Ideas For Safer Kiteboarding - Feb. 10, 2003
(Copyright 2003 FKA, Inc.)
A discussion of ideas for kiteboarding launching, landing, possible methods for avoiding lofting or involuntary lifting and other considerations that may improve kiteboarding safey follow. There are a variety of ways of launching and landing and the best method for your area may vary with local conditions and differ from the ideas that follow. Kiteboarding can be a hazardous activity not only for the kiteboarder but potentially for bystanders as well. Even if the ideas that are discussed in this document are employed, accidents and injury may still occur. Kiteboarding is a new sport and safe approaches are still being developed and evaluated. As a result there are few absolutes at this time. Please pay attention to new issues, improved procedures, precautions and developments in this exciting new sport. "Knowledge will set you free" - and may also keep both yourself and our access safe!
A listing of accident scenarios, with analysis and recommendations for possible means of avoiding repetition are described in the Kiteboarding Safety Resources (KSR) appearing at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kitesurf/ ... EFERENCES/
under: 1c. KSI
Many of the ideas discussed here were born out of the evaluation of the harsh experiences of other kiteboarders and the lessons brought forward by the events described.
Photo 1 - Launch Layout
Ideally, a launch should be clear of bystanders, obstructions, powerlines and hard objects for at least two line lengths (200 ft. or 60 m or more), in the downwind direction. In kiteboarding, DISTANCE IS YOUR FRIEND and you should always use lots of distance from hard objects and other beachgoers to create a buffer zone. Distance could easily could save you and bystanders from some bad experiences and lost access to kiteboard for the rest of us. Many riders would have been spared injury or simply kite damage if only these minimum distances had been observed. Ride intelligently and responsibly to protect yourself, others and our access.
It would be best if the launch consists of a sand surface free of rocks, posts or other snags or impact hazards. Less ideal launches can be used however the risks and potential consequences of problems increase. Side shore (parallel to shore) and side onshore (diagonal to and blowing towards the shoreline) winds are ideal for kiteboarding in many areas. New kiteboarders would do well to fly with winds from these directions. Offshore winds (blowing away from shore), can make it difficult to ride with wind shadow effects and to return to shore in many areas. Onshore winds (blowing straight on or perpendicular to the shore), are less forgiving of mistakes and have been associated with many accidents.
New riders would do well to avoid winds stronger than 15 mph or 12 kts. Riders that are still relatively new but are advancing in the sport would do well to avoid riding in onshore winds or winds above 20 mph or 16 kts. Errors in higher winds may be punished more severely. It is critical that experience be carefully built and suitable due care be observed in kiteboarding. This year many people have learned that just "going out" and ignoring whether or not your kite is too large for existing or potential conditions can come at a price. Some bad choices are harder to bounce back from than others. Kiteboarding is more difficult than it looks and demands due care be exercised. People who ignore this simple reality may be reminded if things go wrong.
PHOTO 2 - Preflighting
Careful preflighting is critical to improve the safety of launches. Launches and landings can represent some of the more hazardous times in kiteboarding and often can be minimized by careful preflighting. Poor preflighting has been responsible for injury to many well experienced kiteboarders who would have been spared the experience if they exercised more care during setup and preflighting. For many launch areas it is desirable to setup your kite close to the water with your lines extending away from the water.
1. Check your kite for tears or leaky bladders. If you have leaky bladders or tears in your kite, repair them before flying. Make sure your kite is well anchored against gusts.
2. Check ALL webbing, pigtails, bridles, the chicken loop and leaders for knots, wear or abrasions. If the line sheathing shows any breaks, replace them. Make sure that there are no tangles or possible snags by carefully walking the full length of your lines. Be particularly careful, slow and methodical in high winds.
3. Verify that your flying lines are equal as they will stretch unevenly with use. If they have knots that canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be easily untied, replace your flight lines. MAKE SURE that the front lines are attached to the front and the back lines to the back. Failure to do this can create a very dangerous situation only more so in stronger winds. Consider using "polar" line connectors to ideally limit the method for line attachment to ONLY one correct method. Ideas for this approach are further discussed at:
http://www.kiteforum.com/phpBB/viewtopi ... 45&forum=1
PHOTO 3 - Consider Launching Unhooked
One approach to launching a four line inflatable kite is shown above. Many kiteboarders choose to launch hooked in or connected by their harness hook or spreader bar to the kite control bar. Some employ snap shackles or pin quick releases to attach the chicken loop to the control bar. Special care is required in the selection, maintenance and testing of these connection devices. Further current ideas regarding shackle selection appear at:
http://www.kiteforum.com/phpBB/viewtopi ... 71&forum=1
Use of side release snap shackles is viewed by some kiteboarders as unsafe and unacceptable for kiteboarding as discribed in the discussion referenced above.
Use of ANY attachment device to the control bar during launch and landing MAY result in injury IF a launch goes wrong. This is the primary reason that launching unhooked is presented here for consideration.
By launching unhooked or not connected to the chicken loop or fixed loop of the kite, an overpowered or out of control kite launch may be more readily defused by releasing the kite control bar. The released bar should activate a well maintained and tested kite depowering leash ideally safely ending a potentially dangerous situation. In order to be able to hold the load of the kite during unhooked launching it is necessary to properly select the kite for the wind conditions. Also, it may help in more powered conditions to pull in on the trim strap or rope to depower the kite. If this approach is utilized it should be carefully practiced in lighter winds to develop familiarity with the technique. Use of safety gear such as a tested kite depowering leash, good helmet, gloves, impact vest, knife and whistle is recommended.
Discussion of some ideas for safety gear appears in the KSR under:
1b. Safety Gear Ideas
and for evaluating kite depowering leashes under:
8. Leash Test - July 19, 2002.htm
ALL kite leashes should be carefully inspected, maintained and tested. Changing kite sizes may easily necessitate a new test. It is not sufficient to carry a leash but efforts must also be undertaken to assure that it will not only work but stay attached to the rider in anything other than extreme loading. The risk of kiteboarding ideally belongs with the participant, the kiteboarder, and should not be passed along to unknowing bystanders or other riders through avoidable accidents or carelessness. Even carefully maintained and tested kite leashes may fail to work properly or may even be ripped free from the rider in higher winds. The key is to use good judgment to help insure than an emergency release will never be necessary.
PHOTO 4 - Assisted Launch
Solo launching and landing are NOT recommended. Properly performed assisted launch and landing is not only faster, easier, and less prone to cause wear and tear on the kite but they are also safer than solo procedures. Utilize only trained well briefed individuals for assisting your launch and landings. Use clear mutually understood hand signals to properly coordinate launch and landing. Premature release caused by miscommunication has resulted in kiteboarders being seriously injured. After launch raise your kite ONLY HIGH ENOUGH TO CLEAR ANY OBSTACLES, often less than 30 degrees off the ground.
Some signal ideas appear in the KSR under:
7. Kiteboarding Signals
If you decide to solo launch make sure your kite is properly anchored with sand and is draped downwind to avoid premature launch. Carefully attach your kite lines to one side of the kite for solo launch at the last minute and launch promptly following final preflight. Delay once all the lines have been attached to the kite has resulted serious accidents when the kite becomes dislodged by a gust, dog or person. If you leave the kite unattended, disabled it by disconnecting all lines from one side and wrap your lines up when not in use.
PHOTO 5 - Anti-lofting Technique... KEEP IT LOW AND GO!!!
If a strong gust hits you may appreciate the advantages of this technique.
Key components of anti-lofting technique include:
1. Strictly avoid unstable or stormy weather.
2. Careful preflighting.
3. Launching with your kite near the water, raising your kite to a MINIMAL distance off of the ground (less than 30 degrees) and moving towards the water without delay. Consider launching and landing unhooked.
4. Properly rigging, maintaining and testing quick releases and kite leash. Mentally and physically rehearse managing certain emergency situations.
5. Avoiding vertical surfaces or slopes that could create uplift lofting.
6. Avoiding thermal generating areas to avoid thermal lofting.
PHOTO 6 - BAD TECHNIQUE - DON'T DO THIS!!!
D O N O T - RAISE YOUR KITE TO THE VERTICAL OR ZENITH WHILE ON OR NEAR LAND OR HARD OBJECTS!!!
If you have your kite much above the horizontal, if you are hit by a strong gust you may be lofted or involuntarily lifted. You could be flown at high speed and slam into the ground hard. Many kiteboarders have been injured by lofting. If you have your kite low and you are hit by a strong gust you may be dragged at high speed and also potentially injured. Kiteboarders need to avoid unstable weather that can promote sudden strong gusts. Riders need to use, test and rehearse using appropriate safety gear, maintain minimum recommended distances from hard objects to better manage the lofting hazard. These measures may help to minimize the consequences of sudden dragging.
Further information regarding unstable weather appears in the KSR in GENERAL REFERENCES under:
Weather and Kiteboarding w-photos 8-7-02.doc
Riders should review both forecasted weather and current conditions before kiteboarding. Reviewing color radar, severe weather warning sites and real time wind reports is important if available in your area. Conditions can change quite rapidly on the water. Conditions may appear acceptable at one point and deteriorate rapidly into unsafe conditions within an hour sometimes. Local experience and knowledge of weather patterns should be carefully acquired. Kiteboarders like boaters, airplane pilots and mountaineers need to ALWAYS be aware of the weather. Failure to notice changes in time has resulted in some kiteboarder injuries.
http://www.cabareteairforce.com/picture ... gOfTheAir/
A spectacular Squall Lofting In Cabarete appears at the link listed above. It involves circumstances that occur in many other parts of the world not uncommonly at various times of the year.
The severe lofting depicted above is discribed in KSI account 32. Incident# 3 3 02. It involved a well experienced kiteboarder coming into shore just a little too late before a strong squall hit and boosted winds to 52 kts. from less than 20 kt. Other kiteboarders were slow to react to the squall moving in and lost their kites in the gusts.
PHOTO 7 - Early Serious Lofting in Florida (2000)
The above photo shows the approximate flight path of an early lofting. Actually, it was the first "lofting", in name anyway, as the term was coined following this accident. It involved an experienced kiteboarder going out in apparent clear conditions with moderately stable winds. There were feeder bands sweeping across the land and out to see from a deteriorating tropical depression (former hurricane).
PHOTO 8 - Sat. Imagine of Deteriorating Storm Feeder Band Sweeping Eastward
One such feeder band had violent microcell activity associated with it and gusts on the order of 50 to 60 mph (41 to 50 kts.).
PHOTO 9 - Color Radar Imagry of the Deteriorationg Storm
The violent lifting and dragging potential of storm gusts were largely unknown in those early days of the sport.
PHOTO 10 - Wind Record of the Day of the Accident
The wind record above shows the sudden high gust that hit just at the moment of launch for this rider. He was hooked in, not practicing anti-lofting technique, as it hadn't been conceived, yet.
This accident is described in KSI listing under:
5. Special Documents, Lofting 9-17-2000.pdf
It is important to note that lofting and dragging and serious injury can occur in far less dramatic gusts than described above.
PHOTO 11 - Setup for lofting. Kite straight overhead, hooked in, near hard objects, and ...
PHOTO 12 - LOFTED! and in about light 10 to 14 kt. winds! No one was hurt in this minor incident but injury could have happened in these light wind conditions under different circumstances. Routinely using anti-lofting technique makes good sense.
Use of recognized storm signals at popular launches such as three rapid blasts on an airhorn and the hoisting of a distinct flag has been proposed in Cabarete and in other areas to try to better manage this hazard. Several serious accidents have happened in Europe this winter involving kiteboarders reacting late to high unstable wind gusts or ignoring them. The "Ten Ideas" document was prepared in an effort to counteract this negative trend in rider accidents. Riders would do well to promote this points and other safe kiteboarding practices to work towards reduced accidents, incidents and potential problems with access.
http://www.kiteforum.com/phpBB/viewtopi ... &forum=3&4
Kiteboarders have been injured by reacting a little to late to incoming storms more than once. If you are in any doubt, come in, thoroughly secure your kite, take the lines of at least one side of the kite before any marked change in wind direction, speed or temperature. Wait until stable weather returns even if it means going home to ride another day. Unstable weather may be more reliably predicted in some areas of the world at certain times of the year than in others. Learn about local weather patterns. Constantly be aware of the weather around you while on the water. Gusts less than 10 mph or about 8 kts. have resulted in riders being lofted. Serious injury has occurred with gusts less than 15 to 20 mph or 12 to 16 kts. and even less than this in some instances. Dramatic loftings with high speed impacts have occurred with higher gusts approaching 30 to 40 mph or 24 to 32 kts. above background wind speed.
Kiteboarders should also avoid flying their kites near vertical surfaces such as buildings, ridges, hills, walls, etc. to avoid possible uplift that could lead to lofting. Lofting incidents have been made worse by uplift and one fatality occurred in Holland as a result of uplift lofting beside a dike. Finally riders should avoid areas in which thermals could likely be generated. Thermals are quite common throughout the world and could pose a hazard to kiteboarders. One rider was lofted to an incredible 225 ft. by thermal lofting. More about lofting and working to avoid it appears in the KSR under:
4. LOFTING AND HOW TO TRY TO AVOID IT
PHOTO 13 - Grabbing Your Board On the Way Out
In unhooked launching, you leave your board near the water and in line with the expected path you will take immediately following kite launch. Once you are beside your board, you hook into the FIXED HARNESS LINE (one with a pin quick release). Your kite must be low and over the water prior to this. If the wind is excessively gusty or if unstable weather is on the way you should never launch in the first place. Bend over pickup your board and move into the water. Body drag or otherwise travel offshore ideally two line lengths before attaching to your chicken loop with a reliable, well maintained and regularly tested, pin quick release or snap shackle. Stay out beyond 300 ft. or 100 m until it is time to come in.
Use of board leashes has been responsible for quite a few serious injuries and even perhaps a fatality. Conventional thought strongly discourages the use of current board leashes as being unduly hazardous. Body dragging upwind works in many conditions but not necessarily all. It is an essential skill that ALL kiteboarders should master early in their experience.
Signal for an assisted landing and receive confirmation before you come within that distance of shore. Consider approaching unhooked within this distance of shore. If you chose to do a solo landing activate your kite depowering leash as far from shore as depth and seas safely permit. Landing your kite in the water, barring excessive seas often causes less wear and tear on the kite than solo landings over the shoreline.
Special thanks to Laura DiMartina who graciously agreed to serve as model for this article.
Copyright 2003 FKA, Inc.
Comments, alternative ideas and discussion of these concepts are encouraged. This is a work in progress so stay tuned for new content.