Riders at popular kitesurfing sites are getting together to develop safety guidelines that will keep kiters safe and help ensure that access is not restricted. Flying kites on crowded beaches can be dangerous and can cause concern to other beachgoers who aren’t able to evaluate whether they are at risk or not.
Officials at a number of beaches have expressed concerns and have asked that kitesurfers take voluntary steps to address safety. The alternative may be, as seen in Southern California, that officials create strict rules that are strictly enforced. While some safety steps may be inconvenient, kitesurfers (and windsurfers) do not have the right to compromise someone else’s safety or sense of security for there own pleasure. Working closely with local officials allows us to come up with solutions that make sense.
The following guidelines are presented to try to improve kiteboarder and bystander safety, to reduce complaints and preserve our access to ride. Many riding locations have additional recommendations that will supplement these general guidelines.
All kiteboarders should adopt these ideas and area specific guidelines. Cutting corners or choosing unsafe kiteboarding practices can seriously increase the odds of an accident. Safety automatically increases to some degree once the rider becomes both aware of and takes potential hazards seriously. By contrast, ignorance and indifference raise the hazard level substantially and have frequently been a factor in avoidable accidents.
Kiteboarders, particularly beginners should seek adequate, quality professional instruction. If you are new to an area or visiting, seek out local kiteboarders, shops and/or associations for local guidelines and tips before riding. Any kiteboarder should readily help other riders with launching and landing. Kiteboarders must give way to the public on the beach and in the water at ALL TIMES. Be courteous and polite to bystanders. Complaints have frequently led to bans and restrictions on kiteboarding in some areas and continue to do so on a regular basis. NEVER launch, ride or land upwind of nearby bystanders; keep a minimum 300 ft. (100 m) buffer zone from bystanders.
Kiteboarders should use proper safety equipment, such as a tested, well maintained kite depowering leash securely attached to your body, a well fitting helmet, and an adequate wetsuit, to deal with unexpected time in the water. In some riding areas, a marine VHF radio is recommended to contact the U.S. Coast Guard or nearby vessel in an emergency. Use of a board leash is generally discouraged due to the hazards of board rebound or wave driven impact; kiteboarders are encouraged to master body dragging for board recovery.
Know your equipment’s limitations as well as your own. Regularly test and maintain a reliable kite depower system. Know how to and practice self rescue on a regular basis. Beginners should body drag out from shore prior to water starting. Beginners should build skills and experience carefully; ideally, advancing faster and more safely in side or side onshore winds less than 15 knots or 16 m.p.h. Don’t kiteboard alone or further from shore than you are readily able to swim in from.
THE LAUNCH AREA: The wind direction should be side or side-on shore with and the speed steady. Make sure your launch is clear of obstructions and bystanders downwind. Hard objects, nearby power lines, buildings and walls, etc. within at least 300 ft. (100 m), and preferably more in higher winds (greater then 20 m.p.h.) 600 ft. (200 m) is preferable.
CHECK THE WEATHER: Is the forecast and current weather acceptable, free of pending storm clouds and excessive gusty winds? Color radar can sometimes give a clue as to violent storm/gust potential. Are seas and wind condition within your experience, ability and appropriate for your gear? New kiters should practice in lighter, side or side onshore winds. Straight onshore winds have a much higher injury rate even among experienced riders and should be avoided. Offshore winds should be avoided in the absence of a chase boat. If storm clouds are moving in, land and thoroughly disable your kite well in advance of any change in wind or temperature, if necessary depower your kite while still away from shore. Lightning can strike many miles ahead of storm clouds. Learn about unstable weather in your area and work to avoid squalls and storms through TV, radio and Internet information.
USE THE RIGHT SIZE: Check to see what size kite other kiteboarders are rigging and get their input on conditions. Try to select a kite size for the lower to middle part of the wind range. Do not rig too large a kite for conditions and carefully consider advice of more experienced riders. Failure to act on prudent advice has cost some riders severe injury and even death. If you don’t have a small enough kite to safely launch, DON’T! Launching in light wind conditions less then 11 knots or 12 m.p.h. is NOT recommended. At speeds less then this is takes a advanced rider to stay upwind and keep the kite flying.
CHECK YOUR GEAR: Check your kite for tears or leaky bladders. Check ALL kite, harness, and control bar lines, webbing, pigtails, bridles, the chicken loop and leaders for knots, cuts, wear or abrasion. If the line sheathing shows any breaks or knots, replace them. The pigtails should be replaced no less frequently than every 6 months on inflatable kites. Inspect and test your quick release. Frequently, mentally and physically rehearse pulling your quick release in an imagined emergency situation. Make sure your flying lines are equal as they will stretch unevenly with use. If they have knots that can’t be easily untied, replace your flight lines.
CHECK YOUR LINES: Launching with crossed or snagged lines will result in a dangerous situation. Walk down your lines and examine them carefully. Pick your bar up and carefully look down the lines for twists, tangles or snags that could cause the kite to be dangerously uncontrollable. While you are holding your bar up look down the lines. Be particularly careful, slow and methodical in high winds. Kites that have bridles will require the an additional check by the person holding the kite to insure they are not tangled just prior to the launch.
LAUNCH PERPENDICULAR TO THE WIND: It is imperative that the kite be launched perpendicular to the wind. Start with the launcher holding the kite upwind of the rider. The rider will then add line tension and slowly walk upwind in an arc until the canopy on the kite goes from fluttering to smooth. In light winds less then 15 m.p.h. the rider should take one or two additional steps upwind.
GET IN THE WATER: Promptly after launching all riders should immediately enter the water and move away from the launch area. Keep the kite off to the side and towards the water. Never fly your kite on the beach for more time then is necessary to safely enter the water.
**SELF LAUNCHING. Self launching and landing are NOT recommended and should be avoided particularly in stronger winds. Always opt to launch with a trained assistant, using reliable audible and visual signals. If self launching is a must then insure your kite is properly anchored with a substantial quantity of sand to avoid premature launch. Never use untrained bystanders to help you launch.
GET OFFSHORE AND STAY THERE: Go offshore at least 300 ft. (100 M) WITHOUT DELAY after launch. Stay beyond 300 ft. until time to come in. If there are substantial waves where you need to put on your board consider body dragging outside the breaker zone first. The fun is offshore, danger to the rider & bystanders is near shore where most of the hard stuff is located.
Approximately 50 kitesurfers attended a recent (late Summer 2005) meeting to address the concerns of the Parks Department with regard to kites flown near beachgoers on the beach downwind of the launch area. The consensus was in favor of a new policy for kiters returning to shore downwind - “Kite in hand when you hit the sand.” Kitesurfers who return to shore downwind of the antenna must land their kite in the water and recover it before walking up on to the beach.
SFBA funded safety signs developed by Third Avenue kitesurfers. If you sail at Third, please follow these local safety rules, which are posted at both the upwind and downwind launches. Detailed safety guideline brochures are also available at Helm of Sun Valley. Do not fly kites over the bike path, windsurfing rig area, or in parking lots. This includes trainer and stunt kites. When launching, be sure there are no spectators, power lines, rocks, walls, or other objects within 200 feet, and be sure that people near you know you are launching. Land only in designated landing areas, or perform water landing and self-rescue if necessary. DO NOT land your kite on or over the bike path as it endangers you and others.
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Kenny Hartz came with SFBA to meet the Lifeguards and show them how to safely handle kites and kite lines in case a kite comes up on the State Park beach. Lifeguards have requested that kitesurfers stay clear of the State Park beach during the crowded summer season, and especially on weekends. Local kitesurfers have voluntarily agreed to stay clear of the State Park beach and not to fly kites over the beach during the weekends and holidays. If unable to return upwind, kites may be landed on the beach if an experienced kiter is there to catch it and if it is done well clear of beachgoers and within 25 feet of the water. Otherwise, kites must be landed in the water. On weekdays, Kitesurfers may park at the north end of the State Park parking lot, but must walk upwind to rig and launch to the north of the State Park beach boundary. It is best to launch from the access just south of Sea Drift. All rigging and launching should take place north of the flagpole. Please be extremely careful and considerate to minimize problems with the residents. Also watch very carefully for hang gliders who land within 100 yards of the launching area on the beach. A hang glider would likely be critically injured if their landing was upset by a collision with a kite or kite lines.
Download the Safety Day Presentation in PDF Format - Click Here