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Kiteboarding gear is safer than ever yet incidents continue to happen, many times to seasoned riders. Experienced kiteboarders are all too often indifferent to weather hazards. They may not bother to think about it or assume they have the skill level to deal with whatever comes their way. As a result, many kiteboarders are needlessly injured each year.

Scenario #1

A well experienced kiteboarder was riding light 10 to 14 mph winds with a 16m flat kite. The wind died as a squall moves in. Most riders landed in the “lull before the storm” but the experienced kiter did not. Other riders see white caps racing before the squall and yell at him, “don’t go out” as the temperature plunges. The rider stood in the shallows with his kite near zenith and made no attempt to emergency depower or prepare for the squall. The wind suddenly boosted from near nothing to about 30 mph, faster than he could react at that point.

He gets lofted, flying fast towards shore. People on land are yelling and running all over as the kiter seems to fly almost straight up. He was estimated to rise to about 80 to 100 feet above the land. As he was lofted, he pushed the bar out to depower the kite but as the motion was primarily vertical, not much happened in response. The wind shifted in the squall and drove him in the opposite direction. He pushed the bar out again and this time dropped precipitously while racing towards a narrow section of water with a fence beyond at high speed.

He struck and landed in 1.5 feet of water and was very lucky; normally it is exposed land at low tide. He released his kite which was caught by an obliging tree, suffering no real injury. He covered about 1200 feet over land in only a 30 mph squall gust.

Scenario #2

A bunch of kiters were out on a summer day enjoying small waves and moderate wind. A cold front with squalls and strong winds was forecast to come through and a cloud line moved ashore with heavy rain at one end. The rest of the cloud looked like a regular cumulus cloud e.g. not real threatening but a water spout also formed at the base of the cloud and steadily grew in diameter and length as it moved shoreward. As the water spout moved closer to shore and grew more threatening in appearance, kiters kept riding, indifferent or perhaps oblivious.

This continued until several riders were lofted, yanked off the water and blown inland, apparently by the waterspout! One guy managed an emergency depower landing safely on the beach while another was lofted into a car, destroying its front end and messing himself up pretty seriously in the process.

Lessons Learned

  • 1. Understand weather in your area, what to look for and what to avoid. If you are traveling, seek out good local advice in advance of riding.
  • 2. Learn what to expect for that day’s session through proper weather planning (marine & hazard forecasts, color radar and satellite imagery and real time wind up weather from where you are riding). If a weather change is on the way, know what to look for and keep your eyes open. Always be aware of changing weather and act early to come in and secure well before the hazardous conditions arrive.
  • 3. Some are convinced that their flat kites will depower through most gusts and so just ride in about anything. The trouble is they may fail to emergency depower in time for a variety of reasons. The time to act is well before the weather hazard arrives; the outcome is uncertain after. Don’t rig to be overpowered. Target winds in the low to mid range for your kite, per manufacturer specs.
  • 4. Kiters are a community, with similar interests and drives. Not everyone reads information like this in “The Kiteboarder Magazine” or follows related threads on the Internet. Like it or not, we really have an obligation to share information with fellow kiters that may spare them from harm and to preserve your access. Knowledge is power so share the wealth. If you see someone who may be a threat to themselves in the future, speakto them with genuine interest and concern in a non-threatening way and don’t make them feel like an idiot. If the threat seems to be imminent, grab as many of your kiter friends as you can and talk with the guy as effectively as you can in a group.
  • 5. If you are fortunate to receive some good advice, think about it very carefully. No one session should be worth an extended time off work and the water, rehab or the rest of your life.