Right of Way by Darren Marshall
As an IKO examiner who has trained around 120 Level 1, IKO Instructors, I have used the IKO rules to instruct the instructors who will ultimately teach the newbies. If every instructor goes on to teach 100 students, thats 12,000 newbies who know the rules. I am one of 11 or 12 Examiners worldwide, if they all train the same number of instructors and they teach the same numbers of students, ..... do the math!
This would indicate that it isn't the newbies who are at fault or they are not IKO trained. Like it or not, the IKO is the dominant system being used globally. It is recognised in every part of the world as instruction of high quality and is fast becoming the global standard. I was also the founding President who wrote the Australian Kite Surfing Associations (AKSA) rules of Right of Way.
Now I know a lot of you have differing opinions and some suffer extreme apathy and just say, "It'll always be that way", well it will, if we all adopt this attitude. We need to start to try and bring some sort of order into the sport in regards to Right of Way.
I too was a Wave Sailor for more years than I care to admit, raced sailing dinghys and ocean yachts for many years, and spent many years in the surf. I also surf and have kited for 4 years in the waves.
Firstly, you cannot just apply surfing rules alone, nor can you apply windsurfing rules alone either, nor boating maritime rules, unless you guys haven't noticed, we aren't windsurfers or surfers, we are kite surfers. It is a whole different sport and as such has a whole different set of rules which must apply.
Yes it is difficult when we add the three sports together, so what we add is common sense.
Here are the rules that IKO teach with my own first rule added :-
#1 Avoid collisions at all costs even if you have right of way and the other rider refuses to yield. This is the most important rule and overules all others in dangerous situations!
#2 Rider entering the water and riding away from the beach has right of way over someone wishing to come in to land. The reason is the rider launching is unfamiliar with the conditions and it is easier for the other rider to go back out for one more short run. It is also more dangerous to have two kites on the beach in the air in the same close proximity. It is also more dangerous on the land and the guy entering the water should be given preference to enter a safer environment ie the water
#3 A rider on Starboard tack (with wind coming from over his right shoulder) has ROW over a rider on port tack (wind coming over his left shoulder). This rule is a worldwide standard in sail powered vessels of all types
#4 When a faster rider is overtaking another slower rider on the same tack, the faster rider must give way to the slower rider by either going(ideally) upwind a line length of the slower rider or, (ideally) by passing a line length down wind of the slower rider. If the rider goes upwind, then he keeps his kite high and clear of the downwind rider and if downwind, keeps the kite low to avoid tangles. This rule is also a Maritime and aviation international standard (boating/sailing) for passing a slower vessel/aircraft.
#5 When jumping you should keep a line length upwind clear and 50m downwind clear before you jump. Once you leave the water, you forfeit all ROW regardless of your position prior to the jump. The upwind portion of this rule is for riders upwind and slightly behind you ie, in your blind spot. If you suddenly swing your kite up, you may inadvertantly take out the rider behind you. The 50m downwind is obvious
#6 When passing upwind of another rider (if you are clearly upwind) then you should fly your kite as high as practical and the more downwind rider should pilot their kite as low as practical to avoid a collision. This overides Starboard rule if the port rider is clearly upwind
#7 Right of way should be give to all other water users. This is arguably, the most important rule and should always be respected. We are generally more manoevreable, faster and powered probably 100% of the time so we have the capacity to avoid collision more easily than other ocean users. This also applies to power boat users who SHOULD give way to us, but don't seem to. It also seems to be more prevalent in more expensive/bigger motor boats where alcohol is consumed in quantities
#8 The rider surfing a wave has priority over a person riding in the opposite direction or jumping out over the waves. Now this is generally the most argued rule, but if you have ever been in big surf riding down the line, racing a breaking section with your kite low, then you know you have almost no options other than to go straight down the line. If a situation occurs with a sailboarder going out, refer to rule #1.
General surfing rules apply to riders catching waves and riders on waves:-
Rider on the wave first has rights to the wave.
Dropping in (coming over the back of the wave that someone is already riding, gybing onto a wave that someone is already riding or slowing down to get onto a wave that someone is already riding, is just poor form in anyones language and in most parts of the world is punishable by a few quick punches to the head when you return to the beach(or having your tyres slashed).
Rider closest to the breaking section has right of way.
It is impossible to apply these cut and dried rules to every situation so commonsense is the overiding decision in all cases.
If we all try and implement these rules then surely it will eventually become the standard and accidents/incidents will surely be reduced. Respect is also a key thing in many situations, don't go barging into a hot windsurfing area and force your rights, same with surfing, join the lineup, be courteous, and share the waves, DO NOT JUMP OVER SAILBOARDERS OR SURFERS, it rarely impresses them, and if you screw up the take off you may become an accident statistic and cop the brunt of the fists of several angry sailboarders or surfers. I have heard of many kiters punched out whilst their kites are still flying by angry surfers.
I don't want to debate every point and please don't go tearing every point to pieces for the sake of an argument, we just need a system, and as no other system fits as well as this one, it's the best we have and is being implemented by IKO the world over.
Remembering we are kiters in a sport unto ourselves, we are a combination of a lot of things which is why a lot of different rules can apply.
Lets make the sport safer by trying to do something rather than nothing!