Evolution of Kiteboarding

  • The control bar is a solid metal or composite bar which attaches to the kite via the lines. The rider holds on to this bar and controls the kite by pulling at its ends, causing the kite to rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise like a bicycle. Typically a chicken loop from the control bar is attached to a latch or hook on a spreader bar on the rider’s harness. Most bars also provide a quick-release safety-system and a control strap to adjust the kite’s angle of attack. While kite control bars are made intentionally light, they must also be very strong, and so are usually heavier than water; “bar floats” made of foam are generally fixed to the lines right above the harness to keep the bar from sinking if lost in the water. Control bars are usually specific to a particular kite type and size and are not usually suitable for use with different kite types.
  • A kite harness comes in seat (with leg loops), waist or vest types. The harness together with a spreader bar attaches the rider to the control bar. By hooking in, the harness takes most of the strain of the kite’s pull off of the rider’s arms, and spreads it across a portion of his body. This allows the rider to do jumps and other tricks while remaining attached to the kite via the control bar. Waist harnesses are by far the most popular harnesses among advanced riders, although seat harnesses make it possible to kitesurf with less effort from the rider and vest harnesses provide both flotation and impact protection. Kite harnesses look similar to windsurfing harnesses, but are actually much different; a windsurfing harness used for kiteboarding is likely to break very quickly, which could result in injury and/or gear loss.

Kiteboard,[24] a small composite, wooden, or foam board. There are  several types of kiteboards: directional surf-style boards, wakeboard-style boards

  • hybrids which can go in either direction but are built to operate better in one of them, and skim-type boards. Some riders also use standard surfboards, or even long boards, although without foot straps much of the high-jump capability of a kite is lost. Twin tip boards are the easiest to learn on and are by far the most popular. The boards generally come with sandle-type footstraps that allow the rider to attach and detach from the board easily; this is required for doing board-off tricks and jumps. Bindings are used mainly by the wakestyle riders wishing to replicate wakeboarding tricks such as KGBs and other pop initiated tricks. Kiteboards come in shapes and sizes to suit the rider’s skill level, riding style, wind and water conditions.

Other equipment used:

A wetsuit is often worn by kitesurfers, except in warmer conditions with light winds. When kitesurfing in strong winds, body heat loss is reduced by wearing a wetsuit. A “shortie” is worn to protect the torso only, and a full suit is used for protection against cool conditions, from marine life such as jellyfish, and also from abrasions if the rider is dragged by the kite. Dry suits are also used to kitesurf in cold conditions in winter.

  • A safety hook knife is considered required equipment. The corrosion resistant stainless-steel blade is partially protected by a curved plastic hook. It can be used to cut entangled or snagged kite lines, or to release the kite if the safety release system fails. Some kitesurfing harnesses are equipped with a small pocket for the knife.
  • A helmet is often worn by kitesurfers to protect the head from blunt trauma. Helmets prevent head lacerations, and can also reduce the severity of impact injuries to the head, as well as compression injuries to the neck and spine.
  • A personal flotation device or PFD may be required if the kitesurfer is using a boat or personal water craft for support. It is also recommended for kitesurfing in deep water in case the kitesurfer becomes disabled and must wait for rescue.
  • An impact vest provides some protection against impacts to the torso area. They can also provide some flotation.
  • A board leash that attaches the board to the kitesurfer’s leg or harness is used by some riders. However, many kitesurfing schools discourage the use of board leashes due to the risk of recoil, where the leash can yank the board to impact the rider, which can result in serious injury or even death. Generally, kitesurfers that use a board leash will also wear a helmet to help protect against this.
  • Signaling devices are useful if the kitesurfer needs to be rescued. This may be as simple as a whistle attached to the knife, or retro-reflective tape applied to the helmet. Some kitesurfers carry a mobile phone or two-way radio in a waterproof pouch to use in an emergency. A small Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) can be carried and activated to send out a distress signal.
  • A buddy is important to help with launching and retrieving the kite, and to assist in an emergency.
  • A GPS can be used to measure distance travelled, tracks and speed during a session.

DANGERS AND SAFETY

Power kites can be dangerous. Because of strong forces that can be generated by sudden wind gusts, people can be lofted, carried off, dashed against water, buildings, terrain or power lines, resulting in what’s termed a “kitemare” (a portmanteau of kite and nightmare).

Most kiteboarding fatalities are the result of being lofted or dragged out of control, resulting in a collision with hard objects including sand. It is possible to be seriously injured simply by hitting the water surface at a high speed or from a height. Loftings or being lifted and blown downwind out of control often happen in excessively strong winds from squalls or storms. Lack of weather awareness and understanding figures in many of these cases. Some ideas for trying to avoid weather problems are discussed in (Kiteboarding weather planning and monitoring). Choice of inappropriate locations for kiteboarding where the wind passes over land creating wind shadow, rotor with pronounced gusts and lulls has also factored in many accidents. More about this topic is considered in (Shadow Blasted … Flying In Dirty Air). Lack of a sufficient downwind buffer distance between the kiter and hard objects has contributed to accidents reducing the available distance and time for reaction. Drowning has been a factor in severe accidents as well and may have been avoided in some cases through the use of an appropriate flotation aid or impact vest and development of acceptable swimming skills. Solo kiteboarding has been a frequent contributing cause to accidents, kiteboarders should always kite with friends and keep an eye on one another. Adequate quality professional kiteboarding training, careful development of experience and consistent use of good judgement and safety gear should result in fewer problems in kiteboarding.

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