Florida Kiteboarding Guidelines
SAFE FLORIDA KITEBOARDING GUIDELINES – January 5, 2013
The following ideas are presented to try to improve kiteboarder and bystander safety, to reduce complaints and attempt to preserve our access to ride. These ideas have been taken from the analysis of over 100 accidents that have happened worldwide over several years. Many of these accidents might have been avoided if a bit more knowledge and care were used. Kiteboarding can be hazardous to the rider and to bystanders, particularly if practiced without adequate training, safety gear, knowledge and caution. NOTE: Riders must accept that even if these guidelines are followed, that accidents, injury and even death may occur in the “extreme sport” of kiteboarding. Kites can exert very substantial force with little to no warning with sudden gusts, improper line attachment, mishandling, etc., resulting in dragging and/or lofting, possibly with no time to effectively react. And, NO “you may not always be able to just let go or kill the power of the kite,” as many accidents have established. Your ability to safely de power your kite and otherwise manage in an emergency will weigh heavily on your technique, preparation and reliability of your gear.
Kiteboarders should consider these ideas, area specific guidelines if applicable along with other prudent and safe practices appropriate for local conditions. Cutting corners or picking and choosing safe kiteboarding practices can seriously reduce the rider’s factor of safety and increase the odds of an accident. Seek local, competent knowledge regarding safe local practices as special precautions may be indicated beyond those discussed here. 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. These guidelines have been updated frequently over the years, so please check the FKA website for the latest version. Don’t use old versions of these guidelines as important changes occur with new knowledge gained over time.
GENERAL SAFETY GUIDELINES FOR ALL FLORIDA KITEBOARDING LAUNCHES.
1. JUMP TO HELP KITEBOARDERS. Readily help other riders with launching and landing using reliable agreed upon visual and audible communications. Whether you are starting out or are almost a pro, your help may avoid a serious incident/accident and possible restrictions. NEVER grab the lines of a flying or powered kite. Get involved with your local association or club and with area riders to try to preserve access to kiteboard. If you see someone putting your access at risk by poor practices, grab several of your friends and have a friendly talk with the guy, show some interest followed by your concerns. Riders are solely responsible for their safety and that of effected bystanders. If you are new to an area or visiting, seek out local kiteboarders, shops and/or associations for local guidelines and tips BEFORE riding. Don’t ruin things for the local riders.
2. GET ADEQUATE PRO KITEBOARDING TRAINING. Kiteboarders, particularly beginners should seek adequate, quality professional instruction. Beginners must avoid crowded areas particularly as kite control is still being developed. Beginners should body drag out at least 300 ft. (60m) from shore prior to water starting and should always stay out of guarded or restricted beach areas. Be careful in your launch area selection and be willing to drive and walk a bit further to have more ideal conditions. Build your skill and experience carefully in side or side onshore winds less than 15 knots. Ideally, you should advance faster and more safely for your effort. Riders have been injured for choosing poor launches when far safer conditions were relatively close by. Be particularly careful in new conditions and at the START and END of the riding season. Many accidents occur in these times even among experienced riders. In kiteboarding, “DISTANCE IS YOUR FRIEND,” so use it!
3. KITEBOARD WITHIN YOUR LIMITS. Know your equipment’s limitations as well as your own. If you aren’t 100% healthy OR IN DOUBT, DON’T FLY! You should be comfortable with conditions and your gear otherwise, don’t launch and “live to fly another day.” Always maintain an energy reserve while out kiteboarding. Hydrate regularly and wear adequate exposure clothing (wetsuit/dry suit), to deal with unexpected time in the water. Cold water kiteboarding requires additional critically important precautions as compared to warmer conditions and are beyond the scope of these guidelines. Don’t kiteboard alone or further from shore than you are readily able to swim in from.
4. USE A KITE LEASH, QUICK RELEASE, HELMET, IMPACT VEST and other reasonable safety gear. Make sure you have proper safety equipment, such as a tested, well maintained kite de powering leash securely attached to your body, a good well fitting helmet, impact vest, gloves, whistle and hook knife. Most kiteboarding fatalities involve head injury. A good helmet for kiteboarding, MAY aid in reducing injury and improve the chance of survival in many but not necessarily all impacts. A helmet is NO excuse to kiteboard carelessly. Regularly test and maintain a reliable chicken loop or kite de powering release. Relying upon manual unhooking alone to release your bar is UNRELIABLE based upon the accident experience. The rider needs to understand and accept that in an emergency, this quick release MAY NOT be accessible or function correctly in the critical seconds of the emergency. It is up to the rider to avoid the emergency in the first place and to aid proper function of the release through practice and maintenance.
5. LAUNCH, RIDE AND LAND WELL AWAY FROM BYSTANDERS. 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. Work to keep a minimum 300 ft. (100 m) buffer zone from bystanders.
6. BE AWARE OF 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 kiteboarders should practice in lighter,
side or side onshore winds. 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 de power
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. Consider
organizing an alert air horn and flag signal for your launch as a warning to riders of pending unstable weather.
PREFLIGHT KITEBOARDING CHECKLIST
1. USE GOOD LAUNCH AREAS. Make sure your launch is open, FREE OF DOWNWIND BYSTANDERS, hard objects,
nearby power lines, buildings and walls, etc. within at least 300 ft. (100 m), and preferably more particularly in higher
wind. Too many riders have slammed into walls, parked cars, trees with better launches not so far away at all. Some
riders have needed in excess of 600 ft. (200 m), to regain control in violent dragging or loftings in higher winds. Avoid
kiteboarding near airports and in low flight path areas, complaints have led to restricted access in some areas. Never
fly your kite in the path of low aircraft in flight, moving your kite low to the water at the first indication of inbound aircraft.
2. WHAT SIZE KITE ARE OTHER RIDERS USING? 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!
3. CHECK & REPAIR YOUR KITEBOARDING GEAR BEFORE YOU FLY. Check your kite for tears or leaky bladders. If you
have leaky bladders or tears in your kite, repair them before flying. 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. Do not casually make changes to
manufactured equipment. What ever you do must work reliably in what conditions may come.
4. AVOID SOLO LAUNCHING. Solo launching and landing are NOT recommended and should be avoided particularly
in stronger winds. Launch with a trained assistant, using reliable audible and visual signals. If solo launching make
sure your kite is properly anchored with a substantial quantity of sand to avoid premature launch. Never use untrained
bystanders to help you launch or land. Riders have been severely injured by making this easy mistake. Rig your kite
for solo launch at the last minute and launch without delay AFTER CAREFUL PRE FLIGHT CHECKS as serious
accidents have happened in only minutes during this stage. If you leave the kite unattended, wrap up your lines,
deflate the kite’s leading edge and roll it up. It is best to place the kite in a bag to avoid UV and wind damage.
5. CROSSED KITE LINES CAN WRECK YOUR DAY. Launching with crossed or snagged lines has maimed quite a few
kiteboarders as the kite tends to fly up at very high speed, dragging or lofting the rider into a nearby hard objects faster
than they can react. 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, shake your bar to make sure the center lines are connected to the leading edge of the
kite. Be particularly careful, slow and methodical in high winds. Multiple, careful PRE FLIGHT CHECKS in higher
winds is strongly advised. Rigging “Kook Proof” connectors on our kite and lines is easily done with most kites and
should be rigged on all your kites and bars.
LAUNCHING AND GETTING UNDERWAY
1. LAUNCH & LAND UNHOOKED WITH A GOOD BUFFER ZONE. Avoid hooking in or connecting with your quick release,
while onshore or near hard objects. Practice LAUNCHING AND LANDING “UNHOOKED” or not connected to your
chicken loop. Pull in your trim strap or rope entirely or to a point that will allow stable kite flight with existing wind
conditions, to properly de power the kite before launching and so that you can readily hold the bar and release it if
necessary. Always maintain minimum clear downwind buffer zones, particularly while flying unhooked. Physically and
mentally rehearse managing emergency situations including just “letting go” of your bar. Connect to your quick
release once you are well offshore. Question: IF you have a proper buffer zone AND your kite properly de powers upon
release, WHAT is the downside of launching unhooked? That is considering you could be spared from a real
slamming one of these days if you stay hooked in during launch and landing.
2. KEEP IT LOW & GO! … to try to avoid lofting or involuntary lifting. DO NOT bring your kite much above 10 to 20 feet (3
to 6 m) from the ground and NEVER to the vertical, within 300 ft. (100 m) of shore or any hard object. Never launch, fly
or land upwind and close to the shore or hard objects or stand on the beach for extended with your kite in the air. This
careless practice has killed and maimed riders. This practice MAY reduce the chance of lofting but may also promote
dragging and serious injury in gusty/strong wind conditions. So, if you are dragged be ready to de power instantly and
ideally before the dragging starts in the first place. HAZARD AVOIDANCE IS THE KEY along with rapid preemptive,
rehearsed actions. Do not fly your kite near vertical or sloped surfaces that can cause uplift and sudden
dragging/lofting (walls, buildings, hills, tree lines, etc,). Avoid thermal generating areas as sudden thermal lofting can
occur. Launch in the appropriate part of the wind window to avoid “hot” or over-powered downwind launches. Make
sure that there are no bystanders within your downwind buffer zone or close by in general.
3. 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.
4. YIELD THE RIGHT OF WAY. Yield the right of way to all others in the water. Riders must yield to others when jumping,
to anyone on your right hand side and to launching riders. When in doubt, STOP. Kiteboarders should not jump within
a buffer zone of at least two hundred feet (60 m) of others and objects that are downwind. Always be aware of the
position of your lines relative to others, line cuts can be severe and tangled lines with another kite, deadly.
5. BOARD LEASHES ARE DANGEROUS. All kiteboarders are encouraged to master body dragging for board recovery.
Use of a board leash is dangerous and is generally discouraged due to the hazards of board rebound or wave driven
impact. Injuries have happened with both fixed length and reel leashes. Wearing a helmet and impact vest is always
advised but may not provide adequate projection against board impact as the boards can and have violently hit any
part of the rider and have penetrated helmets. If there is risk of your loose board hitting bathers, find another launch.
6. DON’T GET LOFTED! Lofting or involuntarily lifting is one of the greatest hazards of kiteboarding. Avoiding unstable
weather, keeping your kite low and getting offshore without delay are only a few of the measures necessary to avoid
this threat. If despite all precautions you are dragged or lofted a short distance AND have time to react, de power your
kite as soon as you start to pause. You will likely be dulled by shock so mentally rehearse de powering immediately
under such circumstances. De powering ideally should occur before you are lofted, still offshore and away from hard
objects. Multiple gusts can hit over a short period and you may be lofted a second or third time, so ACT to de power
your kite as soon as you can. DO NOT ASSUME that you will have a lull between loftings, sometimes you do and
sometimes you don’t. If you are air born over land, it is uncertain how and if you will come out of things. Focus on
controlling your kite with small control inputs to avoid stalling the kite. Some have advised keeping the kite overhead
AFTER you are lofted and to try to gently steer towards the least hazardous are to impact. Other riders have said that
reversing direction or transitions after lofting has helped to reduce forward speed. It would be wise to accept and plan
for the fact that YOU CAN BE LOFTED AT ANYTIME you have a kite in the air.
1. USE ASSISTED LANDINGS BUT … SOLO de power IMMEDIATELY IF NECESSARY! Approach the shore slowly with
caution. Keep your kite low (ideally within 10 to 20 ft. of the surface), to try avoid lofting. Take care to avoid causing an
accidental jump in well powered conditions while approaching the shore. Arrange for assisted landings at least 300 ft.
(100 m) from bystanders, power lines, vertical surfaces, etc.. NEVER use non-kiteboarders for assisted launches or
landings, as use of bystanders has resulted in severe rider injuries. Use mutually understood hand and voice signals
to improve launch and landing safety. Riders have been killed standing around looking for an assisted landing when
gusts have hit. IF IN ANY DOUBT, de power YOUR KITE even if you are still offshore. ALL riders should be comfortable
with de powering their kite immediately even in deep water and swimming in to avoid being lofted or dragged in
sudden gusting winds.
2. PROPERLY STOW YOUR GEAR. Properly anchor (or ideally deflate your leading edge and roll up your kite),
disconnect and wind up your kite lines. Do not allow your kite to be accidentally launched. Kites should be placed in a
safe area well out of bystander and vehicular traffic.
© FKA, Inc. 2002,2003,2004
An example follows:
LOCAL KITEBOARDING GUIDELINES FOR BOCA RATON, FL
The following guidelines have been prepared to aid kiteboarding safety and access privileges at the City of Boca
Raton Beach in the vicinity of Spanish River Blvd. These practices and other appropriate procedures should be
followed while kiteboarding off this beach.
1. New kitesurfers must seek adequate, proper instruction BEFORE or while kiteboarding here.
2. Launch and land north of lifeguard stand #20 located due east of Spanish River Blvd. No launching or landing is
permitted at guarded beaches.
Transcribed by: Rick Iossi