Kiter Etiquette

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Kiter Etiquette

Post by MK »

Kiting is fun! can be safe, for most all ages, lifelong and isn't gender specific. The joy and freedoms experienced find most in an endless pursuit. Fantastic reference books like these extend the learning beyond instruction and while in the wind.

As good and safe as it can be, a unique attitude emerges when faults happen. Consider Newton's 3rd Law in physics: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Understandably I may be taking liberty to make a point but Interchange the word "action" with "kite joy." In this case we get to see how much kite joy can be had but also how much the opposite of kite joy can be had. We all get focused chasing this kite joy and naturally it can't be attained all the time. When the opportunity arises to get out and kite then our emotions and intellect all get put into drive as we shift the schedules to make it happen.

By focusing on safety and learning about safety as it relates to kiting we all stand a better chance at securing kite joy. Negligence is then upon us by not trying to understand and mastering what is involved, which significantly increases grave risk, injury, and gear destruction. Like a drunk driver who is willing to risk safety, the uneducated kiter not only risks themselves but the innocent around, the gear and most commonly overlooked - risk of loosing riding locations. Safe riding location access is critical for all and within our control but requires educating.

I've been doing some research on safety and see a lot of resonating language around world, at least what's listed in English. Learning to kite, acquiring the skills, and practicing safe procedures will only help minimize accidents and ideally eliminate them. We are all responsible to be safe and herein are guidelines considered by most around the world as common. This is not intended to be used as a checklist on how to kite, rather reasonable conduct around kiting. I've harvested and made a few modifications from all that is listed below. Although difficult to list every guideline for each riding location around the world and type of kiting happening (kitesurf, snowkite, buggy, etc.), please use this as an opportunity to familiarize yourself with guidelines.

Guidelines appear to be the best term since mother natures variables are/can be unpredictable. Setting up either early, before others arrive for example may have you in the right spot but a shift in wind direction can happen or rise in tide can happen and put you and others at risk. The main point then is to minimize the opportunity for danger and conflict. The list below helps address this and can better aid in the pursuit of safe practices.

In compiling and reviewing what I have found I am adding a few:

1. When doing a transition simply motion with your hand in circular motion to alert anyone near, either seen or unseen, you are doing a transition and coming back. Kiters, boaters, snowmobiles can creep up on you fast.
2. Whether landing or launching - do it. Don't clog-up this area. If you are new, testing a kite, teaching, training or otherwise concerned then get out of the common landing/launching area and go down wind, away. Kiters out riding likely don't know if you are landing or launching or if others may be ready to launch. Consider the landing/launching area a place to be for least amount of time.
3. Ensure your gear is ready to go at time of launch. If you are uncertain than don't clog landing/launch area to sort a tangle for example. If you discover an issue than immediately disengage and get out of landing/launch area.
4. Port is your left, starboard is your right
5. Self regulating is best practiced since our locations aren't staged with lifeguards. If you are new then ask the local person questions about etiquette and expectations. If you are experienced then advocate actively for safe practices. This is a great opportunity to make freinds. If you see concerns, CALMLY approach and address. You never know when you may need this persons help.

References: ... teboarder/ ... -on-water/ ... of-conduct


Many kiting accidents can be avoided if kiters are informed of safety procedures and exercise reasonable care. Kiteboarding can be hazardous to riders and to bystanders, particularly if practiced without adequate training, safety gear, observation of safe kiteboarding practices and appropriate caution.
Riders must accept that even if these guidelines are followed, that accidents, injury and even death may occur in the sport of kiteboarding. Professional training considerably reduces risk, if not ellimintes it. Consider how it is that a 72 year lady is active doing this:

Kites can produce powerful force with little or no warning. Sudden wind gusts, improper line attachment, mishandling, etc., can result in dragging and/or lofting, possibly with no time to effectively react. A kiter may not always be able to just let go or kill the power of the kite, as many accidents have established. Recall the importance of professional training and risk and injury can be vurtually elliminated.
Your ability to safely and completely depower and drop your kite and otherwise manage in an emergency will weigh heavily on your training, technique, preparation, prior practice and the reliability of your gear.
The following guidelines are to ensure beach safety for kiteboarders and other beach users; to minimize the potential of complaints and create an environment that will be conducive to providing continued access for kiters to existing kiteboarding beaches.
We strongly advise the adherence to the following principles, guidelines and practices to ensure the safety of all beach users.

1. Proactively assist other kiteboarders
Offer to assist other riders with launching and landing using reliable agreed upon visual and audible communications such as tapping the top of the head to indicate that you require assistance with landing a kite and the universal “thumbs-up” to indicate you are ready for your kite to be launched. NEVER release a kite for launch until you receive an unequivocal thumbs-up signal from the kiter.
Whether you are starting out or are almost a pro, your help may avoid a serious incident/accident and future restrictions. NEVER grab the lines of a flying or powered kite. If you see someone putting your access at risk by poor practices, assemble several of your friends and have a friendly talk with the person. Show genuine interest followed by your concerns.
Riders are solely responsible for their safety and that of affected bystanders. If you are new to an area or visiting, seek out local kiteboarders, shops and/or associations and find out about local guidelines, cautions and tips BEFORE riding. Don’t ruin things for the local riders.

2. Get adequate training -
Kiteboarders, particularly beginners, should seek adequate, quality professional instruction. Beginners must avoid crowded areas; particularly as kite control is still being developed. Beginners should body drag out at least 60m from shore prior to water starting and should always stay out of restricted beach areas. Be careful in your launch area selection and be willing to drive and walk a bit further to have access to safer conditions. Build your skill and experience carefully in side shore or side onshore winds less than 15 knots. Riders have been seriously injured by choosing poor launches when far safer conditions were relatively close by. Be particularly careful in new conditions and at the START and END of your riding session. Many accidents occur in these times even among experienced riders. In kiteboarding, “DISTANCE IS YOUR FRIEND,” so use it!

3. Kiteboard within your limits
Know your equipment’s limitations as well as your own. If you aren’t 100% healthy OR IN DOUBT, DON’T GO OUT! Don’t fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You should be comfortable with conditions and your gear otherwise, don’t launch and “live to fly another day”. Always maintain an energy reserve while kiteboarding. Hydrate regularly and wear adequate exposure clothing (wetsuit), to deal with unexpected time in the water. Cold-water kiteboarding requires additional critically important precautions as compared to warmer conditions and are beyond the scope of these guidelines. Don’t kiteboard alone or further from shore than you are readily able to swim in from.

4. Always use a kite leash and quick release
We recommend HELMET and IMPACT VEST. Make sure you have proper safety equipment, such as a tested, well maintained kite depowering leash securely attached to your harness, a quality, well fitting helmet and impact vest. Most kiteboarding fatalities involve head injury. A good helmet for kiteboarding, MAY aid in reducing injury and improve the chance of survival in many but not necessarily all impacts. Regularly test and maintain a reliable chicken loop or kite depowering quick release. Relying upon manual unhooking alone to release your bar is UNRELIABLE based upon the accident experience. The rider needs to understand and accept that in an emergency, this quick release MAY NOT be accessible or function correctly in the critical seconds of the emergency. It is up to the rider to do everything possible to avoid the emergency in the first place and to aid proper function of the release through practice and maintenance.

5. Launch, ride and land well away from bystanders
Give way to the public on the beach and in the water at ALL TIMES. Be courteous and polite to bystanders. Complaints have frequently led to bans and restrictions on kiteboarding in some areas and continue to do so, on a regular basis. NEVER launch, ride or land upwind of nearby bystanders. While it may not always be possible, work to keep a minimum 100 m buffer zone from bystanders.

6. Be aware of the weather
Is the forecast and current weather acceptable, free of pending storm clouds and excessive gusty winds? Lightning can strike well ahead of approaching storm fronts. Static electricity in the air is a clear sign of an impending lightning strike. Get out of the water well ahead of storm fronts. Colour radar can sometimes give a clue as to violent storm/gust potential. Are seas and wind condition within your experience, ability and appropriate for your gear? New kiters should practice in lighter, side or side onshore winds. Onshore winds have a much higher injury rate even among experienced riders and should be avoided. Offshore winds should be avoided in the absence of a chase boat. If storm clouds are moving in, land and thoroughly disable your kite well in advance of any change in wind or temperature, if necessary totally depower your kite by using your kite leash while still away from shore. Lightning can strike many miles ahead of storm clouds. Learn about unstable weather in your area and work to avoid squalls and storms through TV, radio and Internet information.

7. Sailing and Powered craft
Never force your right-of-way over other craft when on the water. Wind shadows and wake chop can cause you to lose control of your kite and end up in the path of other watercraft. Also, as large boats require extra time to avoid collision, it is especially unwise in this situation. Waterways regulations require that no matter who has designated right of way, all watercraft must avoid potential collisions in all circumstances. If a potential collision appears to be developing, change direction briefly, giving clear indication of your intent to let the other craft pass, at least 100m from an intersecting boat and allow large boats to pass without causing them to alter course.
Never force your right-of-way on boats engaged in racing. This is potentially very dangerous since they will expect you to get out of their way. Sailboats running with the wind can move very fast and have limited manoeuvrability. Keep well clear.


1. Use appropriate launch areas
Make sure your launch area is open, FREE OF DOWNWIND BYSTANDERS, hard objects, poor or slippery footing, nearby power lines, buildings and walls etc. within at least 100m, and preferably more, particularly in higher wind. Too many riders have slammed into walls, parked cars and trees with better launches not so far away at all. Some riders have needed in excess of 200m, to regain control in violent dragging or loftings in higher winds. Avoid kiteboarding near airports and in low flight path areas, complaints have led to restricted access in some areas. Never fly your kite in the path of low aircraft in flight. In the event you are inadvertently proximal to an aircraft, begin moving your kite low to the water at the first indication of inbound aircraft.

2. What size kite are other riders using?
Check to see what size kite other kiteboarders are rigging and get their input on conditions. Try to select a kite size for the lower to middle part of the wind range. Do not rig too large a kite for conditions and carefully consider advice of more experienced riders. Failure to act on prudent advice has cost some riders severe injury and even death. If you don’t have a small enough kite to safely launch, DON’T!

3. Check and repair your gear before you fly
Check your kite for tears or leaky bladders. If you have leaky bladders or tears in your kite, repair them before flying. Check ALL kite, harness, and control bar lines, webbing, pigtails, bridles, the chicken loop and leaders for knots, cuts, wear or abrasion. If the line sheathing shows any breaks or knots, replace them. The pigtails should be replaced no less frequently than every year on inflatable kites ... igtail-kit. Inspect and test your quick release. Frequently, mentally and physically rehearse pulling your quick release in an imagined emergency situation. Make sure your flying lines are equal as they will stretch unevenly with use. If they have knots that can’t be easily untied, replace your flight lines. Do not casually make changes to manufactured equipment. Whatever you do must work reliably in what conditions may come.

4. Avoid solo launching
Solo launching and landing are NOT recommended and should be avoided when possible, particularly in stronger winds. Launch with a trained assistant, using reliable audible and visual signals. Never use untrained bystanders to help you launch or land your kite. Riders have been severely injured by making this easy mistake. Rig your kite for solo launch at the last minute and launch without delay AFTER CAREFUL PREFLIGHTING as serious accidents have happened in only minutes during this stage. If you leave the kite unattended, wrap up your lines and weight the kite with sand or other heavy items.

5. Crossed kite lines can wreck your day
Launching with crossed or snagged lines has maimed quite a few kiteboarders as the kite tends to fly up at very high speed, dragging or lofting the rider into nearby hard objects faster than they can react. Walk down your lines and examine them carefully.
Reversing the front and rear lines is one of the most dangerous mistakes you can make as once the kite is launched you will have no control over where it flies. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE.
Pick your bar up and carefully look down the lines for twists, tangles or snags that could cause the kite to be dangerously uncontrollable. While you are holding your bar up look down the lines, shake your bar to make sure the centre lines are connected to the leading edge of the kite. Be particularly careful, slow and methodical in high winds. Multiple, careful pre-flight checking in higher winds is strongly advised. Rigging “Kook Proof” connectors on kite and lines is easily done with most kites and should be rigged on all your kites and bars, however, do not assume that just because the lines easily attach to a particular part of the kite that this is the CORRECT part of the kite. One manufacturer’s bar and lines may not use the same connection conventions as another’s. Know the principles behind how the components connect together so you can spot potential problems before they occur.


1. Always launch with your kite over the water away from trees, rock walls and other obstructions
Wind can behave unpredictably around walls and trees. It is better to be pulled toward the water than a tree, car or road. Pull in your trim strap or rope to a point that will allow stable kite flight with existing wind conditions, to properly depower the kite before launching and so that you can readily hold the bar and release it if necessary. Always maintain minimum clear downwind buffer zones. Physically and mentally rehearse managing emergency situations including just “letting go” of your bar. Never ask for launching or landing assistance from inexperienced members of the public. Preferably, ask for assistance from experienced kiters you know personally. New kiters, eager to be accepted into the group, may offer their assistance but their launching and landing skills may be inadequate.

2. Keep it low and go, to try to avoid lofting or involuntary lifting
In general, DO NOT bring your kite much above 45 degrees from the ground and NEVER to the vertical, within 100 m of shore or any hard object at most launch areas. Never launch, fly or land upwind and close to the shore or hard objects or stand on the beach for extended periods with your kite in the air. This careless practice has killed and maimed riders. This practice MAY reduce the chance of lofting but may also promote dragging and serious injury in gusty/strong wind conditions. So, if you are dragged be ready to totally depower instantly using your kite leash and ideally before the dragging starts in the first place. HAZARD AVOIDANCE IS THE KEY along with rapid pre-emptive, rehearsed actions. Do not fly your kite near vertical or sloped surfaces that can cause uplift and sudden dragging/lofting (walls, buildings, hills, tree lines, etc,). Avoid thermal generating areas as sudden thermal lofting can occur. Launch in the appropriate part of the wind window to avoid “hot” or over-powered downwind launches. Make sure that there are no bystanders within your downwind buffer zone or close by in general.

3. Get off shore quickly
If there are substantial waves where you need to put on your board consider body dragging outside the breaker zone first. In flat water kiting areas, stay away from the beach. The fun is off shore, danger to the rider & bystanders is near shore where most of the hard stuff is located.

4. Yield the right-of-way
Yield the right of way to all others in the water. Riders must yield to others when jumping, to anyone on your right hand side and to launching riders. A rider already riding a wave has right-of-way over others in the vicinity. A rider leaving the beach has right of way over a rider approaching the beach from outside. When in doubt, STOP. Kiteboarders should not jump within a buffer zone of at least 60m of others and objects that are downwind. Always be aware of the position of your lines relative to others. Line cuts can be severe and tangled lines with another kite, deadly.

5. Board leashes are dangerous
All kiteboarders are encouraged to master body dragging for board recovery. Use of a board leash is dangerous and is generally discouraged due to the hazards of board rebound or wave driven impact. Injuries have happened with both fixed length and reel leashes. Wearing a helmet and impact vest is always advised but may not provide adequate protection against board impact as the boards can violently hit any part of the rider and have penetrated helmets. If there is risk of your loose board hitting bathers, find another launch. Boards will get pulled under water and continue going deeper at times, if you have a leash you are going down with it.

6. Don’t get lofted! Lofting or involuntarily lifting is one of the greatest hazards of kiteboarding
Avoiding unstable weather, keeping your kite low and getting offshore without delay are only a few of the measures necessary to avoid this threat. If, despite all precautions, you are dragged or lofted a short distance AND have time to react, depower your kite as soon as you start to pause. You will likely be dulled by shock so mentally rehearse totally depowering using your leash immediately under such circumstances. Total depowering using your kite leash, ideally should occur before you are lofted, still offshore and away from hard objects. Multiple gusts can hit over a short period and you may be lofted a second or third time, so ACT to totally depower your kite using your kite leash as soon as you can. DO NOT ASSUME that you will have a lull between loftings, sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. If you are airborne over land, it is uncertain how and if you will come out of things. Focus on controlling your kite with small control inputs to avoid stalling the kite. Some have advised keeping the kite overhead AFTER you are lofted and to try to gently steer towards the least hazardous area to impact. Other riders have said that reversing direction or transitioning after lofting has helped to reduce forward speed. It would be wise to accept and plan for the fact that YOU CAN BE LOFTED AT ANYTIME you have a kite in the air.


1. Use assisted landings
Solo depower using your kite leash immediately if necessary—but only when there are no other kiter-assisted options readily available. Approach the shore slowly with caution. Keep your kite low (ideally within 3 m of the surface), to try avoid lofting. Take care to avoid causing an accidental jump in well powered conditions while approaching the shore. Arrange for assisted landings at least 100 m from bystanders, power lines, vertical surfaces, trees, etc where possible. NEVER use non-kiteboarders for assisted launches or landings, as use of bystanders has resulted in severe rider injuries. Use mutually understood hand and voice signals to improve launch and landing safety. Riders have been killed standing around looking for an assisted landing when gusts have hit. IF IN ANY DOUBT, DEPOWER YOUR KITE USING YOUR KITE LEASH even if you are still offshore. ALL riders should be comfortable with depowering their kite using their leash immediately even in deep water and swimming in to avoid being lofted or dragged in sudden gusting winds.

2. Properly stow your gear
Properly anchor (or ideally deflate your leading edge and roll up your kite), disconnect and wind up your kite lines. Do not allow your kite to be accidentally launched. Kites should be placed in a safe area well out of bystander and vehicular traffic.

Kiteboarding Road Rules – On the water

Be sure that you can handle the prevailing weather conditions and never kite in offshore winds. If in doubt don’t go out!
Kiteboarders using the seafront should give way to other water users and retreat to a safe zone outside of the navigational channel when other craft approach.
The seafront can get exceptionally busy both on the beach and in the water. No matter how competent you are, or how good Always maintain a 50-metre downwind safety zone between yourself and other craft. In the event of coming into conflict with other water users stabilise your kite at 12 o’clock. (Top of the wind window).
Never kiteboard within 50-metres upwind of any moored vessel.
Never kiteboard in or near to the bathing areas and swimmers, buoys and boat moorings. Stay at least 60m clear of swimming flags at all times.
Never practice jumping on land or close to the beach.
When returning to the beach, give way to riders who are launching.
Don’t downwind shadow a rider and keep at least 2 line lengths downwind so that if the rider fails in a manoeuvre they won’t hit you.
Turning in front of an inward rider and then shadowing so that they can’t do a manoeuvre is inconsiderate.
Don’t ride close behind another rider. They may be unaware of your presence and change direction suddenly.
Look around before you jump.
Don’t jump within 2 line lengths of the beach.
Don’t stand on the beach (chatting) with your kite over the water or above your head.
If you’re a newbie or honing your skills, ride out of the high traffic zone a little further downwind. The wind is the same, you can body drag for your board in safety and won’t frustrate the more advanced riders and you’ll find that you’ll progress quickly when not being worried about crashing into someone.
Give way to people entering the water.
Make yourself familiar with local rules and observe them.
Roll up lines when leaving the kite.
Prior to changing direction look over your shoulder to make sure the passage is clear.
If you are being closely followed and need to change direction signal to show that you are coming about and then do so if possible with care. This may require you to bear away before instigating a change of direction.

Right of Way guidelines when Kite Surfing:
There is no absolute right of way – All parties should take any action necessary to avoid a collision.
When two riders are on opposite tacks and there is a need to alter course to avoid collision, the port tack rider (left shoulder forward) shall alter course and/or kite position low in order to keep clear of the starboard tack rider (right shoulder forward) who should maintain the same course and speed, kite higher.
When two or more riders are on the same tack with kite lines overlapped, the upwind rider(s) shall keep their kite high and the downwind rider(s) keep their kite low.
When two riders are on the same tack and are not overlapped, the rider behind shall ensure the rider ahead is aware of the rider approaching from behind.
Never deliberately manoeuvre into a right of way position so that it interferes with another water user. If you are behind another kite heading into the beach, turn early to allow the lead rider plenty of room to turn. Always check for other water users before water-starting, jibing, relaunching a kite or recovering a board.
A rider shall not jump if there is any danger of possible collision with another rider.
When wave riding, the first rider on the face of a wave has right of way. This may override the starboard tack rule. Give way to surfers even if they drop in on your wave.
Give way to surfers and other water users when in the surf, at all times.
Do not tack out through a surf break that is occupied by surfers.
All riders should be aware of and abide by all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations.
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Joined: Thu Nov 29, 2012 2:32 pm
Location: Minnetonka, MN

Re: Kiter Etiquette

Post by Futahaguro »

Nice write-up. I haven't kited enough to have many opinions on this but I have been reading a bunch of posts on other forums and here are two things that seem to make sense.

-This probably applies more to the ocean but if you ever completely ditch your kite and you cannot recover it, please inform the local authorities so they know that you are safe. I have read posts about rescue agencies looking for missing kiters because they saw a ditched kite and board but the person was already safely on land.

-In regards to "using your kite leash" I'm assuming you mean pulling the chicken loop release so your kite goes to its safety system? In regards to this I have read about the importance of testing it and making sure you understand it before you actually need to use it. I have also read about the dangers of attaching your leash to the back ring of your harness and how it can be almost impossible to release if you are being dragged.

This is a little more on the safety side of things but oh well.
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