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Old 09-10-2004, 09:14 AM
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Default Kitesurfing Safety Information Year 2000 - Vers. 6_26_02

TERMS OF USE: Access to and use of this information is restricted. This resource is intended for the reading and private use by KITEBOARDERS ONLY to improve safety. Use by other parties for any other purpose or reproduction of portions or the entirety of this copyrighted document by ANY PARTY, is strictly prohibited unless prior written release to do so is given by the owner. In proceeding below to review this document, the user fully agrees to comply with these restrictions.

This collection of reported but largely unconfirmed kiteboarding accidents and incidents has been prepared with the goal of improving kiteboarding safety. It is intended to spread the lessons learned from these accounts. The accuracy of most of these accounts is not verified and as such they should not be considered so. Ideally, the reader should view these accounts as describing potential credible scenarios that could lead to injury. The rider should gather ideas and perspective on how to avoid similar accidents and incidents. Kiteboarding is a new and rapidly growing sport. Safety concepts and knowledge are still being learned and spread. It is a goal of this resource to aid that process where possible.
It is important to put the frequency of these reported accident and incident accounts in perspective. These few dozen reported incidents generally represent the extremes in this sport. They do not represent the perceived normal rider experience. All accounts over a three year period. Estimates vary, but in that three years roughly ten million or more hours may have been spent by riders kiteboarding worldwide. Surveys are in progress but for now this is a rough estimate. The vast majority of these hours are perceived as having been free from serious incidents or injury. These scenarios represent incidents that reportedly happened to a minority of riders and should not be taken as "normal" by any means. Similar statistics for verified bicycle, aircraft or automobile accidents would be vastly more shocking in terms of the high numbers of victims per year and dramatic injuries worldwide. This resource has been prepared to raise the state of awareness and to avoid accidents. The point is that these reported accidents and incidents could potentially occur to any rider in conditions similar to those described. As such, kiteboarding should be viewed as a potentially dangerous, extreme sport that deserves careful training, practice, preparation and judgment to be safely enjoyed. With the expansion of knowledge, use of appropriate caution and adoption of better safety and riding procedures these risks should be reduced substantially. We are all still learning about this sport and the hazards that may be out there.
Often the difference between a safe kiteboarding session or an injurious one is prior knowledge, appropriate safety gear, practice of procedures to avoid problems and careful, informed judgment. This resource is intended for the downloading, reading and private use of kiteboarders only. Use by other parties for any other purpose is strictly prohibited unless prior written release to do so is given. This document is protected by copyright and reproduction of this document or portions thereof is prohibited without prior written approval of the owner.
Kiteboarding when undertaken in a responsible, informed fashion with proper professional training and preparation may be safer than other popular sports such as hang gliding, off-piste skiing, mixed gas scuba diving and many other pursuits. The preparation of this collection of stories is to improve common knowledge, awareness of threats to safety and questionable riding practices. The following examples will hopefully illustrate the potential costs of poor practices and judgment.
I want to express sincere thanks to Brett Gibson, founder of the Mid-Atlantic Kitesurfing Association, for proof reading and helping to revise this document. Also, I want to thank all the riders that have provided input that resulted in the creation of this resource. Constructive comments, suggestions, alternative views, credible eyewitness and particularly participant account information are always welcome and should be emailed to
Table Of Contents Page
Introduction .................................................. ............................... 2
Table of Contents .................................................. ..................... 3
Organization .................................................. ............................. 4
Disclaimer .................................................. ................................. 4
Correlation of Accident/Incident Circumstances ......................... 5
New Accounts and Additional Information .................................. 5
Kiteboarding Account Summaries
Year 2002 (Accounts 19 - 43) ............................... Separate File
Year 2001 (Accounts 6- 18) .................................. Separate File
Year 2000 (Accounts 1 - 5) ............................................ 7

The accounts are divided into four sections, including:
General Information
This section provides an account number, date of the account, reported date of incident and location information. When possible, other reports of the account were sought and/or received from others. The number of these other reports is listed in this section. If information was received directly from the participant, it is noted in this section as well. Finally, if the information is described by a published internet account, the URL will be provided if it is known.


This section provides details that have been related without embellishment or comment. Despite attempts to verify the accounts, they should not be assumed to be verified. However, they may represent realistic but potentially hypothetical object lessons or scenarios for kiteboarders. Remembered and second party accounts may have errors and as such should not be assumed to be verified or necessarily to depict actual occurrences.

Lessons Learned

This section provides opinion regarding potential improved safety practices for kiteboarding derived from the experience related in the account. These “Lessons” may alter with time as new knowledge is gained and distributed in the sport. When new credible practices become known, they may be incorporated in updated versions of the accounts.


This section provides opinions and specific observations based on the reported account. These comments are intended to discuss relationship to other incidents, trends, general precautions or other relevant topics.


The account summaries listed in this resource may not be 100% accurate. Although accuracy is intended, it is not guaranteed in any fashion. No responsibility is assumed whatsoever for any errors, omissions, conclusions or consequences thereof. Attempts have been made in some cases to verify the accounts, but none of the account details should be considered to be confirmed or fully accurate by the information contained herein. Kiteboarding may potentially be practiced with reasonable safety with thorough training, current good practices, safety gear and by employing good judgment. This sport can be very dangerous if it is not approached with the level of care described. The same conclusion could apply to operating a car, bicycle or boat if the same lack of care as described was employed in these activities. These reports represent reported information and related opinions and are not intended to represent positions or opinions held by any organization or group. Other valid conclusions and procedures may be drawn from the information contained in this resource and will likely be drawn in the future as kiteboarding knowledge and safety technique is better understood. Participants are generally not identified by name, unless this identity is common knowledge or release is given. The goal of this resource is to impart lessons learned from the reported experiences of these individuals or likely scenarios and not to unduly embarrass or criticize the kiterboarders.

It is regretted that they have reportedly gone through these experiences. Sincere thanks are extended to them for helping to improve the safety of this sport with their accounts.

This resource is intended for the downloading, reading and private use of kiteboarders only. Use by other parties for any other purpose is strictly prohibited unless prior written release to do so is given. This document is protected by copyright and reproduction of this document or portions thereof is prohibited without prior written approval.

Correlation of Accident/Incident Circumstances To Specific Accounts
A. Use of a good helmet may have reduced chance of injuries in account #'s:
25,27,28,29,29b,30,31,32,34,34a,37,38,39a,39b,41,4 2,

B. High winds were involved in account #'s:
1,1a,5,9,11,12,13,15,16,16a,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,2 5,

C. Lofting occurred in account #'s:
1,1a,4,5,7,8,9,11,12,15,17,18,19,20,25,28,29,30,32 ,37,39a,41,42,

D. Rider was upwind of nearby hard objects in account #'s:

E. Onshore winds were present in account #'s:

F. Unstable weather was present in account #'s:

G. Inability to unhook from the chicken loop figured in account #'s: 4,6a,11,15,37,39a,42,

H. Board leash use figured in account #'s:

I. Injuries are known to have been reduced by helmet use in account #'s: 4,15,19,24a,35,39a

J. Proper preflighting could have helped to avoid accidents in account #'s:

K. Self launch or improper assisted launch/landing contributed to accounts #'s:

L. Glove use may have helped in account #'s: 2,3,29a

M. Proper kite leash function could have helped in account #'s: 42,42a,

Kiteboarding Account Summaries
Year 2000

5. Incident # 11 00 1 "Rider Fatality In France" Location: France
Date: November 2000 Participant account included: No Number of independent accounts: 1


An experienced kiteboarder rigged a 4 m kite, went out, and found that he was underpowered. He came in and rigged a 7 m kite and went back out. The wind picked back up. As he was approaching shore he either jumped deliberately or accidentally initiated a jump.

The rider landed on the beach on his side. He then was dragged headfirst into a wall and suffered a fatal head injury. He was wearing a Gath helmet.

Lessons learned

1. Always exercise caution and judgment when selecting the kite type and size that you are going to fly. Avoid flying in onshore winds.
2. Always approach the shore at slow speed, particularly when you come within two kite line lengths of shore.
3. If you are accelerating towards shore in a gust or other hazard consider dropping your control bar as an option to depower the kite.
4. If you are lofted, attempt to unhook, release your snap shackle or otherwise let go of the control bar. Mentally rehearse this process to reduce the likelihood that you will "hang on to the bar for dear life".
5. Select your safety gear carefully, anticipating your protection needs.
6. Never jump within two kite line lengths of shore or other hazard.


This kiteboarder made what may have been considered to be a small error in judgment which ballooned into a very serious, ultimately terminal incident. The possible force of traction kites and weather extremes have the potential to take minor mistakes which would be survivable normal conditions and turn them into health and life threatening conditions. Anticipating conditions and scenarios before they occur may have helped in this case.

Kiteboarders should try to operate with a sufficient factor of safety, e.g. maintaining a minimum safe distance from shore or other hazards, coming in slowly to shore or near hazards, coming in sufficiently before foul weather arrives and even choosing not to kiteboard when conditions are questionable.

4. Incident # 9 00 1 "Discovering a New Term ... Lofting" Location: Boca Raton, FL
Date: September 17, 2000 Participant account included: Yes Number of independent accounts: 5


I had just launched my AR5 9.5 m and was still onshore when everything hit the fan, me included! I remember the kite making it halfway up to the zenith after initial launch while near the water and almost nothing else. I ended up losing about a day and a half of memory to amnesia. I had hooked into the chicken loop just prior to launching. Up to that point winds had been stable at 15-20 mph over two wind meter checks. Reconstructing things from Internet wind records and the launch area layout, a 40-50 mph gust must have come up and lofted me or involuntarily lifted me about 30 ft high and blew me at speed 80 ft. inland into something hard like a tree or fence or both, just after I launched the kite. I remembered only about a one second image of descending towards some trees near a house.

A deteriorating tropical depression was in the area that day and later on there were tornados sighted along with heavy squalls. I remember trying to unhook but not being able to as the chicken loop had twisted tightly over the harness hook.

I wandered around the beach with a severe concussion and lacerated foot for about four to five hours, half delirious and occasionally passing out. A friend met me and started talking to me as I was laying in front of my building on the grass. He later said I was talking gibberish, making no sense. He saw my lacerated foot and figured out that I should go to the hospital. After 5 days in the hospital with a brain hemorrhage, a subsequent week of around the clock, coma-like sleep and relapse followed by three weeks of real thick headedness and loss of short-term memory, I started getting back on my feet. The doctor said that without a helmet on, the impact probably would have been fatal. He had some doubt at the time about my making it through the first night in the hospital. It was pretty bad even with a helmet on. I was wearing a marginally padded skateboarding helmet. Since that time I have changed to a much better padded wakeboarding helmet. I recovered pretty much completely after three months and went back to kitesurfing having what the neurologist called a "miraculous recovery".

Lessons learned

1. Keep your kite low as possible while on land or near hard objects. You will be dragged instead of lofted if a strong gust hits. In theory being dragged is better than being lofted, if you react properly and fast enough. Otherwise you can be very seriously injured by dragging.
2. Don't fly in or near unstable weather. If the weather looks marginal check out weather radar and play it safe if squalls are moving into your area.
3. Wear a helmet and impact vest.
4. Consider the pros and cons of using a snap shackle to secure your chicken loop. If you do use one, rehearse very frequently what you will do if a strong gust hits and you need to release the snap shackle. If you hook in or shackle in near hard objects you should accept that you may be seriously lofted and will not be able to react correctly or fast enough to avoid this outcome.


In some ways, lofting or dragging in sudden gusts are one of the most dangerous conditions that kitesurfers face. If you are offshore, such conditions are more survivable. If you are on land or near hard objects you may be in for a good dragging and possible kite damage if your kite is low. If you are hooked in, you may be badly injured or worse by the resulting, involuntary jump or lofting. Fortunately, these gusts are generally rare in many launches but they do occur at most launches. Kitesurfers should avoid and come in well in advance of unstable weather as such conditions may have the potential for high, sudden gusts with little warning. Such conditions are often associated with squalls, thunderstorm clouds. Kitesurfers may have dozens of great sessions in such conditions with the potential of one very hazardous or possibly terminal session. Reaction decisions made in seconds will likely determine the outcome of the incident. Rehearse dealing with unusual conditions and scenarios mentally and visualize your reactions frequently.

3. Incident # 7 00 01 "Kiteboarding Electricity Experiments" Location: Florida
Date: July 2000 Participant account included: Yes Number of independent accounts: 0


On two occasions I was out kiteboarding in the summer, trying to get some runs in before the afternoon thunderstorms drove me from the water. Human nature being what it is, I stayed out a bit too long these two times. On one occasion it was painful to hold on to the control bar because of a continuous electrical discharge from it. The second time it was painful to turn the kite as each time I pulled on the bar, I got a shock. In each case I dropped the kite, and used it as a sail to pull me into shore. The lightning started within 15 minutes of each incident. Similar experiences were subsequently reported by snow kiteboarders in snow but in the absence of obvious storm clouds. These experiences may have been caused by a dynamo-like effect created by a moving conductor in a charged moist atmosphere.

Lessons learned

1. Come in sooner than later when storm clouds are forming. You may have less time to move than you think.
2. Avoid doing strange weather experiments while out kiteboarding, especially involving lightening.
Lightening is a real threat to kiteboarders when you consider that you may be the only one for miles waving a 100 foot lightening rod around on a flat surface. There isn't much agreement about how far in advance of a storm cloud that lightning can strike, from several miles to in excess of ten miles has been proposed. Be sensitive to the threat and constantly aware of the weather. Act well in advance of the storm by landing your kite to preserve your safety.

2. Incident # 6 00 1 "Unstable Weather Takes Finger" Location: Okinawa
Date: June 2000 Participant account included: Yes Number of independent accounts: 0


A very experienced rider was giving lessons in an area that he hadn't kiteboarded in before. He was on a 9 m foil for minutes in very smooth 7 - 9 knot winds. He noticed some clouds building up quickly and the wind starting to pick up to around the 12 knot mark. He didn't like the look of the clouds (possible electrical activity) so he decided to play it safe, ditch the kite and swim in from about 1000 ft. He brought the kite to the edge of the wind window and landed it safely as the wind really started to kick in > 15 knots. He swam toward the kite hand-over-hand with the intention of getting hold of the wing and wrapping the kit up before swimming to shore. A violent gust hit the kite while it was still on the water, he let go of the lines but felt some still around his hands. He tried to get clear of them but was unsuccessful. As a result he lost 7mm off the top of his finger, including the tip of finger bone.

Lessons learned

1. Never swim to the kite unless you are certain that it will not power up.
2. Know your flight environment. He had only been there a week and the weather patterns were both unfamiliar and different from what he was used to. Come in well in advance of unstable weather.
3. Leave yourself plenty time, reserve strength and distance when dealing with potential changes in weather.
4. Wear full finger gloves.
5. If you must swim towards your kite, tension one kite line only, as you swim to it. Do not tension more than one line such as can be caused by winding the lines up, until the kite is disabled by someone holding it or until it is disabled on the beach.


Watch your lines, be prepared avoid connecting with powered up lines or being wrapped by tangles especially in surf. Be prepared to drop your bar or cut or otherwise deal with kite lines if put at risk.

1a. Incident # 4 00 1 "Strange Weather Almost Lofts Rider" Location: Fairfield, CT, USA
Date: Spring 2000 Participant account included: No Number of independent accounts: 1


It was a hot early summer-like day with winds onshore, South 10 to 14 kts. on the water surface. The water temperature was still in the low 50 F range with the air well into the upper 70 to lower 80 F range. These conditions are reportedly ideal for creating stronger winds aloft in this area. The rider decided to launch his pre-inflated F one 9 m Shadow foil kite on 40 m lines from the sand while standing off the beach in the water. Once the kite was 2/3's up to vertical or the zenith he noticed that the winds aloft were much stronger as was dragged towards shore.
As the kite approached the zenith he started to be lifted or lofted off the ground. A friend grabbed him to stop him from being lofted. The rider dropped the control bar to activate the kite depowering leash that was attached to a third line connected to the kite brakes.

The kite shot straight up with power at this point snapping the depower leash. The kite and bar flew up about 20 to 30 ft. off the ground and flew downwind for 1/8 mile passing over a parking lot. The kite then landed on the water between docks and boats in a marina. The kite was recovered undamaged and no injuries were sustained.

Lessons learned

1. Avoid flying in onshore winds. If you do choose to fly in these conditions be particularly careful and accept the higher likelihood of something going wrong that may result in injury.
2. Plan for higher winds aloft if there is a 10 to 15 F temperature difference between the water and the air near the water. The temperature lapse rate aloft may be dramatic along with higher winds and thermal generation potential over land. Riders should avoid flying in such conditions.
3. Have an experienced helper nearby while launching under such conditions. If in doubt launching a smaller kite to checkout winds aloft would not be out of line.
4. Flying shorter flight lines may help in such situations.


Such conditions are rare or even unheard of where many kiteboarders ride in tropical and subtropical areas. Riders in temperate, higher latitude areas may be exposed to such conditions. Look at tall trees, flag poles or other elevated tell tails for wind indications aloft. Proper training and local knowledge are essential to safe kiteboarding. When in doubt don't fly.

1a. Incident # 1 00 2 "Early Lofting" Location: West Coast of Mexico
Date: Dec. '99 or Jan. '00 Participant account included: No Number of independent accounts: 1


The wind was 25 mph with gusts to 30 mph sideshore. A kiteboarding instructor had a kite of undisclosed size up in the control of a student that was sitting on the beach. The kite flew into the center of the power window. The student was hooked in and was dragged at speed over about 60 ft. down the beach into an area of 3" diameter rocks. He was lifted about 4 feet high and dropped face first into some larger rocks. The student was dragged another 40 ft. when his kite crashed and the dragging ceased. He was rushed to a hospital in La Paz. Four days later he was seen with major damage to his nose and forehead. His arm was in a sling and reportedly had some broken ribs.

Lessons learned

1. Try never to hook in upwind of hard objects.
2. Use a quick release loop and/or snap shackle for securing your loop.
3. Always master kite control with trainer kites and smaller traction kites before using a full sized kite. Always seek adequate, qualified professional kiteboarding instruction.
4. Always wear a good, well fitting helmet, impact vest and gloves at a minimum.


Although severely injured this rider could have been more seriously injured or killed. In these early days of kiteboarding and kiteboarding instruction, practices to avoid were still being learned and were far from common knowledge or even known in some cases. Today, it is known that traction kites in high wind deserve complete respect as small mistakes can be harshly punished. Proper, adequate instruction should be sought. At the time of this accident such instruction was not common unlike today in many areas. Basic safety gear might have avoided the accident through a quick release loop (if they existed at that time) and certainly a helmet and impact vest could have reduced the severity of injury.

1. Incident # 1 00 1 "Squally Weather Lofts Rider" Location: Cabrillo Beach, Ca.
Date: Winter 99/00 Participant account included: No Number of independent accounts: 1

Summary: Helmeted rider was using a 4.9 m Blade kite. The wind increased, & he came in to rig down to a Wipika 5.0 (2-line, with wrist-activated depower/release snap shackle on one line).
Once the kite was up, the eyewitness reported the rider was "skiing" across the sand (after which point the rider's memory is blank), towards the big, jagged rocks just over a line length downwind. Once against the rocks, the eyewitness says the rider hooked in, but a big gust came, lifting him & depositing him on the rocks. Reported Injuries: Broken femur (with internal bleeding), broken wrist (2 places), broken jaw, and severely lacerated calf.

Lessons learned

Avoid storms and squally weather, (it was a storm wind, which is typically extremely gusty), keep your kite low and pointed offshore near hard objects and wear a helmet and release or depower your kite before it is too late.
During other such storms the writer of this account has been standing under the anemometer (which is about a line length from the incident site) when it went from under 10 to over 40, nearly instantly (numbers from that anemometer).
It isn't always that gusty, but it's usually bad enough that most of the kiteboarders don't bother, even though they're desperate for wind in the winter.


Even though the lifeguards were right there, the rider apparently nearly died on the way to the hospital. We all need to come forward with more actual accounts to help avoid more of the same happening to other kiteboarders. The above comments on lessons learned are classic and well worth giving serious attention to.

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transcribed by:
Rick Iossi
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