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Old 05-06-2014, 03:57 PM
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RickI RickI is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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Default Helmets for kiting

I collected a few posts from kiteforum a while back on this subject. It is reproduced below from:

Originally Posted by RickI
A collection of posts on the subject from the main forum:

Originally Posted by RickI
That is a serious paradox in kiting. The risk of high speed impacts vs. the risk of high speed impacts. Usually on land, when you have risk of high speed impacts, well designed helmets are as substantial as feasible to address those impacts. This means multiple foam components, usually a thick polystyrene (EPS) or styrofoam foam layer that "self destroy" or crush on a single impact conveying impact protection through energy conversion and a substantial shell. Styrofoam works very well for this. There is a problem though.

EPS is for single impacts, it was thought water users would have more frequent impacts. This would mean discarding helmets after impact even lesser ones. For this and other reasons "multiple impact" foams have been developed for water activities for sometime. Many think EPS excels multiple impact foams in impact related energy management. At the same time, the water helmet market appears to be focused on multiple impact foam.

How does a helmet work? This is what they Snell Institute has to say about it.

"How do helmets work?
Helmets are normally comprised of four elements; a rigid outer shell, a crushable liner, chin straps or a retaining system and fit or comfort padding. The rigid outer shell when present adds a load-spreading capability, and prevents objects from penetrating the helmet. It's kind of like an additional skull. The liner, usually made of EPS (expanded polystyrene) or similar types of materials absorbs the energy of an impact by crushing. The chin strap when properly buckled and adjusted along with the fit padding helps the helmet remain in position during a crash.
Helmets work kind of like a brake or shock absorber. During a fall or crash a head is traveling at a certain speed. Since the head has weight, and is moving there is a certain amount of energy associated with the moving head. When the helmet along with the accompanying head impact an unyielding object; a rock, a wall, a curb or the ground the hard shell starts by taking the energy generated by the falling helmet (head) and spreads it over a larger portion of the helmet, specifically the internal foam liner. The foam liner then starts to crush and break which uses up a lot of the energy, keeping it from reaching the head inside. Depending on how fast the head is traveling, and how big, heavy and immovable the object is the faster the head slows down, and the more energy is present. In short everything slows down really quickly. A helmet will effectively reduce the speed of the head by breaking and crushing which reduces the amount of energy transferred to the brain. The whole process take only milliseconds to turn a potentially lethal blow into a survivable one."

Still more with focus on water helmets as opposed to EPS foam models at:

There are lots of good (read: bad) reasons for wearing a helmet in the posts on this forum. One in particular worth looking over is AJ's story:

A helmet article from The Kiteboarder

A SBC Kiteboard article on helmets

A fairly low speed but tragically fatal impact involving an advanced kiter

Might as well throw mine in there, got me started on this ten years back.

Originally Posted by icebird
I'm all for wearing helmets while kiting.

But to get the discussion into perspective the standards approved helmets are for kayakers rolling over and hitting a rock, not kiters flying through the air at 50km/t.

So helmets reduce injury, but they are not appropriate for the chosen activity. Bicycle and motorcycle helmets self-destroy on impact, water helmets do not.

Originally Posted by RickI
Originally Posted by sarc
Do helmets need to be snug fitting to work? I use a skateboarding helmet it's comfortable but is sits loose on my noodle.
Yes, it should fit comfortably and snugly. If it shifts on your head it might do more harm than good.

Some helmet characteristics follow from a post in:

Originally Posted by RickI
Not so, do a key word search for "helmet" here, you get quite a few hits. You can even checkout a post, 4 1/2 years old at this point from Miami at:

Helmet use is just another choice. Some guys do and some guys don't. It is a function of injury and perception of risk aided by industry example and contest regulations, if any. Look at the adoption of helmets in many other activities you'll see parallels.

Some riders might still be here today if they had helmets on while kiting, not all but certainly some. Some guys are still here today or suffered lesser injury because of helmets in kiting.

Things to consider in looking for a kitesurfing helmet:

1. Good, snug and comfortable fit.

2. Close fit and close contour resulting in low drag without avoidable projections (e.g. fixed visors/bills).

3. Light weight.

4. Well padded with suitable material for impact absorption without creating excessive bulk and drag.

5. Good drainage/fit characteristics to reduce water retention
and bucketing potential.

6. A good hard shell for impact dispersal and penetration resistance. Kevlar/high strength composites may offer better penetration resistance than ABS plastic.

7. Strong, corrosion resistant fastenings in an effective retention system.

Some helmets to evaluate for kiting appear on page five of:

FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi[/quote

Originally Posted by RickI
This was published in September last year, just came across it however. Been discussing helmets again recently, trauma surgeons weigh in on the question. An Internet translation appears below followed by the story in German.

"Doctors call for Helmet for kite surfers

In the summer months hardly a day goes by without an abortive Kite
Surfer in the emergency room of University Hospital in Greifswald is placed.
The Bay of Greifswald considered an insider tip for the sportsmen, it is
virtually on the hospital door. "In the high season we see every day a
injured riders, "said the head of trauma surgery, Axel Ekkernkamp. The
Spectrum of injuries is wide: cuts on hands or Feet, sprains, fractures, knee and head injuries. "What makes us worry, is the most severe injury - death, "says the vice president of the German
Society of Trauma Surgery.

According to the doctors, the number of accidents at kite-surfing in the
recent years increased considerably. The reason: The Trendsport finds more and more
Popularity - even with less experienced. Accident such as medical Ekkernkamp advocate
Therefore, by analogy to similar claims for a skiing helmets for riders
made to minimize mainly the serious accidents. Moreover, should tighter
Admission to the kite are - the doctors call a
mandatory driver's license. Spectacular accident on the Baltic coast as 2002, the
Death of the reigning world champion in kite-Zingst are subject for discussion at the
Scene: The kite of the 26-year-olds and one other athlete had
catch each other. The surfer was at a phenomenal rate over the
Water and then over two wooden groynes drawn. It suffered a multiple trauma and died
at the scene. Legal physicians and trauma surgeons as Eberhard Lignitz the
Uni Greifswald described in a recent study, the severity and diversity
typical kite injury. Only a week ago, a woman in Wismar
a gust of wind with her sails torn kite in the air and suffered serious
Head injuries.

According to studies, the risk of injury when kiting with five to seven
Injuries per 1,000 hours of sports similar to skiing, such as the
Unfallchirurg Jorn Lange reported. In comparison with contact sports such as football
(20 injuries per 1000 hours) or hockey (43 injuries in 1000
Hours) appears to the risk of injury initially low. Other studies
however, show that just the head of pus under the foot and ankle
one with 13.7 percent of the most frequently injured body regions. "The accident
Dieter Althaus, the skier has sensitized to wear a helmet, "says

The Extreme is the trend. According to estimates by the Association of German
Water sports (VDWS) are available in Germany since about 15 000 active
Kite-surfers, of which some 7,500 trained with a license for a VDWS
certified teachers have been completed. Where to learn the other riders the sport
is unknown. "The accidents also employ us," said spokesman Claus VDWS
Baalmann. The association is in favor of a helmet recommendation. A duty to
Head protection is the association too far. "We rely on the
Personal responsibility of the athlete, "says Baalmann.

The kite scene is demanded by researchers as little wear helmets
unenforceable. The plastic helmet is considered uncool. "If a helmet and
Vest bears, throughout the scene as a beginner, are established by VDWS
Kite-certified teachers Janko Borgwardt from Born on the Darß
widespread opinion of the riders again. For the owner of the kite school
ProBoarding in small Zicker (Rügen), Haiko Milke, offer a false sense of helmets
Security. Instead of helmet is Milke, whose school this year, about 100
Kiter trained, on a consistent safety training. "This is not even
not to prevent injury. "A" license "- as experts from the accident
proposed - is the view of the kite-teacher the best way to prevent accidents to
. Minimize Already give schools such as kite-only equipment ProBoarding
out if students can prove a license.

Trauma surgeons as Axel Ekkernkamp extends the view of the extreme
Speeds of the riders on the water is not enough. "I'm saying: just kiting
with a helmet. ""

Original article:

Ärzte fordern Helmpflicht für Kite-Surfer

In den Sommermonaten vergeht kaum ein Tag, an dem nicht ein verunglückter Kite-Surfer in die Notaufnahme des Greifswalder Universitätsklinikums gebracht wird.
Der Greifswalder Bodden gilt als Insider-Tipp für die Trendsportler, er liegt quasi vor der Klinikumstür. "In der Hochsaison sehen wir jeden Tag einen verletzten Kiter", berichtet der Leiter der Unfallchirurgie, Axel Ekkernkamp. Das Spektrum der Verletzungen ist weit gefächert: Schnittverletzungen an Händen oder Füßen, Zerrungen, Brüche, Knie- oder Kopfverletzungen. "Was uns Kummer macht, ist die schwerste Verletzung - der Tod", sagt der Vizepräsident der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Unfallchirurgie.

Nach Einschätzung der Mediziner sind die Unfallzahlen beim Kite-Surfen in den letzten Jahren deutlich angestiegen. Der Grund: Der Trendsport findet immer mehr Zuspruch - auch bei weniger Geübten. Unfallmediziner wie Ekkernkamp sprechen sich deshalb analog zu ähnlichen Forderungen im Skisport für eine Helmpflicht für Kiter aus, um vor allem die schweren Unfälle zu minimieren. Zudem sollten strengere Zugangsvoraussetzungen für das Kiten gelten - die Ärzte fordern einen verbindlichen Führerschein. Spektakuläre Unfälle an der Ostseeküste wie 2002 der Tod der amtierenden Kite-Weltmeisterin vor Zingst sind Gesprächsthema in der Szene: Die Lenkdrachen der 26-Jährigen und eines weiteren Sportlers hatten sich ineinander verfangen. Die Surferin wurde mit rasanter Geschwindigkeit über das Wasser und dann über zwei Holzbuhnen gezogen. Sie erlitt ein Polytrauma und starb noch am Unfallort. Rechtsmediziner wie Eberhard Lignitz und Unfallchirurgen der Uni Greifswald beschreiben in einer aktuellen Studie die Schwere und Vielfalt typischer Kite-Verletzungen. Erst vor einer Woche wurde eine Frau bei Wismar von einer Windböe mit ihrem Kite-Segel in die Luft gerissen und erlitt schwere Kopfverletzungen.

Studien zufolge ist das Verletzungsrisiko beim Kiten mit fünf bis sieben Verletzungen pro 1000 Stunden Sport vergleichbar mit dem beim Skifahren, wie der Unfallchirurg Jörn Lange berichtet. Im Vergleich zu Kontaktsportarten wie Fußball (20 Verletzungen auf 1000 Stunden) oder Eishockey (43 Verletzungen auf 1000 Stunden) scheint die Verletzungsgefahr zunächst gering. Andere Untersuchungen belegen jedoch, dass gerade der Kopf des Kiters nach den Fuß- und Sprunggelenken mit 13,7 Prozent zu den am häufigsten verletzten Körperregionen zählt. "Der Unfall von Dieter Althaus hat die Skifahrer sensibilisiert, einen Helm zu tragen", sagt Lange.

Der Extremsport liegt im Trend. Nach Schätzungen des Verbandes Deutscher Wassersportschulen (VDWS) gibt es in Deutschland inzwischen rund 15 000 aktive Kite-Surfer, von denen rund 7500 ihre Ausbildung mit einer Lizenz bei einem VDWS-zertifizierten Lehrer abgeschlossen haben. Wo die anderen Kiter den Sport erlernen ist unbekannt. "Die Unfälle beschäftigen auch uns", sagte VDWS-Sprecher Claus Baalmann. Der Verband spricht sich für eine Helmempfehlung aus. Eine Pflicht zum Kopfschutz geht dem Verband jedoch zu weit. "Wir setzen auf die Selbstverantwortung des Sportlers", sagt Baalmann.

In der Kite-Szene wird die von Forschern geforderte Helmpflicht als kaum durchsetzbar angesehen. Der Plastikhelm gilt als uncool. "Wer einen Helm und Schutzweste trägt, gilt in der Szene als Anfänger", gibt der durch den VDWS zertifizierte Kite-Lehrer Janko Borgwardt aus Born auf dem Darß die weitverbreitete Meinung der Kiter wieder. Für den Betreiber der Kite-Schule ProBoarding in Klein Zicker (Rügen), Haiko Milke, bieten Helme eine trügerische Sicherheit. Statt auf Helm setzt Milke, dessen Schule in diesem Jahr rund 100 Kiter ausbildete, auf ein konsequentes Sicherheitstraining. "Damit es erst gar nicht zu Unfällen kommt." Ein "Führerschein" - wie von den Unfallexperten vorgeschlagen - ist aus Sicht der Kite-Lehrer der bessere Weg, um Unfälle zu minimieren. Schon jetzt geben Kite-Schulen wie ProBoarding Ausrüstungen nur heraus, wenn Schüler eine Lizenz nachweisen können.

Unfallchirurgen wie Axel Ekkernkamp reicht das angesichts der extremen Geschwindigkeiten der Kiter auf dem Wasser nicht aus. "Ich bleibe dabei: Kiten nur mit Helm."

Originally Posted by RickI
Ronnie, there have been a number of kiters with damaged ear drums, many talked about it on here over the years. Quite a few kiters like to use helmets for that reason alone as you anticipated. Others bothered by changes in their hearing take off removable ear covers on helmets that are set up with that option. Some of these posts show up at:, I recall mention of quite a few others beyond these.

Something I think many of us would agree on, if you are lofted from the water or the beach inland, when you strike, often several times, you are at risk of a head injury. People break all sorts of things in these loftings. Guys may break their pelvis, arms, legs, collar bones and suffer traumatic brain injury sometimes and sometimes not. Sometimes the TBI is severe and in others milder? Why is this? Lofting impacts differ, you never know in advance how bad it is going to be and what might be messed up.

Of the 24 losses worldwide that happened in 2009 that I have learned of, 16 were loftings with many in severe weather/squalls. Over all 19 of these tragic losses may (or may not) have been altered if helmets had been worn. In some impacts a helmet would make little difference and yet it others, even powerful loftings, they can lessen injury, even save someones life.

Originally Posted by RickI
Originally Posted by ed257
Rick I,

I realize that this is difficult, but...

As you go through your data for kiting injuries and deaths are you able to project a guesstimate at how many of these people would likely have been fine if they had been wearing a helmet?

Hello Ed,

We'll never know. The variables are too numerous and in some cases complex. The problem is further compounded by information limitations in these sad accidents. I made a reasonable estimate within the constraints of the data in my opening post here.

There are a number fatalities particularly some in low wind speeds that suggest helmet use might have made a major difference.

Such as:

A fatality in 11 to 12 kts. involving a kiter with several years experience after he hit a rock on the shore.

A rider with about four years experience was walking back in about 12 kts. after doing a short downwinder. He was lofted and dragged into a rock covered swale at relatively low speed and suffered serious head injury. He remained in a coma for 11 days and died. Many local kiters started using helmets as a result of this accident.

A fatal board leash impact in the absence of a helmet.

A new kiter caught by a summer squall, tea bagged across the beach, lofted into a tree and dropped to the pavement. He entered into at least a 5 week coma but eventually came out of it with what may be lasting cognitive impairment.

Survivorship and injury in higher wind speeds and impacts become more problematic but may still within reason. I am not sure how fast I was going when I bounced off a house. Breaking through 50 or so feet of seagrape trees thankfully slowed me down. Despite that I still covered 150 ft. horizontally, slammed into a wood rail, was wearing an old skateboarding helmet with poor padding and still lived. I even recovered fully in time. So, helmets can do some remarkable things even in higher speed impacts at times. If you slam full on head first into something hard at 40 mph, I would guess it would be unlikely a helmet would do much good for you. It is like asking will a seatbelt save your life in a 100 mph collision with a massive concrete wall? You also have neck fractures to worry about which can be lethal all by themselves independent of traumatic brain injury. Still, it goes back to the question, "what sort of accident are you going to have?"

"Do you wear a helmet? WHY? / WHY NOT?"

"accident with helmets"

Originally Posted by RickI
Kiters have impacts with a lot more than boards, things like sand, rocks, trees, cars, buildings, stuff floating in the water, walls, roads, curbs, boats and more. If you think a board impact is the only kind you need to be concerned with, you are wrong. If you are traveling fast enough and hit hard enough a helmet likely may not do you much good. Guys have died with helmets on after all, they aren't magic. Then again there have been some horrific loftings where guys wore no helmet and yet lived. There have been short lofting/draggings with fairly low speed impacts against rock with loss of life or coma against sand, again without helmets. There have been cases in which helmets did provide benefit in kiting impacts. Looking at other impact prone activites like bike riding, it doesn't take much imagination to see the benefits in kiting aside from accident and incident stories.

Regarding a helmet contributing to whiplash, maybe, particularly if it was ill suited to kiting, has excessive weight, drag has poor fit or is improperly secured. Consider this, surfers get whiplash with no helmet, water skiers do too even more commonly. Kiting is a whiplash rich environment, lets face it. I understand you can even get whiplash from dancing? How about blasting into the water at 25 mph from a jump to 30 ft. or less? If folks have a preexisting injury or neck weakness kiting may not be for them.

It is up to the rider whether to choose to wear a helmet or not but try to use accurate information in making up your mind.
Originally Posted by RickI
I disagree, it isn't a one in a billion chance, the odds of a kiter having an impact are far more likely. Next August I will have been kiting for 14 years. In that time I've had a number of board bumps but none that serious. I have been luckier than some in that regard. I have had a number of collisions or near collisions with other hard objects making me very grateful for what protection a good helmet offers. Most have been long in the past but not all.

The accident experience shows impact with boards is not the number one hazard without board leashes. The wind comes up, a line breaks or gets tangled on you, your bar or debris, you attach lines in reverse, pick your bar upside down, you wrap a wingtip or with another kiter, you come too close to something, make a bad judgment, oversteer, boost too close to ?, mess up a landing, you have a bad launch, get rotored by wind shadow, someone grabs your bar, etc. etc.. It happens and the more advanced you are the more you may be pushing the envelop, that means higher risk of burning in. This is obvious and for years most of the dead kiters had years of experience, overconfidence and complacence taking a toll. Helmets don't assure lack of problems or injury but they can help.

Drooling with traumatic brain injury or having the recall of a child with a robotic voice due to damaged speech control centers, laying on a bed pan in the ICU and experiencing all the diminished function be it temporary God willing or in some cases permanent isn't sexy, good looking or desirable either. There are lots of cases out there like that. Avoiding and managing accidents can often involve getting your head straight and making the right choices. Worry about how your hair looks may not be high on the list if things go south. Ask AJ, I think he would agree.



Originally Posted by RickI
"Helmets make you look stupid."

Really ... HOW?

Damien looking good.


Forrest Gump once said, "stupid is as stupid does" (or doesn't do, life is about choices).
Looks never even came into it, just actions.
From: ... /index.htm

Minda styles as she's wired for sight and sound by Kiteflix

This guy should certainly know about helmets. You can read his story Here

Lets checkout some more riders rigged with lids,

Andrea shreds on

Paul Menta

Vari from a while back

Andy Hurdman goes to it.

Lightwave Dave and Flash

If you are looking for a kiteboarding helmet some things to keep in mind include:

1. It should fit well and be comforable.
2. It should be light and not retain water.
3. It should have low drag and an absence of projections that could cause neck injury or inflammation.
4. It should have the best padding available and not an excessively soft variety either.
5. It should remain well secured and have corrosion resistant fastenings.
6. It should have a resilent shell.
7. Some riders like ear protection to reduce the odds of an ear drum perforation.

So, good close fit ...

Low drag?
Wonder how it would feel entering head first at speed from a jump gone bad from 20 feet up? Do you want something that will hit the water and load up like bill or visor or something that will cause as little resistance to water as feasible while still providing impact protection against hard objects? Kiteboarders plow in from height not uncommonly at all.
Some guys wear these helmets backwards. Have you ever had a spinning wipeout against water? What was up and down can completely change in rapid succession. There is something to be said for low drag on impact with water for kiteboarding lids. The impact dynamics can be substantially different in other activities for which helmets have been designed such as kayaking.

Do NOT wear helmets that are too large for you or poorly fastened. Too loose a helmet could cause injury just with impact against water.

Excellent padding, shell but man look at all that drag. You don't want to hit water going hard or fast with one of these buckets on. Next, NOT FOR KITEBOARDING.

Good padding, light, well ventilated but more drag out the wazoo. Looks like a pain in the neck for kiteboarding. NOT FOR KITEBOARDING.

Another reason for not wearing lids is thinking "it won't happen to me." I hope you are right but I wouldn't bet a great deal on that conclusion. Life can be full of surprises. Some accounts follow, these guys had a lot of skill, experience and time kiteboarding. Sometimes skill just isn't enough even in light wind.
Lots more where these came from sad to say.

NOTE: If your neck is sensitive a helmet could contribute to inflammation/irritation. Of couse the regular slam in's to water could do this same thing even without a helmet in kiteboarding. If you have a sensitive or injured neck think carefully about kiteboarding in the first place and talk to your doctor.

Give some thought to wearing a good helmet, whenever you ride.

"The wiseman learns from others mistakes, the average man learns from his own mistakes, the village idiot never seems to learn."
- Howdoyouflythisthing

C.J. is even wearing lids in bars these days. Looking good!

FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi

There are still more, just need to go over my information.


Transcibed by:
Rick Iossi
FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi
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