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use safety gear or not?

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Re: use safety gear or not?

Postby RickI » Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:14 am

It is your choice to use a helmet or impact vest or not. That choice should be based on facts, it is good you are asking.

Most kiters don't use helmets, more use impact vests but still far below the majority of riders. Some kiters do use both in varieties suitable for the demands of kitesurfing and every time they ride including myself. We don't plan accidents, they happen "accidentally" meaning to say picking and choosing to wear it is a bad proposition. You should just wear it and forget about it being there and easily done thing for many people.

Very experienced and skillful kiters have been killed by head impacts at fairly low wind speeds. Winds as low as 12 and 15 kts. for well regarded kiters who had been riding for five years at the time. More fatalities and serious injuries have happened in higher winds but low wind by no means removes the possibility of critical injury.

This gear doesn't assure you won't be injured or that you will even survive. It just improves the odds of avoiding injury and survival, but only if you are using it. My life was saved by a helmet in a very early lofting 13 years ago and I've been spared lessor injury many times since. In looking at hundreds of accidents and incidents worldwide, there have been cases in which kiters were preserved by this gear and in many other cases in which they might have fared better or survived if gear was used. Safety gear is no substitute for use of good procedures and judgement, I believe all should be routinely used when you kite based on personal misadventures over the years and numerous accidents and incidents I have learned about.

The reason you see more flotation out there is because people may come to grips easier with swimming limitations than the need to protect their most valuable asset, their brain. I don't believe flotation should be worn to supplement weak watermanship skills, I believe these skills should be developed in all cases and impact vests appropriate for the demands of kiting worn as a supplement to strong skills.. Impact vests can help out in so many ways aside from saving your life, helping procedures in deep water, keeping your warmer, a place to put your keys, reflective tape for rescuers, etc.. Beyond that, people have died who likely wouldn't have if they had a vest on.

I've been kiting for 15 years, am a strong swimmer, free diver and body surfer and won't go kiting without a good lid and impact vest on. That is my informed choice, good luck with your choice.

Last edited by RickI on Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: use safety gear or not?

Postby L0KI » Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:15 am

davesails7 wrote:
Slappysan wrote:While a helmet does reduce the chances of you dying by a small amount it also increases your chances of suffering a neck injury so it's not as clear as many make it out to be.
I don't really see how the helmet increases neck strain. The only time I have strained my neck (only minor strains) was when hitting the water back first after a botched rotation of some sort. My neck got strained by my body stopping and my head not stopping.

I can understand the argument that if you are going head first into the water, the helmet has more projected area than your head does, so it will exert more force on you. However,
1. I never hit the water head first, it's very hard to do when kiting. Your hands are on the bar and the bar is in the direction of the kite. Landing backwards and semi-upright with your lower back impacting the water is where you are going to hurt your neck, and as I said above, it's not from the helmet impacting the water, it's the whiplash of your head snapping back after your body stops.
2. Whatever small increase in force caused by the extra projected area of the helmet hitting the water would be absorbed by the helmet doing what it's supposed to do, absorbing impact energy.
I advocate the use of a helmet.
But I will say that the helmet does add additional strain when landing in the whiplash position.
I happen to have a neck that is fuct.
Four of my neck vertebrae are surgically fused and I have a titanium plate with eight screws helping that piece of crap hold my fat head up.
When I crash with the helmet on, my neck hurts for an additional couple of weeks from when I crash with no helmet on (6 weeks instead of 3-4 weeks).
So for me it becomes a question of my willingness to die from head trauma, versus my willingness to finish off my neck so I never can kite (or much else) again.
So I gave up my really nice light weight helmet that stops the sun from baking my skull, so I can keep kiting.
If I have to give up all the fun stuff, then I want out anyway. :lol:

But I say, wear you helmet and get some flotation, especially if you are riding in deep water, cold water, near hard stuff, in heavy conditions, etc, etc.

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Re: use safety gear or not?

Postby BWD » Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:47 am

there's also the
memory loss,
chronic daily headaches,
mood swings,
loss of coordination,
personality changes,
and early onset of dementia
that can come along even with "minimally traumatic" brain injury
Don't want those things.

I should wear my helmet more often...
Last edited by BWD on Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: use safety gear or not?

Postby plummet » Fri Nov 15, 2013 7:34 am

pj sofine wrote: So what you're saying is that by wearing a helmet you saved your 9 lives for use later, you cool cat

What i'm saying is that I want to continue my head cracking lifestyle.

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Re: use safety gear or not?

Postby Lanc » Fri Nov 15, 2013 7:46 am

I wore a helmet while learning for the first few months because I was using a board leash, good idea. Continued to use the helmet after finishing up with the board leash then one day the board somehow managed to find the small 2cm gap between my sea shades and the helmet. Two stitches in my forehead I decided the helmet was useless so stopped wearing it. A few years later I hit some kelp and the board flung out and hit me in the back of the head, eight stitches to close that hole.

I have since developed a natural reaction when wiping out to cover the back of my head with one elbow and the front of my face with the other elbow. I've also punctured my legs, shoulders and feet by the board each time learning a new valuable lesson on what not to do. About a year ago a read a similar thread about helmets and went to test the new generation of helmets but they still felt cumbersome.

My advice is to wear the safety gear while learning because you will end up hitting your head one day, its not if but when. Then when you're happy to accept the risks that come with not wearing safety gear you can consider taking it off. At least after reading this topic you are aware of the potential dangers and you can now make up your own mind about your safety gear.

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Re: use safety gear or not?

Postby zerogee_ca » Fri Nov 15, 2013 8:34 am

What about a loud whistle?? Trying to get someones attention when you need assistance can be very difficult over the wind and wave noise especially if others are at a distance and /or "in the zone".

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Re: use safety gear or not?

Postby pj sofine » Fri Nov 15, 2013 3:01 pm

I wear booties at some launches to protect my feet.

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Re: use safety gear or not?

Postby finnkc » Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:50 pm

I need my head as it holds my brain. I would like for my kids to have a father, and keep my highly specialized job. If you got nothing to live for then roll the dice IMO, I am not going to criticize anyone for not using it. We make our choices and live with the consequences.

Shit happens, and sometimes it can be a result of the weather or someone else making a mistake. Sure this gear is not %100 going to save you but it will give you a fighting chance WHEN something goes wrong.

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Re: use safety gear or not?

Postby vannibombonato » Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:03 pm

I find it incredible that we still are "debating" whether to use safety gear or not.

The answer is yes, we should all be using it, no matter what.

1) The only possible reason for not using an helmet is because it does not look good, which means that you are a man or a woman with not enough self confidence. I enjoy a lot debating on the beach when i find people asking me "why do you use the helmet?". It's such a stupid question that i always have a good 30mins in stucking in the guy's head that the fact that he does not wear a helmet does not mean he's cool and i'm not, it means that my balls are bigger than his as i have enough self confidence to know how cool i am, while he doesn't.

2) An helmet does not reduce in anyway the fun. It's different, say, than not using an helmet on a motorbike. When using a motorbike, objectively for most of the people is much more fun to ride "free", as the feeling is different. It's still stupid, but at least there is some logic behind it, debatable, but still logical.

3) There is no thing such a "risk free" condition when kiting. There are more or less dangerous conditions, but it's always a risky sport. There are a gazillion situations, in any condition, for why your board can ultimately end up hitting your head, even in perfect consistent 20 knots glassy water.

4) You won't need an helmet, or safety gear, probably in 99% of your session. You wear safety for that 1%. Now, that 1% of mess, which WILL happen, can end up from something like having a big knock on your head down to you dying. Is it worth it? Go to a shrink if you feel you need to ride helmet-less because the others do so. Even better, push it hard so that while they ride and look cool, you outride them performing stuff that they can't even dream of. That is cool.

5) Real life experiences:
I had a fantastic chat once with a guy in Brazil. I was explaining why i prefer riding with an helmet, he was explaining why it's not cool. While talking, he keeps on asking me "can you talk a bit louder". In the end, i found out he couldn't hear me because he broke his eardrum on a kiteloop landing. When i found out, hell yes, he really felt like an idiot.
Once I had a tremendous loop (didnt want to, my mistake) gone wrong, 40knots gusty, crashed uber powered, helmet knocked off my head, 10 seconds without breathing for the punch with an impact, a good 50cm of my body which were blue for the next 15 days, but i was still riding 10 mins later when i recovered.
On a beach in Venezuela, i chat with an Alpha-male like who was bragging about how good he was, can do this and that, F16 one handed, etc. Then i go "listen, why dont we go out together, i'd like to learn a couple of easy tricks, i can watch and try to learn from you". Answer "sorry i can't, actually i can only ride, had a bad crash and broke my rib". 10 minutes before he was trying to convince me that using an impact is useless.

Now: am i perfect? No. Do i care about looking cool? Yes, i'm human and not as self confident as Brad Pitt, if i have my girlfried taking pictures i will probably ride naked with some make up done before because i do like to have those "cool" pics to show-off, but i realize it's stupid, and i do it on 0,1% of my sessions. And it's still wrong. It's basic risk management.

Is safety gear a guarantee that you are safe? No, just like safety belts in cars aren't. It simply gives you 10x more chances to keep on kiting instead of going to an hospital.

When you see someone looping a kite on the beach and enjoying sliding for 20 meters on the sand you are not seeing someone cool, you are watching at a candidate for next year's Darwin Award.

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Re: use safety gear or not?

Postby Slappysan » Fri Nov 15, 2013 11:44 pm

davesails7 wrote: I don't really see how the helmet increases neck strain.
It's a combo of bigger projected area and also more importantly the increase in mass of your head+helmet.

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