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How safe do you think gliding off big hills with a kite is?

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How safe do you think gliding off big hills with a kite is?

Postby waynepjh » Fri Nov 25, 2011 4:49 am

After years of gliding off hills and getting huge air I am surprised that there has not been many accidents. It's not that it's a hard thing to do but man when I am up there and start looking at the 4 little lines I'm dangling from I wonder what the hell am I doing! I have had two huge falls from outer space one kiting and one paragliding I am scared of strike 3. Really curious what others feel about this part of the sport. It sure is fun though!

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Re: How safe do you think gliding off big hills with a kite

Postby crabnebula » Fri Nov 25, 2011 7:03 am

HI here are my thoughts.......
the complicated ones first:
I had a private opportunity to pull test a lot of gear and for what it is worth, the lines IF NEW are very strong in regards to the reasonable loads kiters, while gliding put on them.

the lines being dyneema are alone, as a single strand, easily capable of body weight (try it yourself!! hang from a tree), so i think that the form of three or four is more redundant flying line wise. But the real questions for me come into the attachment points on the bar with the leads line.....Ive seen bars break on the outside handle as well as in the center from mis-use abuse crashes and just weird events in normal use.

Foil vs LEI is a moot point i think. think hard kiteloops in the water.....paragliding technology etc....not really rocket science in regards to construction, but rather aerodynamics that are hard in my mind. The materials are beefed up on LEI's and are very redundant on foils so not really an issue...

My fear sits with a few things..

new vs. old lines, new vs. old lead/trimming lines (grey braided dyneema), canopy condition and attachment points...think SALT WATER and compression! Not good! Pollution in the snow etc.., chicken loop stress, oxidization and or rust/corrosion in metal parts in chicken loop, spreader end stress....compression from UN checked knots left in place for many many sessions. etc.......
so ok...rambling a little,
MY GREAT fear.....ME!

If I am careful,....paying attention and feeling the wind, kite, and my condition all around, I can see that some days are good for being up high and other days are bad. regardless of the perfect wind and snow that may be.. it is my thresh hold for stress. I can only take so much day after day. it is stressful but in a good way to kite. science calls this "eustress" not "disstress".. after that I am worried for folks that dont check their gear, replace lines often enough, replace there spreader bar and replace the harness or any nylon product (nylon or aramid) when it is fuzzy, stiff, faded, bumpy, chemically exposed, burred, partially cut (ski or snowboard edge), older then 4-6 years, etc etc.
things can break and lead to the classic YOU make the gear, I get hurt, I blame YOU. I am afraid for those who are just being careless.

But really, the big thing, to me, it is SOOO fun being under a kite being up high relative to normal riding.

The terrain has to be unique, the wind steady, sun for non flat conditions....I am certainly drawn to gliding....and jumping high....but within reason.

that is all I think,

crabnebula out

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Re: How safe do you think gliding off big hills with a kite

Postby jakemoore » Fri Nov 25, 2011 8:28 am

I've had a chicken loop come undone a few times by suprise. More than once from gear failure. Once from thoughtlessly resting my thumbs on the underside of the push away mushroom. And I've come unhooked by accident as I think everybody has. The accidental unhook has never happened in air, but I have looked down in a jump to find the loop only half hooked over the harness hook and ready to separate. And I've had bars fail in the depower strap and in the center line. Luckily I have always been over water and within swimming distance. I look forward to trying paragliding and snowkiting, but personally wouldn't desire to dangle so high over ground under a kite.

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Re: How safe do you think gliding off big hills with a kite

Postby sq225917 » Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:57 am

It's probably a little risky, after all we can all swim, but last time I checked none of us could fly.

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Re: How safe do you think gliding off big hills with a kite

Postby gmb13 » Fri Nov 25, 2011 11:21 am


We at Flysurfer have a lot of experience with soaring, and also with Paragliding as our Parent Company is Skywalk Paragliders.

A lot of kiters do not know what forces can build up whilst soaring. Paragliders are tested up to loads as much as 3 tons before they are released onto the Market.

During the loops whilst soaring with a kite, the same forces can build up, and Kitesurf kites are not really tested and designed for those forces.This is why there is a warning on all kites stating that it is not meant for "Flying".

We decided last year that we will not promote kite soaring in any of our Official Videos anymore, as the risk is too high that something can go wrong. All it takes is a slight weakness in any part of your equipment and you are in serious trouble. It may be a bridle line, pulley, harness strap, harness hook etc etc etc any one of these things would possibly fail. There are a number of Videos of close calls online, and its amazing that these guys survived.

Paragliders have a reserve canopy if something goes wrong, we don't

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Re: How safe do you think gliding off big hills with a kite

Postby waynepjh » Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:33 pm

I had a leader line break on me when I was pretty high see "snowkiting crash" on YouTube but that bar and lines had over 200 sessions on it. My fault! Now I go much bigger but always on new gear and daily inspections of all connections. I love to fly and have been a paraglider pilot for 14 years. I appreciate the input and really want to here more opinions and redundancy systems that people have. For now I am working on staying lower to the ground while gliding because I just can't help myself.

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Re: How safe do you think gliding off big hills with a kite

Postby Marty » Fri Nov 25, 2011 4:34 pm

This is a post from 2008.
A letter about gliding from Ozone designer Rob Whittall.


I have had the great fortune to snowkite this year, with the Rod Whittall, designer of the Ozone Frenzy/Manta/Access foils.
Although I mainly fly inflatables, we have had many conversations about backcountry snowkiting and gliding.

With all the videos on youtube, and with our locals getting so much heights on the glides,
he has put together his views on this growing aspect of our sport.


Hi there kiting friends,
I would like to put forward my opinion in the hope that it will help prevent the inevitable.
It is only my humble opinion and by no means do I mean it to sound like it is gospel in any way. I am putting forward what I see as reality from my position and history and that is all. I am sure there is much to be added that I do not know but as to date this is what I have to offer.

A brief background.
I have spent 18 years in paraglider design and development as a test pilot and designer. As a test pilot I was deeply involved with certification and the safety of the paragliders both in flight and structurally regarding the integrity of the materials involved in manufacturing.
As a designer of paragliders that have to pass a rigorous certification, I am used to thinking in terms safety and calculating forces and stress to avoid material fatigue or failure.
I have also learnt that if it can go wrong it will go wrong.
I have also witnessed the loss of life and permanent disability.

First off you must all understand that to myself and Ozone, Snowkiting does not involve flying off hills, That is another sport that I choose to take part in called "being pretty stupid".
Chasta has been going big for five years now but Ozone has never promoted that side of what he is doing because we and I do not consider it safe or good promotion for the sport of Snowkiting. We could have shown Chasta at over 200ft years ago but that would be foolish of us to do that as that is not what we want to promote as Snowkiting. Watch Chasta today and you will see that he flies a long time but never high, he has worked out that that is just dangerous and not very hard, it takes more skill to keep it close to the ground and reduces the risk a little.

And I am the first to hold up my hand and say that I realize just how thin a line I am walking when I fly my kite off the hill. I owe it to myself to understand the dangers and decide if I want to take the risk. I know that an equipment failure at 40ft plus could easily end in serious injury or death depending how lucky I were to be on that particular day!
If you want to be stupid like me then first remember that all your equipment should be in top condition and preferably new! Do not use old kites of any sort, foil or inflatable. Use a climbing harness and carabineer to hook into as well as your kite harness. Inspect your lines, bar and kite for any signs of ANYTHING and if you find anything wrong replace it.
Your life is hanging under something that is not designed for what you are doing so don’t expect it to always go they way you think it is going to.

Weigh up the pros and cons.
I choose a Foil.
I know I am going to fly of hills, I am after all in love with flying one way or another. From what I know I choose a Foil kite for the simple reason that I think it is a safer option. I like the fact that the load of the pilot is more evenly distributed through the lines, the double surface and ribs. It makes perfect sense to me that this is better than say four or five attachment points. I also know they are built to the same standard as a paragliders and I know paragliders are incredibly strong. Paraglider load test takes the maximum pilot weight and then takes it to 8G. I would estimate we could load a foil kite up to about 5G with a 80kg load. We have not tested this but we have tested the Bullet speed wing 10m to 600kg no problemo!

The reason I don't personally want to ride a tube on the snow.
The very highly tensioned single surface and the tube at high pressure in very cold temperatures where materials start to get brittle, does not excite me. I don't like the fact that there are so few attachment points distributing my weight. I would worry about them splitting down one of the seams as I have seen happen. I don't want to pump! If you get a puncture your day is over. I want to be able to launch and land easily and I want small package when it is packed. For sure if you want to just do the same things as you do on water they work fine but if you want to ride up mountains and adventure all over the place like Chasta does then they are not a good option. Inflatables kick ass on the water but I don't think I will fly one on the snow.

Now having said that we are all fundamentally attached to four lines, bar and a harness… So it comes down to you as to which part you think is going to fail, the lines or the kite. I do know that we have tested well-used flying lines and the results have been very good with lines only dropping 10 to 30% after a full season on the snow and water. I know I can inspect the lines and bar easily and I change my lines regularly during the season. So the kite for me is what I worry about. So as pilots we can trust or take anything for granted.

I don't care really what you do or what type of kite you fly but you should really think about and understand the dangers you are really exposed to. Also remember that when you have a bad accident not only are you going to have a bad day, your friends are as well because the are going to be dealing with your broken ass instead of ripping it up.

Think before you fly!

Take it easy and enjoy.

Rob Whittall.

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Re: How safe do you think gliding off big hills with a kite

Postby bozoned » Fri Nov 25, 2011 5:21 pm

my big air addiction started with windsurfing in the gorge. getting 25 foot airs on a 3.0 day was so much fun back then. with the 2-line slingshots that I started on jumping was a real mystery we talked about how to "throw it" for hours. then one day i suddenly got launched and of course dropped like a rock. Jumping is what keeps me kiting. I tell people the first jump is what will hook you for life. Over the years though, ive seen and had some crazy stuff happen while boosting. i like being as high up as what i feel i could survive if i did drop. of course this changes on those big pow days, but gliding off big hills is too scary for me. you guys get my respect for those big glides!

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Re: How safe do you think gliding off big hills with a kite

Postby bad monkey » Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:59 pm

Seriously Wayne, the gliding I have seen in your videos is most definitely high risk behavior. That kind of gliding looks fun but I am way to chicken for that madness. I understand many of you guys have paragliding backgrounds and that has to help with keeping it together way up high. I think I would freeze up, pee my pants and kiteloop to my death. We all have to decide how much risk we are willing to assume based on our abilities and the equipment. I think the fact you started this thread answers your own question. Gliding with a kite is very dangerous. I also think it looks very fun and I am not passing judgment. I should sell my motorcycle too but I'm not planning on that eiher. I maintain it, keep good tires on it and send the speedo into the triple digits on a regular basis. Both of these behaviors are dangerous but the excitement factor makes it worth it, or so it seems. Looking forward to your next video.

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Re: How safe do you think gliding off big hills with a kite

Postby Billy B. » Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:43 pm

I like to glide and some days get caught up in the moment and just keep going higher and higher.

I also have new kites and lines, as well as a new harness and some times back up my chicken loop with climbing gear.

That said four or five lines, a kite harness, and a pump up kite are not a speed wing or a paraglider. I accept that but often see people who glide on old gear, that seem to assume since we can jump big on terrain, that flying on terrain is just as safe. I think for a while there was only a handful of people going big, many of the euros and the kite companies have decided kites are not for flying as early as 2006, of course I respect the opinion of riders who can glide commenting on gliding, but I have heard a lot of comments from people who can not about how unsafe it is...

I am curious as to what experienced flyers have to say about this topic.

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