Is Kiteboarding Dangerous?
The most important of all is that almost everybody can learn to ride.
Women, men, young and old. Even if you are not the fittest tool in the shed you can learn kiteboarding. A 3 year old has already been spotted kiteboarding.
All you need to be able to kiteboard is to be comfortable at swimming, not be scared of water and know to have fun no matter what you do.
Kiteboarding looks spectacular and to some very sensible people it looks dangerous to soar a few seconds with the kite, also when an accident happens it is often pretty big news.
Due to the nature of the sport, going at it without proper instruction and skill can result into injury.
Injury you say… Is it safer to play soccer?
In 2002 a prospective study was conducted, by Christof Nickel et al., to study kiteboarding injuries. It reported an average of 7 injuries per 1000 kite hours or kH.
The injury rate for kiters without a ‘Quick Release System’ or QR-system was 7.6 injuries per 1000 kH and with a QR-system 4.8 injuries per 1000 kH.
In the study 56% of the injuries attribute to the inability to detach the kite from the harness in a situation involving loss of control over the kite.
Right now in 2020, all control systems have a QR-system integrated in them, it is no option anymore to not have one. This does not mean that the 56% of the injuries is 0% now.
There are for example still people who did not take lessons, making them unaware how or when to use the system or have not had the chance to safely gain reflexes to use the QR-system. Also is old or unmaintained gear reason for failure of detachment.
If it is safer to play soccer? Check out the figure below. The answer might surprise you!
As with many other sports the risk of injuries is higher during competition then training and the higher of a level people train, the bigger the chance of becoming injured you have.
The beginners have the least injuries per 1000 kH and the experts and intermediates have the most.
So how dangerous is kiteboarding really?
The conclusion is that kiteboarding is a pretty safe and relatively easy extreme sport.
Just like driving a car, the more advanced you are and the further you push, the bigger risk of injury.
But getting in a car not even knowing how to use the break or clutch, or heck not even knowing that turning the wheel to the left makes the car go to the left, is begging for problems.
If getting a kite friend to teach you is safe? That depends on the friend. If the friend is trained in teaching kiteboarding then yes. Otherwise no, because kiteboarding is not only about being able to ride, but also about making risk assessments. It is important that learning how to ride and learning how to make risk assessments are being taught simultaneously.
To be safe in the water, you will therefore need to find a school that you trust so you can safely train and learn and have the skills to not only kite, but also not get into easily avoidable problems. The only way to learn how to kite is by kiting. So we do not recommend group lessons (3+) per 1 instructor since you will not have a lot of kite flying time.
A “Tips and pointers” Ratatouille
- Everything sinks or swims with proper kite lessons. The lessons will teach you proper kite- and safety skills, but most importantly will it give you the opportunity to make mistakes and gain the proper counter-intuïtive muscle memory needed to safely control the kite.
- It’s important to do a proper spot assessment, talk to the locals to know the do’s, don’ts and windpatterns specific to the spot. Look at what other kiters do, their kitesizes and if they need to work the kite. Not being aware of the different wind directions related to the shore can end you up somewhere forever living amongst dolphins or as decoration in a ‘Kadushi’ cactus.
- Be sufficient in setting up your kite correctly en trimming it right. When lines are not attached correctly the kite can counter-react, backstall, death-loop, front stall.
Why is this a problem? The kite and it’s power will become unpredictable and you might break “Your Precioussss” or hurt yourself.
- It is key for you to know how to securely launch and land your kite.
- Know how to keep your kite pressurised in the wind, how to walk with it over land, how to duck and grab your board etc., without it falling out of the sky like a piece of underwear.
- Bad weather always comes from behind! Be aware of what wind conditions are good for your kite size and your skill.
- Know your right of way rules so you do not park your kite right onto some-one else’s. Be aware that not everybody know the rules or follows them. If someone is reckless please yield.
- It can be super disappointing if the spot- or weather conditions are not suitable for the gear you have (at your level). Being strong and not going out, even though you are about 60 pump strokes away from giving looking like that guy on youtube a try is key. You can always stay on the beach with a trainer kite and practise your kiteskills.
- Kite as far out as you are willing to swim back. Taking into account possible waves, current, water temp, etc.
- In what state is your gear? Buy cheap, get cheap. You don’t want your gear to break.
It can be really sour, having to cut your session short because of a leaking kite. But worse… it can be dangerous if your gear is unreliable. As a rule, don’t buy gear older then 2 years and check everything vigorously before buying gear. As a harness you would want to have one that is comfortable and supportive. When it is old and soft, it cannot support your back and might make you uncomfortable.
- Respect the learning process. Learning to kite is not just about “knowing what to do”. Actually, it’s mostly about your body learning and memorising what to do. The only way to do that is by practising without ever losing out of sight that you are out there playing in the water to have fun.