Kitesurfing can be a dangerous sport, but by learning with an experienced instructor and knowing about certain safety techniques the risk of injuring yourself or others can be greatly reduced.
Imagine you are out on the water and the wind suddenly dies down, a line breaks , the wind changes turns off shore , your kite breaks /rips , the wind becomes too strong , or a thunderstorm is coming , you have lost your board and cannot body drag upwind Your kite is on the water and there is no way of getting it up in the air again and a long way back to shore. There are numerous ways how you can get into a situation like this and it can happen to beginners and also to the most experienced kitesurfers out there. It is vital to know how to handle these situations and get back to land safely. Self rescue and safety for kiters is often forgotten . It is more fun to learn how to jump than it is to refresh self rescue techniques
SELF RESCUE/KITE RECOVERY IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SAFETY TOOLS A KITESURFER SHOULD KNOW.
Most kite schools teach the self-rescue during a kitesurfing lesson or run students through the procedure on the beach. Nevertheless, it is important to recap the self-rescue steps once in a while to be prepared for an emergency situation.
Assess the Situation
How to react appropriately clearly depends on the situation you are in and needs to be assessed depending on the current conditions. You might have already pulled your first safety release or you are still hooked in to your kite. If you are still hooked in to your kite you can assess the situation: If there is no wind to relaunch but you are close to the beach and the wind is blowing onshore or cross-on shore you can just wait until you drift back to the beach. If you are further out at sea or in offshore winds you will have to act differently and either perform a Self Rescue or pack down your kite in case a boat is coming to pick you up. The kite may have inverted and the lines have become twisted and you need to get back to the beach to reset.
SELF RESCUE STEPS:
First, pull your safety release if you have not already done so. By pulling your safety, all but one line of your kite will go slack and the kite will sit on the water fully depowered. There should be hardly any tension on the one line that still connects you to the kite. If the kite keeps pulling you or starts looping in this position, you might have a line wrapped around your bar or harness.
As a next step, you need to secure the safety line to keep the kite depowered. This is essential and particularly important in stronger winds . If you don´t do this step, you risk that the kite catches some wind and relaunches itself. If the kite relaunches you risk injury plus the kite lines under tension become a hazard themselves (think cheesewire! ) To secure the line, grab your bar. fold a float against the bar and wrap the safety line around it starting from the end at the bar until you reach your safety leash. Leave your leash connected to the line and secure it with a half hitch knot.
Once the safety line is secured on the bar your kite will stay in the position it is and should not be able to relaunch itself. Start wrapping up all four lines the same way you would do on the beach after your kite session. Make sure you have all four lines at the same time and wrap them up together as otherwise, the kite could turn around and power up. When wrapping up the lines, you can swim/walk towards the kite, but make sure you don´t get any lines wrapped around you at any time. Best tip is to hold a little tension in all four lines and then release slightly as you wind the lines each time (Think reeling in a fish ) When you reach the kite, secure the lines on the bar with the elastic bungies to ensure they stay wrapped up and don´t get twisted around you.
Then it is time to reassess your situation: Are you close to shore ? If so you can maybe walk to the beach or nearest safe area . If you are further out to sea it is best to use the kite as a sail and get back by yourself. If you are far out, drifting offshore and a boat is coming to pick you up, you can pack down your kite to help with the rescue. For either option, you need to turn around your kite, which is not easy in the water but it helps to get your weight onto one wing side and flip the kite over (Leading edge /inflation valves pointing towards the sky) from there. If you are ever at a loose end or the wind has dropped try this - Its not as easy as you might think the first time .
SAIL WITH THE KITE
You can use your kite as a sail to get back to shore quickly. Keep in mind that it is only possible to go to either side of the wind window or downwind, but you can´t use this technique to get upwind. If you need to get upwind it is best to swim with your kite, you can hook your leash into the loop for the kite pump to have your hands free. Or you pack down your kite and wait for a boat to pick you up if there is one.
To sail with the kite, grab one of the bridles and pull down to pull the kite into a C shape and use it as a sail while laying next to the leading edge in the water. There may be handles close to the wingtips to assist with this
PACK DOWN YOUR KITE IN THE WATER:
If you know a boat is coming to pick you up and especially if the people on the boat are not used to rescuing kitesurfers they might not know the best way to approach and pack down a kite in the water, so it might be best to pack down your kite before into a neat package you can just hand over.
Always consider: an inflated kite is easier to spot on the water than a person, so only deflate your kite once you are sure somebody is coming to pick you up or knows where you are.
To deflate and pack down your kite, first close all the struts of your kite if you have not done this already . By leaving the struts inflated, it helps to keep the kite afloat when packed down. Then deflate the leading edge and wrap up the kite. You will now have a long thin buoyancy aid than is more easily handles Make sure you close the deflate valve (if your kite has one ) again to not get water in the bladder. You can hold the kite together with your leash or attach your harness around it to keep it together.
TAKE AWAY FROM THIS:
Self Rescue is a vital tool for every kite surfer and you should recap the steps every once in a while especially if you go kitesurfing in the open ocean or in offshore conditions. It is not easy to perform a self-rescue while swimming and in windy and wavy conditions. Knowing the theory is great, but if you get the chance to practise a self-rescue in a safe environment during your course or in standing deep water, take it and practise a couple of times. It will make you feel more calm and confident in a more serious situation! Most importantly: Stay calm, breath slow and be careful not to get any lines around your body.
Emergency situations can happen in any circumstances and a self-rescue or emergency pack down can save lives. However, a lot of emergency situations can be prevented by assessing the conditions before every kite session and only going kitesurfing if the conditions allow it and make sure you know about the local currents and other hazards.
QUICK RECAP OF THE SELF RESCUE STEPS:
1. Pull safety release 2. Wrap up and secure the safety line first with half hitch 3. Wrap all four lines, then secure all lines once at the kite 4. Choose to self-rescue using the kite as a sail or full pack down