.php?t=2789
7. BE AWARE OF THE STATUS OF KITERS AROUND YOU. Riders should take pride in building skill as watermen. Noticing and acting to checkup on and aid kiters in need should be second nature. If someone is self-rescuing ride by and check on them periodically to make sure they’re ok. All too often riders in distressed seem to gone unnoticed by other kiters. Riding to call for help may make all the difference if needed. Wearing an impact vest can do a lot of good when you have your hands full or are tired.
8. If we can adopt universally recognized signals it should make our riding easier and safer.
Nearby Figure 2 - Help/Attention Distant
TO RESCUE PERSONNEL:
1. ASSISTED KITE LANDING If a kiter comes to shore with his kite flying signal him to land it away from bystanders by patting your head (Figure 3). Ideally, the kiter should respond in kind and carefully fly the kite down to the guard from downwind.
The guard should FIRMLY grab the kite at the center of the leading edge (see Figure 4) and NO WHERE else. Walk towards the kiter to detension the lines and pivot the kite upward into a “U” shape then flip it over on to its leading edge. Be careful as lines attached to a powered kite whether by wind or waves can cause serious cuts.
Figure 4 - Assisted Landing
Thoroughly anchor the kite with sand (see Figure 5). Typically the kiter is asked to walk off the guarded beach to an appropriate launching area prior to relaunching his kite. Having kiters walk with kites in the air for substantial distances along guarded beaches outside of designated launches is not advisable if other steps can be reasonably taken.
Figure 5 – Anchored Kite
2. If the guard can't see much of the kiteboarder or can't tell if he is moving or swimming towards shore after an interval, it would be advisable to rescue him.
3. RESCUE YET? A kiteboarder in the water more than a quarter mile offshore it is hard to tell if they are moving or swimming. Rescue personnel are advised to carefully examine the kiteboarder through binoculars (from an elevated position if possible). Look for movement, e.g. trying to relaunch the kite, winding in the lines, swimming in, bailing out using the kite as a sail on the water, etc.. Kiteboarders move fairly slowly when swimming in or using the kite as a sail. Look to see if they are signaling “OK” or for help. Alternately, look for shoreward progress of the kite, hopefully faster than wind and waves would send it without assistance. If the wind and waves are onshore, these factors alone should eventually bring the kiteboarder to shore absent adverse currents.
4. RESCUE NOW If it appears that the rider is being moved out of the area, offshore or to some other inappropriate place by wind and/or current, or if the rider appears to have stopped moving into shore for an extended period or has stopped moving entirely, the weather is deteriorating or the sun is setting, it would be a good idea to send assistance by boat if possible. Effective rescues can also be undertaken by waverunner or paddleboard by qualified personnel. Two rescuers are better than one in these efforts.
5. APPROACHING THE KITER AND KITE Approach from the windward allowing for the seas, AVOIDING THE KITE LINES at all times. The kite lines may be beneath the surface between the kiter and the kite downwind/current. Kite lines can be sucked into a waverunners impeller and can easily foul a boat’s propeller. If the rider is awake and able, ask him to secure his kite, i.e. deflate the leading edge and roll it or deflate all the bladders and tie it up. He should then wrap up his lines. Once the kite and lines are secured by an able rider he be brought onboard the rescue craft. It is important to observe this sequence as the kite can exert great force potentially lifting or cutting individuals in the area of the rescue IF the kite is not first properly disabled.
6. DISABLED KITER If the rider is unconscious or unable to deal with his gear, the second person on the rescue boat should jump into the water and CUT ANY THREE LINES. Approach the kite from the side. Compensate for the speed of downwind drift or movement in any surf or current. Avoid approaching from upwind OR downwind, because from downwind the kite could drift quickly into you and from upwind you or your vessel could get caught in the lines, which usually trail upwind of the kite. This should depower the kite as it drifts, detach the control bar from the victim (unhook the control bar, release the snap shackle AND kite leash), and do the remainder of the rescue per normal procedures. If you have time or another craft, have it intercept the kite, deflate the leading edge, roll and tie it, the wrap up the lines on the bar. Experienced/trained personnel may wish to use less destructive means of taking two lines from one side of the kite however the victim’s welfare needs to remain as the first priority.
7. SOLO RESCUE If a rescuer is solo, he should first depower the kite and set it adrift as described before dealing with the victim per normal procedures. Some rescue personnel carry hook knives specifically for this purpose (see Figure 6) as they have no exposed tip or sharp edge to cause accidents. Hook knives are readily available online at hang gliding/paragliding and some diving retail sites.
Figure 6 - Hook Knife
8. RUNAWAY KITE If a runaway kite is coming ashore, try to clear bathers and bystanders from its path and trailing lines beneath the water PARTICULARLY IN SURF. Grab the center of the leading edge of the kite in the shallows--before it comes ashore. Be aware of and avoid the lines. Turn the leading edge into the wind to stabilize the kite. NEVER TRY TO GRAB ANY OF THE LINES OF A MOVING KITE as a serious cuts may occur. DO NOT TRY TO GRAB THE BAR OF A MOVING KITE as this will power the kite up. Grabbing the chicken loop MAY depower a properly functioning kite. Bring the kite on to the beach, place it leading edge downward into the wind and pile 20 lbs. of sand just behind points along the leading edge. Disconnect both lines from ONE SIDE of the kite or better disconnect them all. Pull the plug in the center of the long bladder at the leading edge of the kite to deflate it. If the kite is trailing lines, coil them up or wrap them on the control bar AFTER the kite has been thoroughly anchored.
9. Seek training/orientation in kiteboarding rescue from local experts if possible. Training aids are available to assist in this process. More info can be obtained at firstname.lastname@example.org
SPREAD THE CONCEPTS Lifeguard and park ranger orientation to kiteboarding is encouraged. This allows for first-hand impressions of the sport and equipment to be formed by rescue personnel. The basic skill of how to do an assisted landing of a kite including hand signals is also covered and should help save other potential problems at the beach. Possible rescue scenarios should be discussed or even demonstrated by the kiteboarding instructor during these sessions. Your local kiteboarding association, retail shops or instructors could be approached in this regard.
© FKA, Inc. 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009You can download a pdf copy of this post complete with photos by clicking * HERE *