kitesurfing safety

Kitesurfing Safety: Is Kitesurfing a game of Russian roulette?

When we hear about kitesurfing accidents, we notice that they don’t only happen to beginners. They often happen to intermediate and even advanced kitesurfers. On face value one might assume that beginners make more mistakes, and thus they have more accidents than other kitesurfers.

It’s true that kitesurfing is an extreme sport and that while doing it you are hooked to a powerful kite and doing extreme tricks means, for example, you can easily jump up to 5 meters in the air if you know what you are doing. But in reality, when you are watching kitesurfers in action on a spot, well, you can see that most of them are not doing anything extreme, and not even jumping very high. But still accidents happen.

Can accidents happen in kitesurfing, no matter your level or what you are doing

Our kitesurfing safeties are not perfect!

Let’s talk about kitesurfing safety, and first the three safeties that are available to us when we are flying a kite and something goes wrong. I already made a blog about it here. If you have read it, you’ll already know them and know that they are not perfect.

Let go of the bar:

The first kitesurfing safety that is available, when you lose control or get too much pull from the kite is to let go of the bar. When you do this, the kite stops pulling.
A kitesurfing kite has a profile of a wing, and wind is a flue of air. When air goes through a wing, it creates lift and drag. These two forces then combined create tension in your lines. When you let go of the bar, the angle between the kite and the wind reduces, lift and drag decreases and so does the tension in your line. You don’t get pull anymore by the kite.

But why does nobody let’s go of the bar?

The first reflex of any beginner is to grab the bar, because this is a natural reflex. When you lose balance, lose control, get scared or stressed, you will grab what ever is in front of you and that will be the bar.
On the top of that, in a stressful situation like this, your brain slows down, even freezes, and you forget what you are supposed to do to remain safe, so you don’t let go of the bar.

This kitesurfing safety being an active safety means that if you don’t use it, there is no safety.

The beginner usually starts to lose this reflex of grabbing after few crashes, hopefully in the water and knows then the right thing to do is to let go. At the same time, he/she will start to have better control of the kite. Kitesurfers start to think that every time they start to loose control of the kite that they recover quickly before it crashes and so still don’t let go the bar until it’s too late. This means that the more people improve their kite flying skills, the more they will be tempted to keep their hands on the bar. But that means the kite will keep all its power and here lies the danger.

Pushing the bar away

Anyone who knows how to fly a kitesurfing kite knows that the worst thing to do if you loose control is to pull the bar. As the kitesurfer doesn’t want to let go of the bar, he will push the bar away, thinking to depower the kite and to keep control of the kite by leaving their hands on the bar.

One good thing about pushing the bar away is that the kite is going to fly to the neutral zone where the kite will stop pulling.

What you need to know is that if you don’t let go of the bar but just push it away from you, you can reach all the way to the end of the depower line if your kite is in the neutral zone. But if the kite is inside the wind window, you will need to bend forward to reach the end of the depower line. The problem is when the kite is pulling, you should put your weight against the kite. It means, if you try to push the bar, you won’t be able to reach all the way to the end of the depower line. So really, you are pulling the bar!
If you do that when the kite is flying from inside the wind window toward the neutral zone, you are doing the same thing as when you do a jump. And what you get is a big pull from the kite.

Pushing the bar away

Kite in the neutral zone, it is easy to push the bar all the way to the end of the depower line and put your weigh against the kite.

Pushing the bar away

Kite inside the wind window. It is harder to reach to the end of the depower line and to put my weigh against the kite.

Pushing the bar away

If I put my weigh against the kite, I can’t reach all the way to the end of the depower line.

Pushing the bar away

If the kite is closed to the power zone, I really need to lean forward to reach to the end of the depower line, I can’t put my weigh against the kite

 

 

 

Pushing the the bar away

If I put my weigh against the kite when it is closed to the power zone, my bar is far away from the end of the depower line, I will get a big pull from the kite!

Just let go of the bar

The only way to put your weigh against the kite and to bring your bar to the end of the depower line when your kite is closed to the power zone is to let go of the bar!

 

Just let go of the bar!

If you let go of the bar when the kite is inside your wind window, not only does the kite stop pulling but flies to get to the neutral zone where you want it to be. There you can put your hands back on the bar, and gain control!

As always you should have the primary safety in the back of your mind.

The primary safety/second safety/chicken loop QRSS (quick release safety system) (different names, same thing).

The primary kitesurfing safety is the one that kills the kite (with the first safety, the kite can still relaunch by itself, you have to keep an eye on it). You kill it by pulling the safety line.
A kite flies with four lines, two at the front, two at the back. A safety line is a line connected to one or two lines of the kite, and when you pull it, the kite is only in the air on one or two lines (the other lines being slack), and it can’t fly this way, so it dies.

How it works? When you activate the QRSS, you become unhooked from the kite. You are only then connected to the kite by the leash. The leash is connected to you on one side and to the safety line on the other side. The leash pulls the safety line and kills the kite.

The primary safety is used when you are in danger. On hard ground, if you loose control or get too much pull from the kite, you get to it straight away. In this case the first safety would not be enough as there would be too much risk that the kite may relaunch (you can’t take this risk on hard ground). In the water, if the first safety doesn’t work, and the kite is still pulling, you go to second safety.

Just like the first safety, the primary safety, is an active safety. This means, if you don’t activate it, there is no safety. It is also called the second safety because you have to go through the first safety to use it. But as we have said, everybody finds it hard to let go the bar, and this can be a problem.

Don’t be afraid to use it

You might hesitate to use the primary safety because there is a risk of the kite getting damaged.

In the water, the kite can get caught in waves or get all mixed up. If there is seaweed, you might hesitate to send your kite into the water. On hard ground, when you activate the second safety, the kite might hit the ground hard or get damaged on shells, stones or even rough plants.

The Primary Kitesurfing Safety is not without fail.

Also, important to remember is that the second safety doesn’t work all the time. It is rare but it can happen. If the bar is tangled with the depower line (and/or back line), the bar will be stuck and you won’t be able to push it away. Then the QRSS or the safety line gets stuck, meaning you don’t have second safety anymore. Also, the bar or a line can get caught in the hook meaning that the kite is permanently tangled with you.

This happen usually after a crash, when your lines get slack and you fall into them.

Bar and depower line are tangled. If that happen, you will suddenly get a big pull from the kite because the bar is stucked pulled in!

Using the primary safety might not be enough. If there is a lot of tension in your lines, your safety line will be stuck around the bar and you kite will still pull you.

 

 

 

You need to go to third safety as quick as you can

 

You need to detached yourself from the kite

 

 

 

 

lines caught in the spreader bar hook. Your kite will pull a lot specially because when that happen, the kite usually start to loop, getting very close to the power zone and giving you a stroke of power at each loop.

Using the second safety will be useless, you are still attached to a kite pulling you a lot

If you are using a KRS Mystic Safety spreader bar, you can get rid of the hook. You then get rid of everything with the third safety

Dont forget all kitesurfing spreader bar has got a knife hidden under the hook.

If lines are tangled with you, on your hook or your body, you can use this knife to cut them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can have this kind of knife on yourself too.

It can cut easely big lines, even thick depower lines

 

 

When the Primary Kitesurfing Safety is failing and you can’t get rid of the kite, you can:

Cut the line(s) using a knife

Use the knife you have on your spreader bar, under the hook or carry one on yourself. If lines are tangled with your body, and tension in your lines are very high, you can use your knife to get rid of it.

Stall the kite

You can stall the kite by pulling one or two back lines (check this video from Anton Chernyshov here).
Stalling a kite is killing the lift the kite is getting by giving it too much angle with the wind. If the angle between the kite and the wind the kite is feeling is too much, the force Lift dies. The kite can’t fly anymore and fall in the water or on the ground. You might still get tension in your lines because the kite is still getting the force Drag, but not as much as when it was getting lift too.

Use a KRS Mystic safety spreader bar

You can also use a KRS Mystic safety spreader bar (check here). This release system is always within reach on the left-hand side of your harness. A pull on the handle will release the hook from your spreader bar and you will be released from your kite and everything caught in the hook, lines or bar. If line(s) are tangled with your body, the KRS won’t be enough, you need to cut the line(s) or stall the kite.

 

The leash, the third safety:

This one is a tricky one. It enables you to get rid of the kite, you won’t be connected to it anymore. But using it can be dangerous and will certainly cause inconvenience. For that reason, we use it as a last option.

However, using it could mean you are losing your kite. In deep water, the kite is a good flotation device, which if you are far from the beach, you could use to come back to the beach faster than just swimming. The kite, even in the water can catch a bit of wind, and if the wind is on shore or cross on shore, you will be brought back to the shore faster. Keeping the kite also makes you visible to rescuers.

This can also mean that the loose kite flying could hurt somebody in the water or on the beach. Nothing safe about that. You should always check your surroundings and think before using the third safety. Should you use it? Or will using it put someone else in danger! It is also an active safety.

Kitesurfing safety

Attach your leash to the front of your harness, to make the leash quick release safety system easy to reach.

Kitesurfing safety

 

 

 

Kitesurfing safety

Do not attach the leash to the back of your harness. You will not be able to reach to the leash quick release safety system.

Kitesurfing safety

Do not make the mistake to attach your leash upside down, you will not be able to reach to the leash quick release system.

 

 

So, nothing perfect about kitesurfing safety so far!

The temptation to not use the safeties

You should be aware than in kitesurfing safety, you will be tempted to do the wrong thing. You would better have a good think about it before. Everything has to be very clear in your mind, because when things happen, no time to think, you have to react fast.

The potential catastrophic result of it

If you don’t let go of the bar because it is not your natural reflex or because you think you know better, you will not activate the second safety. When the kite pulls a lot, you are gone, too late for using safety now. It is nearly impossible to activate the safety when you are being pulled too much.

So, what can you do about it!

Well these situations where you should use the kitesurfing safeties, they happen for a reason.

There are obvious reasons. If you haven’t taken enough lessons and you don’t know how to fly a kite well enough, you will lose control, and you probably will hurt yourself or someone else. But that’s you being overconfident and careless, and this is not the point of the blog.

The reasons why things go wrong in kitesurfing are known and listed. I believe if you know what can make things go wrong, if you have a list of them, and do your checks before you send a kite in the air it is almost certain that things will go well, you will not need to use your safeties, and you will make your session safe.

The three checks you do before you send a kite into the air:

-Check for change of wind (weather) condition and check for change of water condition

-Site assessment S.H.O. E. (Surface, Hazards, Others, Environment (wind and water))

-Pre-fly checks S.E.A.T.S (Surface, Eye (on the wind), Assembly, Tuning, final Seconds check).

I will make a blog for all these checks but let’s explain them and see just a few examples of what could go wrong if you don’t do your checks.

Check for change of wind condition:

When you plan a kitesurfing session, you will check the wind. Not any kind of wind, a wind than is safe in direction, power and quality.

Different kind of wind in the world.

You can predict some wind easily as it is forecast along with bad weather. You have high pressure area and low-pressure area. The air moves from the high pressure to the low pressure and that’s how wind is created. The good thing is it can be forecast but it is not an exact science. It’s only a prediction and you will never exactly get what’s forecast. Also, It is usually gusty and in kitesurfing we don’t like gusts.

There are other winds that are more difficult to predict because they are more of a localised phenomenon.
A sea breeze, for instance, created because of the difference in temperature between the sea and the shore.
Another wind is a mountain is nearby, it is created because of the difference of temperature between the top of the mountain and the valley.
The good thing about these winds are they can be very regular, not gusty, and that’s good for us. Being hard to predict, it is better to ask locals to the area for assistance.

There are also trade winds, that can be very good too. But they occur near the equator so most of us are not lucky enough to live there.

In this blog, I will mainly refer to winds than can be forecast (the one from the bad weather).

Wind direction

For direction, you want the wind that brings you back to the shore if anything goes wrong.
What could happen if you don’t check for change of wind direction?
You might arrive at the beach to find the wind blowing cross on shore, great, but suddenly it changes, off shore, as forecast, and if you are in deep water, and struggling you won’t be able to come back to shore. Don’t forget this saying, “Better be on the beach wishing you were in the water, than to be in the water wishing you were on the beach”

Wind power

For power, first you want a wind that suits the kite size you have (check kite size blog here). In kitesurfing, the weather conditions will suit a certain kite size. If you take too small a kite, you won’t be able to go upwind. If you take a kite that is too big, you will find it very hard to control the kite, it won’t be enjoyable, and you may lose control. This may lead to you damaging your kite, or worse, hurting yourself.

If you don’t check the wind conditions they may change, as forecast, maybe get a lot stronger, you will get overpower, maybe lose control, get pulled by the kite, ……..or maybe the wind might stop, like it was forecast, when you are in the middle of deep water, and you will have to come back swimming, or even if the wind gets weaker like it was forecast, you might finish downwind, close to the rocks at the end of the beach. This might lead to the possibility of serious injury.

Wind quality

Our kitesurfing kites are power kites, they have the profile of a wing. Wings fly better in good quality wind.
You’ve all had this experience in a plane, when the pilot asks you to buckle your belt because of turbulence or on landing when the wind is very gusty. Well it is the same in kitesurfing, we are dependent on wind quality. If the wind is constant, great. But if we get bad gusts (change of wind in direction or power, up and down), or bad loll (down and up), the flight can be bumpy.

Now what can happen if you don’t check for wind quality? You will probably not enjoy it, and you might even damage your kite and/or hurt yourself. Sometimes it is just better to pass than having a bad time.
If you go for it and you know it will be gusty, make sure your kite is good for gusts, and got the proper set up on your kite. The setting hard pressure on your kite will take better to the strong and gusty wind. If you know it will be gusty, go for flat water. You will create more wind speed (and that’s wind with no gust) which will make the kite feel smoother.

Check for change of water condition:

At the same time as you are checking the wind conditions, at home on internet, you will also be checking for water conditions, such as the tides.

What can happen if you don’t check them?
Well you might get to the beach at high tide when there is very little place to set up your kite. Especially if it’s a spring tide, where the water can get very high, and if its low atmospheric pressure (tides predictions are for 1013 mb, any mb difference will make a cm difference, high or low, on your water level.) if you come to the beach when the tide is far in, you increase the chance of an accident. You will be close to rocks, cars, etc… you could crash into when you launch and land a kite. The kite can get tangled in obstacles. Things that can confuse the wind will be very closed to you, they can make your kite act unpredictably. (See site assessment later)

If you don’t check for change in water condition, you will not know when the most current will be. (rule of 12). Current can be very strong in some spots.

If you know your tides, you will come to the beach at the best time for the best condition. A lagoon will give you shallow water at high tide, or for a normal beach, shallow water will be at low tide. If it’s a place with big waves, and you are a beginner, low tide will be the best time too.

Site assessment:

When you are on the spot, you will check if the conditions of the place permit a kitesurfing session. You can assess at the area, the water conditions, the people there, the wind and weather condition, the hazards and how you can best stay away from them.
To be sure you don’t forget anything, think S.H.O.E., when you put your shoe on the beach, you do a site assessment. S.H.O.E. (Surface, Hazards, Other, Environment (wind and water)) is your site assessment.

Site assessment

When you put your shoe on the beach, do your site assessment: S.H.O.E. Surface, Hazards, Others, Environment

What if you don’t do it.

Surface: If the surface, the beach for example, is not long enough, if something goes wrong, you will crash into something and hurt yourself. If the surface doesn’t suit, like big waves in the water, for example, and you can just manage your waterstart, well, it is not going to go well.

Hazards: If you didn’t spot the hazards, and don’t try to stay away from them, then it is more likely you will run into trouble. So many people still launch five meters from rocks and that’s really playing Russian roulette.
Three kinds of hazards you should look for and stay away from.
-Hard obstacles you could crash into and hurt yourself if you loose control and get pull by the kite. Rocks, cars, etc…don’t forget under water hazards
-Obtacles your kite and lines can get tangle with. Trees, electric lines, others kites…
-Anything than will confuse your wind. Buildings, trees, cliffs, etc… It is a very important one than kitesurfers forget often.

Others: If you don’t have a look at other beach users, you will not plan your session to be safe for you or the others and someone will get hurt. You have to be aware of the people around you. Really you should keep your wind window clear of people and nobody less than 50 meters downwind of you. You should avoid aswell your kite windwindow to be in contact with others kitesurfers kite windwindows.

Environment:

The wind:

You already checked at home on internet for change of wind condition. Now you are on the beach, you check what you are getting.
The wind direction, the quality of the wind has to be checked to make your session safe. The power of the wind will make you choose your kite size (check how to choose your kite size here). Wind has to be monitored throughout your session. If you don’t do it. You might not see, for example, this black cloud coming behind you, bringing a lot of strong and gusty wind with it. A lot of accident happen like that, with a change of weather condition and they are usually predictable.

The water:

You need to know the tides and the current they create.

If you don’t check them, you might get to an area with current that is going to change the wind your kite is feeling. If the current is in the same direction as the wind, you will suddenly move downwind, without doing anything. That’s creating a wind that goes against the true wind, weakening it (for example, if the wind is 12 knots, and there is a current in the water of 4 knots in the same direction as the wind. Because the current moves you downwind at a speed of 4 knots, it is creating a wind of 4 knots going against the 12 knots wind, and your kite is now feeling a wind of 8 knots (12 minus 4), barely enough for the kite to stay in the air). The kite will not feel as much wind. You suddenly won’t be able to get upwind anymore and you will go where you don’t want to go. Or, maybe the kite might just fall in the water, you won’t be able to relaunch because there won’t be enough wind for the kite and due to the current, you may get tangled in your lines, and worst-case scenario – drown.
Be careful the ocean has a current as well and not because of the tides. It can be strong or not, depend of where you are. If the place is new to you, you need to ask the locals about it.

Pre-Flight Check:

The last thing you do before to send a kite into the air are the pre-fly check: S.E.A.T.S.
Your kite is a wing and you are the pilot. Like the pilots of a plane, when they are taking their SEATS, before taking off, they are doing the pre-fly checks and so are you.

S: State of the material
E: Eye on the wind
A: Assembly of the materiel
T: Tuning of the kite
S: last Second check

-Check the state of the materiel as you are setting it up. Specially the parts with tendency to wear. Your materiel is as strong as its weakest link, look for it.
Get used to check your material at the end of a session too, it will give you time to get it fixed before the next session.
If you don’t check and a line breaks for example, the kite can start to loop, and you can get pulled to the ground and get hurt. If your materiel is ready to break, you should see it.
Check your Quick Release System (Primary safety) is working. If you don’t, it could be dirty, full of sand, and get stuck when you will need it in an emergency.
Be careful, the Quick Release Safety System should be easy to activate even with a lot of tension on it. Meaning, if all your weigh is on the front line, like if you were lifted by the kite in the air, you should still be able to activate easily the Q.R.S.S. with one hand.

Kitesurfing QRSS

Check your Quick Release System is easy to activate under your all weight. Two fingers should be enough.

Kitesurfing Q.R.S.S.

Some old safety systems were very hard and sometimes impossible to activate under tension. It is always better to check at home, just to be sure!

 

 

-Keep an eye on the wind to know if your kite size is still right.
If you don’t, and the wind gets stronger, you might get overpowered when you launch the kite, and if something wrong happens, because you are overpowered, it will make everything much worse! Sometimes, it just means you need to wait for this black cloud to go by.
Or if the wind dies and you didn’t notice it and try to launch, you might just look stupid.

-Assembly or Setting of the kite. Set up your kite properly, double check it.
a loose lark’s head knot can slip from the knot it is attach to, and that happens more often than you think. It is like a line breaking. Or your bridles are tangled and you didn’t check them. And that your kite doing something unexpected when launching it.

-Tuning of the kite. A kite that is not well tuned will not fly well, especially in gusty conditions.
What can happen if it’s not well tuned? A strong gust might send the bar all the way up on your depower line. If the kite is badly tuned, the bar won’t be able to go high enough to let the gust go by, and you will be lifted in the air.

-Last second pre-flight check. Do a 360-degree check to make sure all the area is still safe for your launching. Make sure your launcher knows what he is doing. Hook your leash to your safety line when your launcher starts to manipulate your kite, to make people safe around you. Hooked to the chicken loop at the last second, just before giving the thumb up (no point to hook in before that). Have your primary safety in the back of your mind.

What could happen if you don’t do it? If you don’t do your 360 check, you might launch your kite and someone else with a kite is just behind you, coming back to land. The two kites can get tangled, you both lose control and get pulled.

So much to check but it will worth it!

Well, you’re still hangin’ in there….Well done!! ? I admit, it is a lot of checks and it will take a while for you to do it properly. But the good thing is if you do it, your sessions will become more and more relaxed because you know you did your check. Your sessions will become better too because you will come on the spot at the right time and the right place with the best choice of material.

Now what you need to know in kitesurfing is, when something goes wrong, its usually because of two things you didn’t do right. For example, if you choose a place to launch you kite that is confusing your wind (near a building for example) and your kite is not tuned properly, you might get lift in the air. If your kite was tuned, it would probably be ok. Or If your kite not tuned but you were away from stuff confusing your wind. Then too, you probably won’t be lifted.
Another example is, if a line breaks and you are other powered, you will probably get pulled to the floor. But if its only one of these things happening, probably too nothing bad will happen.

My point is, even if you don’t do these checks properly but at least try, you will at least avoid these two bad things happening at the same time. Thus, can make the difference between a minor incident from a catastrophic one. So please try your best to do these checks.

And the last component to check but not the least is to check yourself. If you are not feeling well, if you are hungover, you won’t do your checks properly and probably do something stupid. In this case, just give it a pass.

Conclusion

So, you see, a lot can go wrong in a kitesurfing session if you don’t do all the checks you are supposed to do. However, if you do, very little can happen. That means you won’t have to use your kitesurfing safeties. That is what we want because the safeties are not perfect and it is better if you don’t have to use them.

Now it is quite a bit to check and to remember all of it, use my acronym mnemotechnic trick.

Before you send a kite in the air the three things you need to check are:

• Check for CHANGE of wind and water conditions
• Do your site assessment S.H.O.E.
• Do your pre-fly check S.E.A.T.S.

Be safe and have fun!

Sylvain Dubost

kite size kitesurfing dublin

How to choose your kite size for your kitesurfing session!

Wind speed and kite wind range.

When you arrive at the beach, you will have to choose what kite size you are using and this will depend on the power of the wind.
Many kitesurfers, if you were to ask them what the wind power is like, might answer to you in terms of knots, meaning the speed of the wind. We usually need at least 12 knots to kitesurf (with a twin tip), and even then with a big kite (over 11m²).

Kite manufacturers give wind range with every kite they sell. This wind range indicates the speed of wind the kite should be used for. For example, a 12m² kite can be used in wind ranging from 12 to 25 knots.

At the beginning it is not easy to guess the speed of the wind, and you will probably buy an anemometer to know how many knots the wind is travelling. With this knowledge and knowing the wind range of your kite you will think that you can’t make any mistake, right? well it’s not that easy!

Power of the wind.

In kitesurfing, you will hear the word power a lot. I was overpowered, I was underpowered, I had too much power, not enough power. Power is the amount of pull you get from your kite.
You are connected to your kite by a control bar system, this is a system of front lines and back lines. Front lines connecting your harness (meaning your body weight) to the front of the kite. Back lines connecting your bar (meaning your arms) to the back of the kite. When your kite is in the air, it creates tension on these lines. The two forces creating this tension are the lift and drag that the kite is getting from the wind going through the kite. By flying the kite in your wind window, you will get more lift and drag, meaning more tension in your lines, and therefore more pull (power) from your kite. With the right kite size, when your kite is in the neutral zone of your wind window, the pull from your kite should be manageable, you should be able to walk upwind without too much effort.

kitesurfing dublin sylvain

kitesurfing dublin sylvain

Here are the formulae for the force, lift, and drag the kite is getting

Lift = ½ Cl d V² S
Drag = ½ Cd d V² S

With S=kite surface(m²)
Cl=kite lift coefficient (depend of kite shape, kite angle, given air conditions)
Cd=kite drag coefficient (depend of kite shape, kite angle, given air conditions, Cd include multiple sources of drag.(form drag, skin friction drag, wave drag, and induced drag))
V=speed of wind (in m/s)
d= density of air(kg/m³)

We can see then, for a given kite size (S fixe), and for a given kite shape and kite angle, the power not only comes from the speed of the wind, but also the density of the air. And this density depends on temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure which are changing all the time.

This means than even if the wind speed might be the same in two different sessions, wind power may be different.

You may also add to this, how gusty the wind is (or is not). Lift and drag are not only functions of wind speed, but wind speed squared, it goes exponential as speed increases.

Power of the water.

On the top of all this, the lift you are getting from the board (yes you get lift there too, lift and drag in fact) is going to influence the power you need from your kite. The size of the board, the speed you can get from it, the density of the water too. Surfers will tell you that the weight of the waves will be different from summertime to wintertime.

In flat water, you will get more speed, meaning more lift from your board, the same as in cold water. This means that you won’t need as much power from your kite, and therefore a smaller kite may be enough.

You will also get more lift from salt water than from fresh water due to the increase in density caused by the salt. This means that here too, the power you get from the water is going to be different from one session to another.

So how do we choose the kite size we need?
Well, here is the trick:

You will only know how powerful the wind is when your kite is in the air, and you will only know how powerful the conditions are when riding your board on the water.

There are just too many things influencing the power you will get from your kite and the lift you will get from your board to just try guessing. Of course, the more you practise the more you will get used to the conditions and the place, and the more familiar you will become with all these variables. With experience you will remember what kite size suited previously and be able to use your experience to judge all these variables. Experience will tell you that in winter time, you will be able to manage with a smaller kite than in summer time even if the conditions feel pretty similar.

But in the end, it is really only when you are in the water, on your first ride that you will know if you have made the right choice.

The ones who know how powerful the condition are, are the kitesurfers in the water.

You need to check what kite size other kitesurfers are using. If everybody is using 9m², there is a good chance that a 9m² is perfect for these weather conditions. Because that is what you are looking for, the kite size for the weather conditions, and not the kite size for the wind speed.

kite size kitesurfingA good idea is to have binoculars with you to make it easy to see the size on a kite. You will also be better able to judge how other kitesurfers are managing. Are they being overpowered by their kite? Not looking comfortable at all, not able to do any tricks, with the control bar high.
Are they under power? They are unable to go upwind. Are they moving the kite a lot (meaning that it is really under powered; moving the kite creates wind to stop the kite falling in water). Or are they nicely powered? big smiles on faces. Are they well powered, some kitesurfers are jumping very high.

If someone is coming back from the water, don’t be afraid to ask them how they found the conditions. For example when you are giving them a hand for landing the kite. And ask how it was. If he or she tells you it was perfect, check their kite size. Of course, check if you are similar weight, similar size of board, and similar type of kite. You only can compare what you can compare.

But be careful, wind can change. Just because one kite size suits the conditions now doesn’t mean that it will suit the conditions in 20 minutes time. when you are ready to go in the water. You always need to keep an eye on the wind.
Of course, it almost goes without saying that if someone is much bigger than you, you will need a smaller kite than them. If someone is much smaller than you, you will need a bigger one. But be careful because, a bigger person will usually have a bigger board, and a smaller person, a smaller board, meaning their kite may be good for you too.

If someone is not using the same type of kite as you (a more aggressive one than you for example), the size they are using may not be any help to you.

If someone is not using the same type of board as you, think twice. If they are using a surfboard, they will need a smaller kite than you. If they are using a foil board, they will need even smaller kite.

If nobody is in the water.

If nobody in the water, you will usually hesitate between 2 sizes. You should always play it safe and choose the smaller one. You can always change for the bigger one if you need to.

The more skills and experience you get, when you hesitate between two sizes, the more you will choose the kite size depending of what you want to practice, or what weather is coming. If the wind is supposed to get stronger, and you hesitate between two kite sizes, you might choose the smaller one, knowing than, even if you are not well powered right now, you will be later, and you won’t have to come back to change kites, and you are not taking the risk of being overpowered. You can still have fun without too much power; training kite loops or unhooking, two skills you should train when your kite is not too powered. Or, the other way, if you know the wind is suppose to go down, you can choose the bigger size, knowing you will be well powered (be careful, not overpowered) but when the wind will go down later, you will be perfect. When you are well powered, you can train, big jumps, old school tricks …

And what if you don’t have the kite size needed:

Know your materiel, some kites have a bigger wind range. If you live in a place where weather is unpredictable and changes a lot, go for this kind of kite. You will have less chance to pick the wrong kite. And you will still manage when others will need to change kite.

With a kite, you will have different settings. One working better for light wind, another one for strong and gusty wind. You can try them and see, every kite is different.

To make it short, there are different points where you can attach your back lines, some closer to the tip of the kite, some more further away.

Changing them does three things:

Kite size and bar movement

Forward position attachment point: less bar movement, better for strong wind.

When the attachment points are further away from the tips, you don’t need to move the bar as much to change the angle of the kite. This means that in strong and gusty wind, you won’t need to move the bar as much and controlling the kite will be easier.

It also changes the force you need to apply on the bar to maintain or change the angle of the kite. Your kite is rotating around an axis, located around and between the two front lines. And your back lines make the kite rotate around this axis.
To rotate the kite you apply a moment of force with the back line. This is the force applied on the back line by the distance between the back-line attachment point, and the axis the kite is rotating around. In any given condition, the moment of force needed to rotate the kite stays the same, no matter what back line attachment point you are using. But moment being distance by force, the more you increase the distance, the less force that is needed, and in contrast the more the distance you decreased, the more force is needed.
This explain the harder pressure on the bar when attachment points are further away from the tip. This is good for strong and gusty conditions. You want a kite harder to rotate, not moving as much in strong conditions.

Kite size and bar pressure

Moment of force equal distance d by force F you apply on the back lines. That explains bar pressure change with different setting.

And finally, where your back line attachment points are fixed will change the amount of drag your kite is getting when you send it one side or the other. With the back lines attachments points closer to the tips, for example, your kite will get a lot more drag on the side being pulled and a lot less drag on the other side, making your kite turn sharper and faster, easier to send inside the wind window, which is great for light conditions.

Line length: With shorter lines, you will manage better in strong wind. It will be easier to bring the kite back to the neutral zone where there is less pull from the kite. But it won’t be as good as changing to the right kite size.

Foil kites: If you have a foil kite, you can change the profile of the kite using the mixer or speed system. This is a pulley system connecting the kite bridle with the lines of the control bar system. You can give your kite a more powerful profile if you are underpower, or a profile less powerful if the wind is too strong or/and very gusty.

Conclusion:

To have a great kitesurfing session is to have the right kite size. Too big a kite will be uncomfortable to pilot, not much fun, and could even be dangerous if you lose control. Too small a kite won’t allow you to go upwind. You know now than it is not so easy to get it right. It is why, always have these kitesurfing safeties in the back of your mind when you launch. Because only when your kite will be in the air, you will know you did the right choice. (to read another blog of mine about kitesurfing safeties, click here).

Sylvain Dubost.

kitesurfing lesson dublin

Why you can’t learn kitesurfing on your own! The three kitesurfing safeties.

The kitesurfing control bar system.

In kitesurfing, we use a control bar system to pilot the kite. It is a system of  front lines and back lines. Front lines are connected to you, by your harness, on one side and to the front of the kite on the other side. Back lines are connected to the bar, on one side, and to the back of the kite on the other side.

The first point of it is to change the angle between the kite and the flux of air the kite is feeling. You need to give the right angle to the kite for it to fly well. The second point is to steer the kite on the right or on the left.

Now, why can’t you learn kitesurfing on your own. Well, because of the control bar system we are using, we are attached to the kite. If you loose control, and the kite keeps pulling, you will be pulled by it where ever it goes and you will get hurt.  Of course there are safeties you can use to stop that, but these are active safeties, you need to activate  them for them to work and here is the problem  . Let’s talk about Kitesurfing safeties.

The three safeties of kitesurfing

When we are flying a kite, there are three safeties we can use whenever we loose control and/or are in danger. We call them First safety, Second safety and Third safety, because you only can use them one after an other.

The first safety is to let go the bar. When you let go of the bar, the angle between the kite and the flux of air reduced  and so the lift and the drag created on the kite reduce also (the kites we are using have profile wings, they get lift and drag when wind goes through them, like the wing of a plane or a bird ). This  reduces a lot the tension in your lines and you don’t feel the kite pulling anymore.

This first safety is used when you lose control. For a beginner, you might make a mistake piloting the kite and suddenly you are getting too much pull from it, you loose control then loose balance. For a intermediate or advanced rider, you might try a trick, loose balance then loose control. In both cases, you let go of the bar, the kite will stop pulling, and the crash, if there is one, won’t be as hard. If you don’t let go of the bar, the kite will keep pulling  and you will crash hard with risk of injury. The first safety doesn’t kill the kite, it will still have a bit of lift and drag, but not enough to pull you. The kite can still relaunch, sometimes on its own, so you have to be watchful. If the kite is still pulling after letting go of the bar, you should go to second safety.

The second safety, is killing the kite (no more lift), and you do it by pulling the safety line. A kite fly with four lines (sometimes five),  two at the front, two at the back. A safety line is a line connected to one or two lines of the kite, and when you pull it, the kite is only in the air on one or two lines, and it can’t fly this way so it dies.

The way it works is we have a leash connected on one side to our harness, and on the other side, to the safety line. We have a Quick Release Safety System (QRSS) on the hooked in system on the front line. This is a quick and easy system to detach you from the kite. When you activate your quick release safety system, you will be only connected to the kite by a leash, that then pull the safety line and kill the kite. Strangely, this second safety system is also the primary safety, the one you use when you are in danger. So you should always have it in the back of your mind. If after using the second safety, the kite is still pulling you by the leash, you go to the third safety.

The third safety is the Quick Release on your leash that enables you to disconnect yourself permanently from the kite. It means than you are not at risk from the kite but it also means that the kite and the lines behind it will be travelling on their own with a risk to others around you. So you should keep this in mind.

Why you are not using your kitesurfing safeties!

Now than I am aware of these three safeties, why can’t I learn kitesurfing on my own.

You understand now that the primary safety in kitesurfing is the second safety. It the one than can kill the kite and stop everything.
You understand as well that to get to the second safety, you have to go through the first safety that is to let go of the bar.

You need to know this as a beginner. As someone who is starting kitesurfing, at some stage you will loose control, loose balance,  get scared or swallow a bit of water. Your first reflex will be to grab what you have in front of you, and that would be the bar! It is a natural reflex, and it will take a while to change this reflex of grabbing into a reflex of let go (or at least pushing the bar away from you). The reason it is confusing for a beginner is because the bar is being used for getting power but as well to keep control of the kite (steering the kite). If you were told to let go of the bar it may feel like letting go the steering wheel of a car when you are driving, you can’t understand it, it doesn’t feel right.

That’s why you can’t learn kitesurfing on your own. You won’t let go of the bar in the stressful state of mind without supervising. This is what make kitesurfing dangerous  to learn.  You have to learn with a instructor who will use appropriate  trainer kites when you start on the beach and small beginner kitesurfing kites, when you start in the water. This way, when you won’t let go the bar, all will happen is the kite crashing but you not hurting yourself. Then you will build up your piloting skills, making you loose  control less often with no need to use your safeties. This first safety will take time to come to you. But knowing that it is not your reflex, and that you have to go through it to get to the primary safety (second safety) should be  in your mind at all time.

So take lessons, with me or with another qualified instructor. It is the only way to get into this wonderful sport!

.                                                                     Sylvain