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how to help a kiteboarder in need of rescue

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Postby Admin » Tue Oct 08, 2002 6:18 pm

Kiteboarder in Need of Rescue?

August 27, 2002

Kiteboarders are becoming more common on beaches across the globe. With kites and riders flying at speed through the air, the sport can provide an entertaining spectacle to watchers on shore. Sometimes though, the kite isn’t flying but is on the water with the rider. This situation can cause watchers onshore, including aquatic rescue personnel, to wonder if rescue might be needed. Whether a kiteboarder is fully skilled or, particularly, if he is still learning, his kite may occasionally spend more time on the water than in the air. This is not necessarily an indication that a rescue is needed. The kiteboarder may just be sorting things out to relaunch his kite, to use the kite as a sail to pull himself into shore or may be swimming in--slowly. Riders sometimes spend quite a while doing this. The last thing kiteboarders want to do is to create avoidable false alarms for rescue personnel. Following are guidelines for consideration by both riders and rescuers when a kite is on the water:


1. IMPORTANT: If you have to work on your downed-kite or swim-into-shore for whatever reason you should give the OK sign to guards or park officials onshore periodically until you land (see Figure 1). To perform this signal simply to hold one hand palm down on your head while looking at the lifeguard on shore for five to ten seconds. This should be repeated to verify that it has been seen and understood. You should discuss this with rescue personnel ahead of time, as this signal isn't universally recognized yet.

(Figure 1 - I am OK)

2. If you are going to go through a surf zone, MAKE SURE that your lines are wrapped on your bar ahead of time. Start by carefully wrapping at least one wingspan length OR MORE of two lines from one side of the kite first to safely depower the kite. In strong winds this can be difficult to do and gloves can help. Also MAKE SURE that you have a firm grip on your board. Use of a reel leash for TEMPORARY attachment to the board as needed, would be an option. Ideally your kite should be rolled and tied before hitting the surf zone.

3. Responsible kiteboarders should be aware of self-rescue techniques and try to self-rescue within safe limits. If you are rescued, whether you need it or not, be POLITE AND RESPECTFUL at all times. Rescue personnel are generally strong watermen and have a hard job to do, which you may have just complicated! So be appreciative, these people deserve it along with your respect.

4. If you need help because you are injured, excessively tired, being carried offshore by the wind or current and don’t think you can make it to shore on your own, BLOW YOUR WHISTLE (it is an inexpensive and very useful safety device they may save you from going hoarse from yelling), and wave one or both hands (see Figure 2). If you are wearing an impact pfd, staying afloat should not be problem (**SEE NOTE BELOW). Continue signaling periodically, while trying to swim closer to shore, IF you are comfortably able to, until the guard onshore acknowledges your signals. Other kiteboarder signals are provided at: ... EFERENCES/

If we can adopt universally recognized signals it should make our riding easier and safer.

Nearby (Figure 2 - Help/Attention) Distant


1. If rescue personnel can't see much of the kiteboarder or can't tell if he is moving or swimming towards shore after an interval, it would be advisable to rescue him.

2. A kiteboarder in the water more than a quarter mile offshore is hard to make out. That is, it is hard to tell if they are moving or swimming. Rescue personnel are advised to carefully examine the kiteboarder through binoculars (from an elevated position if possible). Look for movement, e.g. trying to relaunch the kite, winding in the lines, swimming in, bailing out using the kite as a sail on the water, etc.
Alternately, look for shoreward progress of the kite, hopefully faster than wind and waves would send it without assistance. If the wind and waves are onshore, these factors alone should eventually bring the kiteboarder to shore.

3. If the rider is moving and doing something productive to get himself into shore as suggested above, leave him alone but check periodically to verify that he is still moving.

4. If it appears that the rider is being moved out of the area, offshore or to some other inappropriate place by wind and/or current, or if the rider appears to have stopped moving into shore for an extended period or has stopped moving entirely, the weather is deteriorating or the sun is setting, it would be a good idea to send assistance by boat if possible. Effective rescues can also be undertaken by waverunner or paddleboard.

5. Approach from the windward, AVOIDING THE KITE LINES at all times. If the rider is awake and able, ask him to secure his kite, i.e. deflate the leading edge and roll it or deflate all the bladders and tie it up. He should then wrap up his lines. Only when the kite and lines are secured by an able rider should he be brought onboard the rescue craft. It is important to observe this sequence as the kite can exert great force potentially lifting or cutting individuals in the area of the rescue IF the kite is not first properly disabled.

6. If the rider is unconscious or unable to deal with his gear, the second person on the rescue boat should jump into the water and CUT ANY THREE LINES from the kite bar. Approach the kite from the side. Compensate for the speed of downwind drift or movement in any surf or current. Avoid approaching from upwind OR downwind, because from downwind the kite could drift quickly into you and from upwind you or your vessel could get caught in the lines, which usually trail upwind of the kite. This should depower the kite as it drifts, detach the control bar from the victim (unhook the control bar, release the snap shackle), and do the remainder of the rescue per normal procedures. If you have time or another craft, have it intercept the kite, deflate the leading edge, roll and tie it, the wrap up the lines on the bar. Experienced/trained personnel may wish to use less destructive means of taking two lines from one side of the kite however the victim’s welfare needs to remain as the first priority.

7. If a rescuer is solo, he should first depower the kite and set it adrift as described before dealing with the victim per normal procedures. Some rescue personnel carry hook knives and gloves specifically for this purpose (see Figure 3) as they have no exposed tip or sharp edge to cause accidents. Hook knives are readily available online at hang gliding/paragliding retail sites.

(Figure 3 - Hook Knife)

8. If a runaway kite or kiteboarding with a floating kite is coming ashore, try to clear bathers and bystanders from its path. Approach the kite from the side. Compensate for the speed of downwind drift or movement in any surf or current. Avoid approaching from upwind OR downwind, because from downwind the kite could drift quickly into you, & from upwind you could get caught in the lines, which usually trail upwind of the kite. Try grabbing the kite by ONE WING TIP ONLY or the center of the fat leading edge if all else fails, in the shallows--before it comes ashore. NEVER GRAB more than one line of a stationary or very slowly moving kite. NEVER TRY TO GRAB ANY OF THE LINES OF A MOVING KITE as a serious cuts may occur. Bring the kite on to the beach, allow the kite to flag downwind and pile 20 lbs. of sand on the wing tip. Disconnect both lines from ONE SIDE of the kite or disconnect them all. Pull the plug in the center of the long fat bladder at the leading edge of the kite to deflate it. If the kite is trailing lines, coil them up or wrap them on the control bar AFTER the kite has been thoroughly anchored.

Other suggestions for rescue of kiteboarders, managing runaway kites and related considerations are given under:

9. Kitesurfer Rescue Information for Lifeguards.doc,
in: ... eferences/

Lifeguard and park ranger orientation to kiteboarding is being encouraged. This allows for first-hand impressions of the sport and equipment to be formed by rescue personnel. The basic skill of how to do an assisted landing of a kite including hand signals is also covered and will save other potential problems at the beach. Possible rescue scenarios should be discussed or even demonstrated by the kiteboarding instructor during these sessions. Your local kiteboarding association, retail shops or instructors could be approached in this regard.

Some ideas for these orientation sessions are given under “Kite Boardingâ€

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