Been windsurfing for 27 years and am thinking about going to a 3 day kite camp in April to try out the sport. One item I just can't understand: I hear about continual safety improvements on the kites over the years yet there are still experienced kiters getting killed. I can't tell if it's:
- the safety equipment isn't 100% reliable even when enabled (i.e doesn't release power fast enough)
I think the safety equipment is reliable on just about every kite, but there are a number of ways you can get into an accident, you touched on one of them:
"The victims didn't have time to react"
If you get lofted while your kite is on land and it's gusty, it's possible to travel hundreds of feet in a second, it's impossible to react in time. That's why everyone tells you that you are supposed to keep your kite not directly overhead but pointed towards water. It's easy to get complacent though because getting lofted like this is rare: there are only about 15 kiteboarding fatalities worldwide per year.
And there's another thing that can happen with all water sports, and that is if you get knocked out you can die because you drown. This can happen wakeboarding or even sailing a little lazer, the boom comes around too quick, knocks you out and you drown in 3 feet of water.
So yeah, wearing a helmet will help protect you but . . . most people don't bother with a helmet.
Another way to drown is if for one reason or another you let your lines go slack. This is dangerous because then the lines can very easily loop around your leg and if you power up again, the kite can drag you underwater.
About 1,000 people per year are killed while golfing, now I know there are more golfers then kiteboarders, and they die while getting a heart attack trying to blast a ball out of a sand trap, but still that gives you a little perspective, since golf is just about the most sedentary safest sport you can play, but people still die playing it.
One of the reasons that I brought up golf is that you hear of somewhere around one or two dozen golfers dying per year from a lightning strike, yet, I have not once ever heard of a kiteboarder getting struck by lightning. I know people have gotten a zap when jumping and picking up a charge in a storm, but in all this time, I would think that there would be at least one kiteboard that got hit, but nope, all the fatalities are from either a crash that knocks you out so you drown, getting dragged underwater from a slack line, getting smashed by a gust while on land (or kiting in onshore winds) . I've have heard of one kiteboarder that got bit by shark and died that's pretty rare. You would think that some kiters would have died from getting swept out to sea, but it seems that they always get rescued.
It seems that most fatalities happen when a wind gust picks you up and smashes you against the land and there is simply no time to pull the safety.
here's a good quote from http://www.kitemare.com/Kitemares.htm
"I'm old enough, and experienced enough that I should have known better. I've windsurfed for nearly twenty years, barefoot water-skied, skydived, flown helicopters and experimental jets and spent my professional life. A windsurfer launched me in a gust somewhat downwind. The last thing I remember is the pull felt VERY STRONG as he launched it. I awoke dragging to a stop by my safety harness on my wrist. I had launched about 80 or 90 ft. onto a hard divot made by a truck going through soft ground weeks before. X rays showed eight rib fractures and a punctured lung. And I was lucky. Nothing I've experienced prepared me for the sudden acceleration that can occur in a gust. There is do way I could have unhooked! Expecting to unhook is like trying to catch a bullet after pulling the trigger of a gun!"