The PUCKER Factor: How to Handle the Most Common Kitemares
By Paul Lang
“What do I do now?” This is a question that every kiteboarder will eventually ask their self. If you don’t know what to do when you get yourself into a situation, choosing to do the wrong thing or even just a few seconds of indecisiveness can lead to an injury. As a kiter, you need to be mentally prepared for how you will react in different situations before they actually happen. Always be ready to activate your safety system and practice doing it so that you will know what to expect when you have to pull the trigger.
We have listed four of the most common kitemares, how you should react, and what you can do to avoid the situation. With enough care and common sense, most potentially dangerous kiteboarding situations can be avoided, but you should also always be prepared for when things go wrong.
Kite Falls in the Surf:
If your kite goes down in the surf, try as hard as you can to relaunch the kite before the next wave. If your kite gets eaten by a sizable wave, there is a good chance that there will be some damage unless you know what to do.
- Immediately after the kite hits the water, work as hard as you can to get the kite back up in the air.
- If the kite is still on the water when the next wave comes in, you will have to consider letting the kite go. Only do this if there are no people downwind of you and you are not close to a road! If you are kiting at a crowded beach, you probably need to hold onto the kite and hope for the best.
- If it is safe to let the kite go, unhook your leash and separate yourself from the bar. Swim into the beach as fast as you can – you may be able to catch your kite before it even hits the sand.
- If you cannot let your kite go, depower your kite onto one line by either releasing your bar and grabbing the oh shit handle or activating your safety system if it works on one line. Be sure to swim clear of your lines, then in the direction the waves are moving. It’s important that the kite flags out to just one line so the kite has the least amount of tension possible, hopefully enough to prevent any damage.
How to Avoid: The common sense solution to avoid this problem would be to keep your kite flying. However, if you are pushing your skills, you are bound to drop your kite in the surf. Practice relaunching your kite until it is second nature. The faster you can launch your kite when it goes down, the fewer problems you will have kiting in the surf.
Line or Bridle Tangle:
If your bridle or lines get caught on part of your kite, you will not be able to control it. Usually, the kite begins to loop, no matter what you do with the bar.
- If you have open water downwind of your kite, hang on for the ride. Usually, the kite crashes into the water within a few loops. With the kite in the water, you can usually get the line or bridle off the kite by pulling on the one line that is caught. Even if you have room, be ready to activate your safety system in an instant if things get out of hand.
- If you don’t have safe room downwind, immediately activate your safety system. This will depower your kite and cause it to crash into the water. At this point, you can usually free the caught line by pulling on it.
- Tangles can occur whenever a kite crashes but also when self launching your kite. Always be ready to activate your safety system when self launching if the kite becomes uncontrollable.
How to Avoid: When self launching, double check that your lines are not caught on the kite and are not in a position where they could easily catch. This can also happen if you crash your kite with the lines slack, so check your lines while the kite is still on the water and try to deal with any caught lines before you relaunch your kite.
Dealing with a Kite Tangle:
As more people start kiteboarding, our spots are going to become more crowded. No matter how careful everyone is, more people on the water will lead to more kite tangles. If you do tangle with another kiter, stay calm and try to figure your way out of it.
- As soon as you become tangled with another rider, you should unhook your leash and be prepared to completely release your kite.
- If both kites are still flying, bring both kites low to the water and keep them flying. You may be able to fly the kites out of the tangle if you communicate with the other rider.
- If either kite is uncontrollable, both kites need to be released. The danger is when one rider releases their kite and the other one doesn’t. If you release your kite and the bar gets stuck in the other rider’s lines, the other rider is now attached to two uncontrollable kites. If you think you need to release, try and coordinate simultaneously with the other rider or signal to the other rider your intentions, so they are prepared.
How to Avoid: This kitemare is easy to avoid if you simply stay alert about your surroundings. Look the other way before you jibe or pull a move, and be mindful about staying a safe distance away from other riders, especially beginners.
Sudden Wind Changes:
As we all know, the wind is never completely reliable. On any given day during any given session, the wind can dramatically change directions, quickly build in strength, or completely vanish. Weather changes can happen very quickly, but you can usually see signs that the wind is about to change.
- At the first sign of a weather change, go back to the beach and land your kite. These signs include dark clouds approaching, wind that becomes very gusty and/or shifty, a sudden temperature change (for example, a gust that feels much warmer or colder than normal), or a fast approaching wind line.
- If you are caught out in stronger wind, the general rule is to depower your kite and head back to the beach. If there are kiters on the beach, get their attention by waving and yelling. Tap the top of your head to let them know you want to land your kite. This way, you will have someone ready to catch your kite as soon as your kite is over land. Ride towards the beach slowly and with your kite low until your kite is caught.
- If there is no one to catch your kite, ride to within a line length of the beach and activate your safety system. Your kite will depower and land in the water, and you can swim the rest of the way in. You want to avoid being on land while flying an overpowered kite.
- If you are caught out when the wind is dying, get off your board and hold it while you body drag back to the beach. Get as close to land as you can before the wind totally shuts down. If there is no longer enough wind to keep your kite flying, there is nothing else to do but to self rescue and swim in with your gear.
How to Avoid: Get a local weather forecast before you ride so you know if abnormal weather is expected. Always be alert for weather changes and immediately head back to the beach if you notice any of the signs mentioned above.