[The rules described in this page may be common knowledge to kitesurfers but may not be so to other water users. When in doubt, a kitesurfer should try to avoid other water users at all cost]
As on land or in the air, there is a need for some basic right-of-way rules that all water-crafts must observe to avoid collision on the water. There is a need for some standard kitesurfing rules applicable to all kitesurfers and other water users. Similar to windsurfing, one can kitesurf on flat water or in wave. There should be 2 sets of rule for kitesurfing, one set for traditional sailing on flat water and another set for wave sailing (they could be contradicting each other).
More and more kiters are sharing limited playing grounds
As a general rule-of- thumb, all traditional sailing and wave sailing rules should be applicable for kitesurfing. Check http://www.sailing.org/newrules/rulesframes/default.html for an excellent description of racing rules of sailing.
All right-of-way rules require a water-craft to keep clear of another. The distance to keep clear is not quite exactly specified; however, the racing rules do specify some restrictions for the two sailing boats when they are approaching within two hull lengths of each other. Thus, as a rule of thumb, it's wise to keep a distance of twice the hull length from the water-craft to be cleared. This is fairly straight forward for all water-crafts except kitesurfing crafts. For a kitesurfing craft, the kite and the lines make this much more complicated. We will discuss this "keep clear" requirement in details after reviewing the common sense, traditional sailing and wave sailing rules.
General Common Sense Rules on the Water
Following are the general common sense rules on the water:
Traditional Sailing Rules
There are three main rules to be observed when two sailing water-crafts approaching each other on the water:
Wave Sailing Rules
These are the main rules when wave sailors approaching each other in the wave:
Kitesurfing Enhancement to the Sailing Rules
All the rules above are applicable to kitesurfing. The only enhancement we need to define is how a water-craft shall keep clear of the other if one or both of the water-crafts is a kitesurfing craft.
When kitesurfing, a kitesurfer can fly the kite anywhere in the forward half portion of the wind window. This means that the kitesurfer and the kite normally occupy a space equal a quarter-of-the-sphere that has the kitesurfer at the center and the radius is the line length. If we consider that to be the space to be kept clear or the "hull" of a kitesurfing craft then it could be up to 25 m in length and 25 m in width (25 m is the average modern line length). If we apply the rule-of-thumb keeping clear distance of two hull lengths, this means that we have to keep clear a distance of up to 50 m. This would drastically reduce the number of kitesurfers sailing at a certain place.
Fortunately, the angle where a kitesurfer normally fly the kite is between 30 and 60 degrees vertically. At these angles, the kite is normally high enough in the air that the clearing distance is more or less dependent on the highest point of the other water-craft. If the clearing distance is set at a distance equals 3 times the height of the highest point of the other water-craft, that will allow the upwind kitesurfer to sail with the kite as low as 20 degrees vertically (regardless of the line length).
As two kitesurfers approach each other, the highest points of the kitesurfers could be equal to the line length or 25m. Even if both kitesurfers keep the kites stationary in a moving forward position at 45 degrees vertical, the lines should never collide. However, the upwind kitesurfer should fly the kite high and the downwind kitesurfer should fly the kite low. This way, the two kites will never collide and both kitesurfers have a large margin of error. In such case, the highest point would only be 2.5 m and the minimum clearing distance is only 7.5 m.
The following table summarizes the minimum clearing distance for most water-crafts (either the kitesurfer has to keep clear or the other water-craft has to keep clear) when they approach a kitesurfer:
Water-craft Highest Point Minimum Clearing Distance Other Requirements
Surfers 2.5 7.5 m keep clear of surfers at all the times
Water-crafts 2 - 3 m 9 m PWCs have to keep clear of the
kitesurfer all the times
Small to Medium
Motorized Boats 5 m 15 m Motorized boats have to keep
clear of the kitesurfer all the times
Small Sailboats 5 m 15 Traditional and wave sailing
rules should be applied
Kitesurfers 2.5 m 7.5 m Traditional and wave sailing rule should
(upwind kite is high and downwind kite is low) be applied. Furthermore, the upwind
kitesurfer should fly the kite higher than
45 degrees vertically and the downwind
kitesurfer should fly the kite lower than
45 degree vertically
Boats 10 - 15 m 30 - 45 m Motorized boats have to keep clear of
the kitesurfer all the time. If the large
motorized boat is in narrow, restricted
water for its size, the kitesurfer has to
Sailboats 10 - 15 m 30 - 45 m Traditional sailing rules should be applied
Sailboats Very high Line length Traditional sailing rules should be applied.
If the large sailboat is in narrow, restricted
water for its size, the kitesurfer has to
Ships Very high Line length Kitesurfer has to keep clear of commercial
ships all the times
Without the presence of large boats, the minimum clearing distance is normally at 15 m.
The minimum clearing distance as described in the above table is only applicable if the kitesurfer is upwind of the other water-craft. If the kitesurfer is downwind of the other water-craft, the rule-of-thumb clearing distance of two hull lengths should be applied (unless the other water-craft is a also a kitesurfer).
Additional Kitesurfing Rules
The Art of Staying Alive
Don't kitesurf in severe weather (storm, thunderstorm, etc.) unless you absolutely must do so.
When in doubt of the weather condition or equipment, stop kiting.
Use your "automated" (dead-man) safety devices when launching, landing or near hard objects.
Don't attach yourself to the kite in certain conditions (launching, landing, near hard objects)
Wear appropriate protection devices (helmet, PFD or impact vest, etc.).
Go slow and be careful in crowded place (near shore, people and hard objects, etc.).
Don't jump in crowded place (near shore, people and hard objects, etc.).
Be alert and prepare to handle unexpected risks (extreme gusts, other "crazy" kiters, submerged rocks, etc.).
Take a Kiting Lesson.
Don't Drink and Kite.
Those most basic rules and common sense all kiters should have. Now read on for more safety details.
Use the following safety guidelines when kitesurf:
Safety Release Systems
A kite should come with a working safety release system. Don't buy any kite without a working safety release system. There are a number of safety release system currently used by the kitesurfers depending on the type of kite and control device they use.
2 Line inflatable safety release system:
For a 2 line inflatable, the safety release system makes one line about 1 kite span longer than the other line to disable the kite when you stop holding the control bar. The systems have a safety leash attaching to your left wrist (or harness) to allow you to retrieve the control bar.
4 Line inflatable safety release system:
4 line inflatable kite safety system should be similar to a 2 line inflatable. For a 4 line inflatable, the safety release system makes one line (either one of the front line or one of the back line) about 1 kite span longer than all the rest to disable the kite when you stop holding the control bar. The systems have a safety leash attaching to your left wrist (or harness) to allow you to retrieve the control bar.
For a 4 line inflatable, the modern kiters normally use a "spin leash" that allows them to "unspin" the lines easily after a spin jump. Most older spinning leash system requires that the kitesurfer permanently attached to the chicken loop (the depower/empower line) even on land. One of the modern spinning leash system on the market is the Swivel Bar from KiteLoose which does not require the rider to permanently attached to the chicken loop.
Most inflatable can be rigged with a 5th line. The safety leash can be attached to the 5th line instead of any of the other 4 lines.
Flat LEI safety release system
For Flat LEIs, the kite can be fully depowered while hooking in; however, the kiter should still wear a safety leash similar to a traditional LEI.
A flat LEI bar
2 Line foil safety release system:
There is no way to safely disable a 2 line foil except for trying to land it on the side of the wind window or to dump it in the water!
3 Line foil safety release system:
The safety release system for a 3 line foil is a simple Velcro tape wrist band (or harness band) that attaches to the center leader lines on the bar (which attaches to the brake lines or the trailing edge of the kite). If you attached the safety leash to your harness (via a Velcro tape or a snap shackle), you can pass the safety release line through the harness loop to make it a "spin safety leash" allowing you to spin the bar to untangle the line.
4 Line foil safety release system:
The safety release for a 4 line foil with handles is a simple Velcro tape wrist band (or harness band) that attaches to the kitesurfer's left wrist (or harness). From the wrist band (or harness band), there are two lines (regular 500 lb. kite line is fine). One line around 1'6" (or longer if you use shorter harness line, I use around 2' harness line) attaches to the same spot on the left brake leader line as the left brake line. The other line around 4' attaches to the same spot on the right brake leader line as the right brake line. To disable the kite, just drop the handles.
For a 4 line foil with bar, the safety system is similar to a 4 line inflatable.
Test Your Quick Release Systems
Some safety systems are completely dependent on the quick release systems (especially for 4 line inflatable kites). Don't rely on the claims of other kitesurfers, equipment manufacturers or dealers, test your quick release systems yourself (biological or mechanical) each time you go out as follows:
1. If you shackle in then tie the shackle line to the bar and suspending yourself while shackled in. Make sure the quick release of the shackle works within 10 seconds by locating it and activating it while suspending yourself.
Now your can feel better that your systems the way you installed them on your bar are tested with your harness and clothing set up with the load of your weight (if possible, you may want to wear some extra weight while doing the testing)
A prudent kitesurfer may want to repeat the same 10 steps after putting the quick release systems in water and mixed them up in sand for a while (step 5 and 7 does not need to be repeated).
A prudent kitesurfer may want to have 2 or 3 quick systems (preferable of two different types) so if one fails, the others can be used.
A kitesurfer must be familiar with the following techniques to self-rescue or to rescue other kitesurfers or any other water users.
Avoid Getting Lofted
Getting lofted is one of the most serious dangers of kitesurfing. Due to the high power requirement of kitesurfing, a serious wind gust can send the kitesurfer upward if he/she has the kite park overhead. Getting lofted in the water is fun (it is normally called tea bagging). It is getting lofted on land that normally results in serious injuries or death.
Following is the recommendation from Rick Iossi on how to avoid getting lofted:
General Safety Guidelines
· If you lose your kite or board whilst on the water or land , always report you are safe to the rescue services so they do not waste time and money looking for you. It is recommended that you write your name, address and contact number on all your equipment.
· If new or careless kiters show up, talk to them with your friends about what´s at risk. Take the time to explain how to safely get into the sport, and where to obtain adequate and professional instruction.
All Kitesport users are responsible for their own safety and that of affected bystanders. Just because we´ve taken the care to publish this voluntary Code of Conduct we cannot be held liable for your actions. This Code of Conduct will be updated regularly as a result of continued developments in safety and kitesports equipment, consultation with local focus groups and other interested parties.
This is by no means a final and definitive list of safety guidelines.