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Is Kitesurfing Dangerous: Yes, but There’s More to It!

Is Kitesurfing Dangerous
Written by Colin Kint

As with any sport, there is danger in kitesurfing. However, compared to land sports, kitesurfing has fewer injuries.

Here we will address kitesurfing risks, prepare you if something happens, and offer safety tips.

Read on to find out if kitesurfing is dangerous and how to do it as safely as possible!

What Makes Kitesurfing Dangerous?

What Makes Kitesurfing dangerous

1. You’re at the Mercy of Mother Nature

Anytime you use mother nature as a catalyst for a sport, it is dangerous.

Winds that can lift you 100 feet into the air and propel you as fast as 45 mph can create an unpredictable situation, even for a daredevil. The kite creates an extreme force, so you need to know what to do with it at all times.

If you do not know what to do in these conditions, Kitesurfing can harm your health.

2. Kitesurfing as a Sport

Most kitesurfing is a challenging sport that takes place over and around water, making it a water sport. Therefore, it is essential that you know how to swim. If you don’t, you will need a life jacket on at all times. You need to stay afloat when and if you end up in the water.

3. The Wind is Too High or not Blowing Enough

There are times when a sudden storm comes in and the winds pick up, you could be carried further from shore and need to release the kite so you don’t go any higher or further out to sea.

The wind could also die out and leave you floating further from land than you want to be.

4. Hitting a Rip Tide or Lagoon Pass

You’re kitesurfing in a strong wind, then it feels like you are not moving anymore, or worse, the wind is pushing you towards the kite; while it may not happen often, it can happen

You need to know the area you are kiting in, the current, and the tides to keep from being in a situation you can’t handle.

5. Kitesurfing into a Wave Zone

There is a good chance that if you are kiting in a bay or lagoon, you could encounter some large sets or indeterminate winds where you can’t get away quickly enough.

You and the kite could end up in the water, and the possibility of drowning is very real in this situation. You may need rescuing!

Make sure you know what to do when you are in the bay or lagoon, make sure you know what to do if you get caught in the bigger waves.

6. Rip Currents and Offshore Winds

Offshore Winds/ Rip Currents can create a situation where your line can snap, your body is whipping around in the wind where you get hurt, or you can’t relaunch. You can end up out at sea or further from shore than is safe for you.

You need to know when to let go of the kite and swim to safety or when the conditions will leave you caught in the current and at risk of drowning.

Using a leash with your board lets you swim back to safety. Always be prepared for what keeps you safe, whether it is ditching the kite and swimming to shore or not kitesurfing at all.

7. Land Obstacles

While it may not happen often, there is a chance that the offshore winds can drag your kite towards land, leaving you in danger of hitting trees, utility lines, and even a building.

In addition, people have been blown onto the road. These outcomes are avoidable if you stay out of the air in a weather front and know when to release and steer your kite before it gets too high.

8. Water Obstacles

Knowing when to abandon your kite is critical when too much wind or a lack of wind can leave you stranded.

No one wants to ditch their kite, or be left on rocks or, worse, dragged over a reef ending up with lacerations.

Unless you possess the skills and know the winds, don’t put yourself in a position to be hurt.

9. Solo Surfing

Never kitesurf alone! Always have a partner; having a partner with more experience than you is ideal.

If your partner is as inexperienced as you, bring along a third person who will eagle-eye you from shore and call 911 if an emergency arises. Never, ever kitesurf alone!

10. Surfing with Others

Avoid too much traffic and crowded areas. They put you at risk for unintentionally tangling lines with another surfer or cutting their line.

A good gust of wind can send you anywhere; if you are not prepared or lose focus, you can cause yourself and other surfers injuries.

Try to surf further from shore to stay away from newbies and crowds. If you are facing downwind, be sure you have enough clearance on both sides.

If you tangle lines with another kite, work with the other surfer to get the lines untangled, or worst-case scenario, release your kites at the same time.

 11. Worn Out Gear

Always buy quality gear and inspect it after each use; you want to avoid a situation where you lose control in a gust of wind.

Here are a few unexpected hazards and what to do if they happen.

a) Quick-release easily triggers

You and your falling equipment become obstacles for other kitesurfers. Always check your safety gear before using it and replace an easy trigger.

b) Twinpin kit board strap breaks

It leaves your board swinging and injures the ankle attached to the opposite leg. Always check the straps and the screws securing them before using the board.

c) The harness strap loops snap or the harness spreader bar snaps

This can leave you unable to maintain control of the kite as the line pulls you to the side. You may have to release the kite or body drag to the shore.

d) Losing control of the kite’s lead edge

You end up in the water far from land or lose control as you go into power loops. Do regular kite checks for valve leaks and discrete bladder. Always look for any deflating after every use.

12. Kitesurfing as a Hobby

Kitesurfing is an advanced sport. If you’re going to do it as a hobby, you need to ensure you are certified, kite in pairs, are aware of the weather conditions, and always use the safest equipment.

13. Too Little Training

Never kitesurf without good training! Weather conditions and wind are unpredictable. You need to understand the dangers to save yourself in every situation.

14. Snapping your Line

Kitesurfing in a wave zone or far from shore can be very dangerous if your line or lines snap. You could be dragged into never-ending death loops and careen out of control resulting in injuries or death.

Examining your lines after use and line maintenance can help you avoid this. If it does happen, having a hook knife on you will allow you to cut the lines.

What to Look Out for When Kitesurfing?

What to Look Out for When Kitesurfing

1. The Kite is Too Big

A bigger kite provides more power but you lose speed and may only fly at 10 mph.

2. Beach Practice

Practicing on the beach helps you learn kite control while remaining safe. Your instructor will know when to get you up in the air.

3. The Water is Not Deep Enough

Knowing when tides are going in and out, and the shallow and rocky areas will ensure your safety and stop you from hitting rocks or sand bars where bones can be broken.

4. Teaching Yourself

Be safe, take a certified course! If you feel the need to teach yourself, make sure you have:

  • A water rescue plan
  • Use a trainer kite
  • Wear safety gear
  • Pick a safe place and weather conditions
  • Have a partner that is knowledgeable in kitesurfing
  • Know the basics of wind theory
  • Have good quality equipment

5. Poorly Launched Kite

Never launch in poor weather conditions and use a good kite with the depower to deal with strong winds. It will help you avoid being lofted from control or dragged onto a road or building

6. Crowds and On-lookers

When there are crowds at the beach (in the water or on land), they are in danger of being cut by your lines if the kite falls and catch around them.

If your lines should fall and catch someone, avoid an injury-causing relaunch by depowering the kite.

When you are in the air and the wind changes, there is a chance that you could crash into watercraft.

When faced with this, heading downwind or upwind is the best way to stay safe. DO NOT wait for the watercraft to change direction!

7. Underwater Dangers

a) Sea Urchins

Found in shallow sandy water, their needle-like spines get embedded in your foot and are very painful. Avoid the areas you may find them.

b) Coral Reef

Generally found in a lagoon or shallow waters, they are sharp and can cut your skin and break a board.

Wearing a wet suit to protect your skin and knowing your kiteboarding area will help keep you safe.

c) Shark Attacks

Most common at sunset in shark-infested waters (it’s supper time!). Staying out of the water at this time is the only way to be safe!

8. Avoiding Nighttime Surfing

Visibility is poor. You can’t see the weather conditions or what’s lurking in the water.

So stay off the water at night.

Kiteboarding Risks to be Aware of!

1. Leg cramps

Cramping of the legs can happen after several hours of surfing or hours after you are done.

Keep this to a minimum by drinking lots of water before riding and after you are done. Be sure you are doing endurance-building stretches as well.

2. Sunburn

Sunburn/UV Eye Damage can end in damage to your retinas and skin cancer where the highest SPF sunblock on all uncovered skin, especially the nose.

Make sure you have UV-protecting eyewear.

3. Hypothermia

Hypothermia is caused by being in the frigid water for long periods. It can be deadly!

Wearing a wet suit and only boarding out as far as you can swim will keep this from being an issue.

4. Back pain

Sudden excruciating back pain will make it hard to get to land safely. Avoid conditions that can cause you to twist suddenly.

Using the proper harness, having the best posture while harnessed, and avoiding bad weather conditions will help keep this from happening.

Being Prepared for the Worst if Things Go Wrong

1. Breathing

Remember, no matter how panicky you are, BREATHE! You do NOT want to hyperventilate and pass out in the air.

If you should crash, stop and catch your breath before doing anything else. Make sure everything is ok before proceeding.

2. There Are No Heroes

Do not hotdog and be the hero if you find yourself or a fellow kiteboarder in danger.

Always proceed with caution. Many heroes are in graves!

3. Learn How to Rescue Yourself

Learn everything you need to be safe. Be prepared physically and mentally and keep a level head, you can get yourself to safety in any emergency.

4. Have Insurance

Make sure you have the proper medical insurance in case of an emergency.

Check with an insurance agent to ensure you have the insurance you need before kitesurfing.

5. You or the Kite: Choose Your Safety

If you have to choose between your kite and your life, let go of the kite and save your life!

Safe Kitesurfing Means No Injuries

1. Have a Safety Plan

Be ready for all emergencies; you may not be able to wait for help! So have a safety plan for each situation.

2. Check The Weather

Before you leave, always check the weather; you don’t want to be surfing and get caught in high winds or a severe storm.

3. On the Spot Assessment

Once you arrive at the kitesurfing sight, you must reassess weather conditions. They change very quickly.

4. Never Kitesurf Alone

There is safety in pairs. If one gets hurt or is in danger, the other can help or call 911.

5. Level 3 or 4 IKO Certification

  • Level 3

An eight hours long, independent rider course requires you be 12 years of age. It teaches skills such as toeside surfing and riding upwind.

  • Level 4

The advanced independent rider course is ten hours long and requires you be 12 years of age. It teaches skills such as master riding and basic jumping.

6. Have the newest and Safest Equipment

Having the best and latest equipment is worth the cost if it keeps you safe!

Safest Conditions for Kitesurfing

1. Weather

Don’t surf in bad weather or high winds. Winter storms are dangerous, and no time to kitesurf.

2. Water Conditions

Surfing in dangerous waters and stormy conditions will not end well. So skip the dangerous water days.

3. How Windy is Too Windy

Watch the forecast, especially wind speeds and dangerous currents. Knowing the safest places and times will keep you safe.

How to Find the Safest Kitesurfing Gear?

1. Kites

There are two types of kites:

a) Lead Edge Inflatable –

This type has an inflatable bladder that floats on the water. There are four designs of LEI:

  • Bow kites
  • C-kites
  • Delta kites
  • Hybrid kites

b) Foil Kites

They have closed or open cells that get their shape as air fills the cells. Although these cells can fill with water, causing the kite to sink when it hits the water.

For this reason, foil kites with valves are used when practicing.

2. Control Bar and Lines

These steer the kite via your control bar connected to the harness through the chicken loop, so the pull of the kite transfers to your waist.

3. The Board

You can’t surf without the board. The three most common are:

a) Hydrofoil Boards

Are the newest trend. The board is lifted above the water surface by a stabilizer and wind that work as an underwater plane.

The faster you move, the more the glide increases. You use your balance to move the board as you glide above the surface. This board is used in light winds!

b) Twin Tip Board

Used when you learn to kitesurf, and many people use them as they continue to surf. The ends of the board are symmetrical, so you don’t have to switch feet.

c) Directional Board

Move through the water as the kite pulls them and feels like surfing. Often used by more advanced surfers for a more challenging ride.

Directional boards require the rider to ride toeside or change the position of their feet to steer the board.

4. Helmet

Protect your head at all costs!

5. Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

This will keep you from drowning when knocked unconscious or too tired or injured to swim. Always wear a PFD on the water!

6. Short Kite Leash

If you flag out the kite by using the chicken loop release and it does not work, you can detach the kite by using the kite leash quick release. It is found on the front of your harness on the safety line.

7. Line Cutter

It’s used in an emergency when you get tangled in or your line is wrapped around a limb. Most harnesses have a slot on the spreader bar to store them for quick access.

Kitesurfing Safety Tips

  • Staying close to the shore lets you swim back
  • Stay far enough away from the beach that you don’t endanger the crowd
  • Avoid shallow water, it is no place to jump or dive
  • Always be able to get rid of your kite quickly; a quick-release system can save you from injury and death
  • Wear a helmet and personal flotation device at all times
  • Choose a kite that is perfect for your body size and build
  • Be alert for fellow kiters and respect their space
  • Group practices keep you safe and assure you there is someone to help in an emergency
  • Stay away from stormy weather, being struck by lightning is not the way to end the day!
  • Make sure you have proper kitesurfing and health insurance

About the author

Colin Kint

Colin is in his mid twenties and a professional skateboarder whom you may already know. He participated in most of the skateboarding competitions in San Francisco. His innate passion for the sport drove him to pursue his career as a professional skateboarder. Another reason why he’s so good at it could be his relentless practice sessions with his friends. Apart from that, Todd also volunteers in various community awareness programs. He’s an environmental activist with an undergraduate law degree and an expert photographer as well. He does most of the photography of our site.

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