Kiteboarding Safety: Keeping your kite at zenith (12)

When I was first learning how to kiteboard, putting my kite at zenith, or 12, seemed really safe.  In fact, that is what everyone did.  So, when I started teaching as well, I passed along the same information to students.  I had never been told any different and the wind in our area was almost always so mild that it didn’t pose a danger.

The first time I was told any different was during my first hurricane.  We were catching the edge of the storm and the winds were strong-gusting up to 55 mph.  Before putting up my kite, a more experienced rider cautioned me to not bring my kite to 12 as it can cause me to be lofted off the beach (not really something I wanted in wind like that!).

The longer I taught and the more things I saw, the more this made sense.  However, it has never been more clear than when I am teaching in La Boca, Chile.  The spot is at the mouth of a river.  The wind comes over large hills that causes it to be gusty and strong (I haven’t used a kite larger than a 10…and that is rare).

Here, I see a lot of kites at 12…  Consequently, I see a lot of different situations…

1) Kites falling out of the sky: This is pretty common there.  La Boca is a teaching spot.  As a result, almost everyone there is either a student in a lesson, student practicing on their own or (even worse) people trying to learn on their own without lessons.  In a spot with gusty, strong wind, it is difficult to manage the kite at 12.  Students mismanage the bar and cause the kite to fall.  When it falls, instead of letting go of the bar (or better yet, activating their security system), they pull in on the bar and end up getting pulled down the beach.

2) Lofting situations:  This can and does happen.  In fact, the other day, I saw a rider lofted 3 meters in a dune only to get dropped.  In the dunes, you can find all kinds of debris that can present a danger to the rider.  Instead of pulling the safety, the rider was holding the depower line.  I made it over to the rider and pulled the safety (we will talk more about this specific situation later).  Lofting is dangerous and can cause significant injury.

3) Lost control of the kite:  It’s difficult to manage the kite at 12 in a gusty place.  Beginners often lose control of their kites by overcorrecting and end up creating a dangerous situation on the beach.

So, how do you avoid all of this?  It is pretty simple-keep your kite on the edge of the wind window unless you are in the water preparing for a board start!  Even if you are in a place with steady wind, add this to your daily practice.  It’s safer and when you get into a place where the wind is stronger and/or less steady, you won’t inadvertently put yourself and others in a dangerous situation!

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