Kiteboarding Safety: Launching your kite
Launching and Landing kites is a great opportunity to hurt yourself! In nearly four years of teaching, I have seen my fair share of mishaps with people trying to launch or land their kites.
First, let’s talk about the proper way to launch your kite.
There are two people involved in this process (unless you are doing a self launch/land), the kiter and the assistant. Both have responsibilities and both need to understand what they are doing.
Step 1: The kiter should start downwind of his/her kite. The assistant is next to the kite and can be holding it or leave it on the beach for the moment. The kiter should first test their safety system to ensure that it is functioning properly. The last thing you want is to be out in the water and find that your safety is stuck (you can avoid this by always testing it and keeping it free of sand by cleaning it after each session). Once the safety is tested, hook into the kite with the leash, chicken loop and donkey dick.
Step 2: The assistant should pick up the kite and hold it in a C-Shape. One of the wing tips should be resting on the ground with the inside of the kite facing the kiter. Secure the kite at the leading edge with your bottom hand and use the top hand to help brace/stabilize the kite. The kiter should now be perpendicular to the wind with tension in the lines. During this step, the kiter double checks the lines to ensure there is no line inversion (where lines are crossed from an improper setup). If the lines are crossed, either walk out your lines once more or fix it from this position. Note: communicate well with your assistant if you fix it from this position as you will need to unhook from the kite and untangle it at the bar. If your assistant lets go of the kite, it puts you and the people on the beach in a dangerous situation.
Step 3: As long as the lines are OK, the kiter can now start walking upwind of the kite slowly. This puts the kite into the wind window. It is key that this is done slowly to avoid putting the kite too far into the wind window. This not only presents a risk to you as it will launch the kite with power, but also puts your assistant in a bad situation as the kite is likely to knock him/her over and they may lose the kite. Always walk slowly. When the canopy becomes tight and stops flapping in the wind, it is ready to launch. Give your assistant a thumbs up, the signal that you are ready to launch. The assistant should simply let go of the kite (a common mistake is pushing or tossing the kite up, this is not necessary). If the kite is not ready to launch (e.g. not far enough into the wind window), the assistant should not release the kite, but instead communicate with the kiter about the problem.
Step 4: The kiter should slowly steer the kite along the edge of the wind window and stop before getting to 12. Avoid pulling in on the bar during your launch. By doing this, you cause the kite to drift into the power zone (which on the beach, is not a good place to be).
-Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure that you have enough space to launch and extra space in case something goes wrong. There should be nothing in front of you that can hurt you (e.g. solid objects). On that note, always launch towards the water. If something happens, you will get pulled into the water instead of along the beach.
-If you make a mistake during the launch, let go of the bar, put your weight in your heels and sit down. It is easier to control your body by sitting down and dragging this way (as opposed to being dragged on your face!). A common mistake is to try to run with the kite, but this can cause injuries to knees and ankles and you are more likely to get pulled forward.
-If you are uncomfortable with launching, it’s ok to sit down once your kite is ready and then give the thumbs up. Steer the kite up gently and stabilize it and then go into the water. By sitting down, you reduce the risk of injury. This is not common-but don’t worry, it is better to do what you are comfortable with!
-By launching the kite towards the water, you can even set the kite in the water once you have launched. This allows you to walk into the water quite easily. This is a good way to baby step into launching your kite properly. Once you are more comfortable controlling the kite, you won’t need to do this.
When we are done, we also need to know how to land the kite safely.
The concept for landing the kite is very similar to launching the kite. When you are ready to land the kite, first indicate this by tapping the top of your head. Your assistant should respond with the same signal to indicate, “I see you, I understand, I will help you land your kite”. Do not assume that someone knows you want to land your kite without this signal exchange.
Kiter: Slowly steer your kite along the edge of the wind window towards your assistant. Ideally, they can simply walk to your kite and grab it. However, if you are learning and having a hard time stabilizing the kite for your assistant, once it is almost on the ground, let go of the bar. By letting go of the bar, you allow the kite to fall to the ground. Once you have done this, do not grab the bar. When your assistant has taken hold of the kite, walk forward. This releases the tension from the lines and allows your assistant to handle the kite easier.
Assistant: First, be careful when landing a kite as you can easily get hit by a kite by approaching it incorrectly (and I can say from experience that a hard hit can knock you out!). Once you have seen and returned the signal to land the kite, wait until the kiter begins to steer the kite down along the edge of the wind window. Approach the kite from upwind. Stay away from the kite until you can walk forward and grab it or the kite is on the ground. If you approach too quickly, you can put yourself in a position where you are hit by the kite. Once you have control of the kite, put it on the beach and secure it with sand.
-Never put yourself downwind of a kite, especially near the lines. It is common to see assistants approach a kite from the downwind position. If the kiter loses control or the kite drifts farther into the wind window. Kite lines are very strong and can easily cause serious injury.