Steve, Andy, Eli and kitesurfers everywhere,
You fellows have brought up some of the real threats to new kitesurfers and
to the sport of kitesurfing. The threats have always been there but when
there were few kitesurfers worldwide the incidents were also few and the
notice given to accidents and incidents relatively minor. Things have
changed in many areas in a big way with lots more new and experienced
The new guys that don't go for good, thorough instruction and then practice
what they learned are putting both themselves and access to kitesurfing by
others at risk. Another serious component of the problem is experienced guys
showing poor judgment putting others at risk of injury and themselves for
that matter, by the careless way in which they practice the sport. I see
examples of both types of riders, more and more in my state of Florida in the
USA. I suspect the pattern is also being repeated around the world.
The new guys have a kite, they want to use it, there may even be kitesurfers
nearby and they go at it, literally without a clue as to what can go wrong,
how to avoid it, what is a safe launching area, etc. The experienced guys
have a similar or better rigout, and go out with overconfidence fueled by an
extended run of good luck and are unknowingly waiting to become the victims
perhaps with innocent bystanders for company of a simple, avoidable physics
experiment with injuries, kite damage, kitesurfing bans or worse resulting.
Unlike surfing, windsurfing or even snow skiing the injury potential of
kitesurfing is much higher and potentially devastating. This injury
potential is not only to the kitesurfer but to bystanders. Our weather and
launch conditions can be highly variable along with the level of risk present
from one week to the next.
I am currently trying to verify a fatality that was reported in France from a
year or two ago to a young girl presumably killed by a runaway kite control
bar. I have had a few limited corroborating reports that this actually
happened but have not received enough information to give full details of the
exact causes and circumstances. If anyone has more information on this
accident, please email it to me privately. We really have to be aware of
these incidents and act to avoid causing injury to others and hey while we
are at it, lets try to cut down on the injuries to ourselves. Kite leashes
may be a pain in the butt to use but the potential cost of not using them,
near other people and cars, is way too high.
I think that the solution comes down to strong, effective communication and
building very widespread awareness of the not only the upside of kitesurfing
but more critically what can go wrong and how to avoid it. It is more than
flying a really large kite just like a toy kite on steroids, it is much more
and folks need to realize that before they get their hands on the gear. They
need to spend all their time on land with a sport or trainer kite. I have
seen guys for hours on land playing with full sized traction kites and
putting themselves and others at risk. Of course I go up to them and say all
this and even offer to give them some in-water tips on body dragging but this
isn't enough. I encourage all kitesurfers, if you see some new guys out
playing with a full sized traction kite on land to give them some tactful,
effective advice to change to a sport kite while on land but most importantly
getting lessons. I always say that they could easily trash their expensive
kite without the lessons which has effect, sometimes.
A harder area is dealing with the experienced guys who fly in ways that put
others and kitesurfing access for all of us at risk. Other than tactful
communication and peer pressure I really don't know what else we can do at
this point. Hopefully, the motivations of self interest and preservation
will shove them into safer modes of operation if someone patiently points out
what can happen.
We are about to lose a favorite launch of mine in Miami, Virginia Key Beach,
that I have been going to for THREE YEARS to a ban. Why, because of newbies
flying at this technical intermediate or better launch didn't know any better
and/or ignored good advice. Also and more critically because experienced
guys flew and launched too close to bystanders, windsurfers and each other
and would blast inside the buoyed swim area all day long. Oh and also
insisted on flying without kite leashes thereby sending the odd out of
control missle through windsurfers and to the beach. Finally the occassional
rider slamming into a hard landing out of control onshore has a lot to do
with this as well.
We need to talk about safe practices, we need to effectively spread the word
through retailers, kitesurfer associations, through the kitesurfing media and
most importantly to each other. We need to make these simple precautions
COMMON KNOWLEDGE and not new information as is the case today. If you are
selling a used kite, you should be thinking about more than getting a buyer
in place, you should also be thinking about what you both stand to lose if
your buyer goes out and causes harm because no one insisted he seek lessons.
Too many guys are in and often repeating critical mistakes in the learning
curve, globally, for the good of the sport. We need to communicate
effectively to reduce this trend, if we want to keep riding without heavy
restrictions and bans. Lets look out for and try to help each other. In the
process we will be helping to assure our continued kitesurfing access.
<< I think it as dangerous to teach someone on a small kite in loads of
wind. The real moral of this story is to teach people PROPERLY using
not much power. Don't teach friends. Pay for a lesson from a school
if you want to help. And once they have the kite skills then you
move them to more power(big or small kite depending on the wind)
Also, don't teach in retarded places....roads, sidewalks, rocks,
power lines, cars.....this is not the place to teach!!!!
All the deaths seem to happen where the person hits walls, rocks, or
other crap that shouldn't be in the kite lesson area. This is nuts.
You need room to make mistakes cus they do happen even with the best
teachers and methods. The key is little power, lots of room, and
experienced teachers who know what problems to expect!
<< This is the most worrying aspect of being a retailer, at the front line so
We are regularly bombarded with the big ego dudes, but I have taken a much
tougher stance with them, I immediately acknowledge their background, but
point out that kiteboarding is 80% kite control, and if they do not focus on
that they will end up dead or in hospital. This usually leads into all the
people who have died and who are maimed, customer has usually stopped
talking about themselves at this point and starts asking questions, so a
normal conversation can ensue.
Then there are the ones who are in a hurry, if they don't drop that number
real quick I tell them I will not sell them any kites as we do not want to
be responsible for the death or hospitalisation.
But by far the best way to get them to shut up and listen is to put
something quite big in their mits and let them feel the power, it always has
a sobering effect. We will then book them in for a lesson or get them onto a
trainer kite, we try to get these people into an extended body dragging
session on the first lesson or asap too.
I would agree that most preventable injuries happen to these people though.
It was one of the interesting things we all learned in doing the Wipika
Instructor training, the patterns of the psychology of a learning
kiteboarder, and basically we were taught to recognise overconfidence and to
warn people sternly, that in our experience they were heading for a fall.
If people do not obey our commands at the school, the lesson ends. It can
restart if we get firm agreement to abide by our rules. I have only had to
threaten this once or twice in hundreds of lessons we have done now. Hope
Anyone else care to share any hints or tips in dealing with this accident
waiting to happen attitude?
126 Beach St, Coogee, NSW, Australia 2034
Open 7 Days 9.30 - 5.30
Also at 386 Latrobe Terrace Geelong Vic
* -----Original Message-----
* From: KiteHIGH [mailto:andy@k...]
* Sent: Wednesday, 16 January 2002 6:44
* To: email@example.com
* Subject: Re: [ksurf] Bad news from Brazil
* ><<<Surely the moral of this incident, is not to use a 16m kite
* to teach your
* >friends to kitesurf. I doubt any kitesurf schools have 16m kites in their
* >teaching quivers.>>>
* I "think" I now know what the BIGGEST dangers in kiting.
* OVERCONFIDENCE with knowledge and ESPECIALLY without knowledge. I see it
* when teaching, guys that rip in other sports and don't understand
* the power
* and danger in kiting, some relate to to surfing or wakeboarding.
* A quick couple of kitemare stories quickly seems to help, not to be
* arrogant, but to KEEP the person SAFE when they leave the school and when
* IN the school.
* Does the overconfidence seem to be a common thread in the injuries going
* on, of course many are just totally unrelated, a cowboy chopper pilot
* sucking up a kite into its rotors in front of Stefano for example!
* Comments please?
* Andy Heaton
* E: support@k...
* P: 1 866 646 7835 (TOLL Free USA)
* P: +001 808 579 9849 (International)
* F: 1 520 563 2760