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ricki 05-06-2020 09:21 PM

KS #10 - When Extreme Ability Isn't Enough
** Kiteboarding scenarios were first posted in 2002 in the old Yahoogroups, then on Kiteforum and other forums over the years. They consist of plausible kiting incidents and accidents that haven’t occurred but may or may not have been inspired by real events. They are stories of likely events containing object lessons worth considering by kiters.

KITEBOARDING SCENARIO #10 - When Extreme Ability Isn't Enough or Bad Riding Conditions ... Go Bad**

A very experienced and skillful kiter had been riding at this same launch for over a decade. It was along the shore of a very large lake. The shoreline has a narrow 40 ft. sand and cobble beach followed by some 20 ft. cliffs with scattered boulders. When the wind is out of the south it is side offshore from the coast a few miles out making conditions particularly gusty. Once you ride away from shore and the area of dirty air caused by wind shadow from these land features the wind evens out somewhat. Inside though a wide gust range is common with southerly winds.

This rider was unusual, he not only was very experienced but also a very capable athlete. He had particularly fast reactions with strong commitment and no hesitation. This came from years of kiting and other extreme sports. His honed reactions had not only allowed him to develop a high degree of skill in kiting and other action sports but had likely saved his bacon many times over the years. He was an aggressive rider by nature, allowing little room for error routinely. Despite being an early kiter and a fairly extreme one at that, he had never been to the hospital to deal with injuries before.

He was flying an 11 m high aspect flat kite and being on the heavy side it had served him in similar winds in the past. The kite boosted very well but you had to be careful to avoid stalling it particularly in the absence of much buffer to recover in.

There were about a dozen guys out riding a variety of kite sizes. Launch and landing conditions were demanding but locals know this and try to manage as best they can. A friend of this rider had actually been lofted ashore a few times and knocked unconscious repeatedly in excessively gusty conditions at another launch in the area also with wind shadow conditions in the past. The winds this day were between about 10 and 25 kts..

He had chosen to launch and ride off a particular narrow section of beach in part because there were spectators in this area and waves nearshore a bit lower for tricks. When he was first launched that day, his kite stalled suddenly in a major lull and he felt compelled to open his Quick Release to Emergency Depower (fully kill the kites power). He did this without hesitation and suffered no injury. This was a warning about the severe nature of the conditions in that area.

He was out riding within about 100 ft. off shore doing tricks to the enjoyment of the spectators. His kite had stalled in the lulls and gone down about four times that morning in the dirty air nearshore. This was another significant warning of the poor conditions. As he was riding, he was hit by a sudden lull dropping the kite followed by a powerful gust which lofted him off the water, flung him horizontally and into the sand at high speed. This happened so fast as to defy even this accomplished rider's impressive reactions. He was likely knocked out on this first impact. His kite relaunched and dragged him further inland likely striking some rocks along the way.

He had suffered severe injury, was unconscious with no vital signs. An off duty nurse from a nearby picnic ground performed CPR and eventually revived him before the EMTs arrived. He suffered a broken arm, legs, pelvis, multiple rib fractures, a ruptured lung and traumatic brain injury (TBI) related to a bad gash. He also suffered spinal injury resulting in current paralysis below his waist. In time hopefully it all will heal.

Original post on main forum at

ricki 05-06-2020 09:22 PM


1. Many riders push it to varying degrees. In a way it is who and what many of us are. How much and how far to push it can demand a good deal of judgment and sadly luck too at extremes. The thing is we can have close call, have a friend experience one and we might think well maybe I won't push it quite so hard in those circumstances in the future. It's a reality check of sorts. This sensation often doesn't last however, maybe it should though.

2. On a good day some very accomplished riders among us might be able to handle an inadequate downwind buffer with hard nasty stuff beyond with gusty winds but things will go wrong over time. It can happen on the first time or the hundredth of poor riding practices. We get complacent it is a normal human reaction. In our sport we really can't afford to be too complacent regardless of skill despite what may be normal tendency.

3. If you have a choice between riding in an area with a better buffer from an area with no real buffer and what amounts to likely severe injury if you're thrown ashore, logic tells us to move to the better area. If there are less gusty and hazardous winds further away from shore, along with few waves for tricks, we should ride out there and not in the unsettled wind zone nearshore. Location counts when things go south.

4. Wear reasonable safety gear for just in case. Few people do this these days, even fewer extremely experienced kiters. A good helmet might have helped him avoid loss of consciousness on the impact with sand, with those incredible responses who knows, he might have gotten things under control before additional injury occurred. It might have lessened the degree of the TBI and gash as well. An impact vest might have helped with the rib fracture and subsequent lung perforation, or perhaps not. The only certain thing is if you don't use this gear, it will do you no good beyond any doubt.

5. Just because we should do something doesn't mean we will. Lots of us suffer from this at times. Thing is, is any one session or dozen worth your ability to walk unaided, time off work or worse perhaps the rest of your life? Obviously not, "but this stuff always happens to someone else, never to me." So, just because you can get away with marginal practices at times doesn't mean you always will. In fact you can pretty much count on it not lasting, that is just the way life and reality are. Confidence is a great thing but it can't overcome physics when the tables turn against you badly. Making a habit of consistent good practices is about the only thing that might serve in such conditions.

6. Bottom line, if someone of this rider's major ability could get messed up by an inadequate buffer and excessively gusty winds, pretty much anyone can be harmed by the same. Take a minute and think about it now and when you ride. Allow a reasonable margin for error, it may be all that stands between you and a fun session or an accident that might change your entire life.


ricki 05-06-2020 09:22 PM
An illustration of wind shadow or rotor and surface features. It doesn't take much land relief to seriously disturb the wind and put kiters at risk. The higher and/or closer the surface feature, potentially the more severe the wind shadow or mechanical turbulence resulting in excessive lulls and gusts.
All those multicolored squiggles represent undulating air flow which equate to serious changes and directions in wind speed. Don't let the squiggles get you, they can hurt!

MORE about wind shadow and land features to be avoided at:


ricki 05-06-2020 09:23 PM


I wrote this about Kinsley ThomasWong's terrible kiting accident 2010. It was too soon to share all the specifics of the accident but using the Kiting Scenario series it was be possible to pass along some important hard won lessons from this awful accident. I moved the scene from the ocean to a lake but preserved critical aspects of what went wrong and ideas as to why. In time, the accident cost him his life. Kinsley was a fighter and truly upbeat person and strong example to us all.

Here is an interview after the accident showing the drive and passion of this pioneer in our sport.

Also a tribute to Kinsley during the event he founded:

Rest in peace Kinsley

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