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Old 12-06-2005, 02:28 PM
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Default Article in German Kite Magazine - Nov. 2005




The following article appeared in the German Kite Magazine, http://www.kitecity.de/kite-magazin.html


(Some text in English appears the next post below this one)



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Last edited by RickI; 06-24-2009 at 05:48 PM.
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Old 12-06-2005, 02:52 PM
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Some of the questions and answers incorporated into the article appear below in English:


1. You are collecting all informations about kite-accidents all over the
world? What is your motivation for this effort?

I was almost killed in a kiteboarding accident about five years ago. I had no significant memory of the accident through the effects of amnesia and brain hemorrhage. My neurologist concluded that I might have died but for the helmet I was wearing. Instead, I had a full "miraculous" recovery per my doctor with my voice, short term memory and awareness returning to normal after a few months. I have been a big helmet fan for kiteboarding ever since. A couple of months after the accident once my brain started to work normally again, I looked into wind and weather records, the launch layout and figured out what might have happened. I was lofted in a storm gust. A write up of aspects of the accident appear at:

http://fksa.org/viewtopic.php?t=210

For self preservation I began to analyze what causes unstable gusty weather in my area. Initially, I mistakenly concluded that what happened to me might happen at anytime in the future with minimal warning. There is some truth to that but there are causes that can be forecast or at least observed in advance in most cases. There had to be more predictable causes.

After my accident and reading about two others in other parts of the world, I concluded that involuntarily lifting and flying inland at speed would be a fairly common problem in the future with kiteboarding. I decided to give it its own name, "lofting." It stuck and is used commonly worldwide today.

I then asked myself who is telling folks about these hazards, instructors, videos, manufacturers, retailers, anyone? No one was really bothering with this in 2000 or shortly thereafter. Most people were convinced that although an extreme sport skill would win out and they could handle whatever might happen. I had a very early eye opening experience that convinced me that skill would not always win out and that there was a great deal more to know about kiteboarding safety than commonly thought at the time.

So I thought, why not give spreading awareness on the Internet a try and see how it goes. I approached it as a challenge and a hobby. I was grateful not only to be alive but to have recovered when things could have easily been otherwise. In the early years I was seen as a "kook" and even as an idiot with some saying that I didn't know what I was talking about. Still, if you have done your work thoroughly and developed factual information, a fact is a fact regardless of what people have to say about it. People have come on board in time including some major detractors from only a few years ago. The ironic thing about it is that the message aside from some details has varied little over the years. People have just come around often convinced by personal accidents or those of friends. It certainly has been a challenging hobby and a worthwhile one as well.

NOTE: I have never attempted track all accidents that have happened worldwide. Early on it became obvious that people often had to be actively pursued for information about accidents. Even then they were not always forthcoming with information. So, I decided to focus on relating accident accounts with important object lessons. In the early 2000's not many people really believed in some of the hazards of kiteboarding, they remained to be convinced. In recent times I have been focusing on the more severe accidents including fatalities in the hope of reducing repetition.

Accident summaries appear at:
http://fksa.org/viewforum.php?f=81
http://www.kiteforum.com/phpbb/viewforum.php?f=131
and
http://fksa.org/index.php?c=22




2. How many accidents did you notice in the past?
I have not attempted to record all accidents worldwide. I have tried to track fatalities and other accidents/incidents that carry important lessons to the rest of us that I have heard about. I don't hear about all accidents needless to say. I have heard about 41 kiteboarding fatalities worldwide since 2000. It is hard to find actual statistics for kiteboarding but by some kiteboarder estimates put the fatalities at 0.02 % of the total number of riders. This number represents a very small number when compared to the tens of millions of hours of kiteboarding time on the water in the last five years. In hindsight many of these sad fatalities might have been avoided if more care had been used. We still have our work cut out for us in building rider awareness, appreciation and means of trying to avoid hazards.

3. Which country had the greatest amount of accidents?
Germany, the Netherlands and the USA used to be tied with four each until the last few months with two new fatalities in the USA, bring the total in that country to six. No one country has a monopoly on fatalities however they are widely distributed around the world.


4. What are the results of your analyses? Which are the 10 most dangerous situations in kiteboarding?

a. Overconfidence and lack of knowledge/awareness.
b. Lack of distance (between the rider and hard objects and others downwind).
c. Squalls/storms.
d. Learning on your own & insufficient/poor training.
e. Poor preflight lines/gear.
f. Waiting too long to totally depower with a looming emergency.
g. Not being sufficiently independent, e.g. ready to rapidly solo landing, self-rescue.
h. No helmet, impact vest.
i. Early and late season kiteboarding.
j. Onshore and gusty offshore winds.


5. How many percent of the accidents were deadly, how many percent of injury persons did you count?

I don't have a proper statistical sampling of "all" accidents. There is no way for me to make a valid estimate as to the percentage of fatal accidents out of all accidents. I have given some estimated statistics in the answer to question #2.



6. Could you tell us something about the causes of the accidents?

a. Lack of adequate hazard awareness (insufficient and/or lack of quality professional training, experience building), appreciation (over confidence and/or ignorance) and avoidance (knowledge of techniques to reduce the odds of injury), BY FAR.

b. Poor weather planning and monitoring. Riding in unstable and excessively gusty weather conditions. Onshore winds have a disproportionate quantity of serious accidents.

c. Poor launch/riding/landing area selection. Lack of an adequate downwind buffer (DISTANCE IS YOUR FRIEND), close hard objects, riding too close to shore, other riders, etc..

d. Waiting too long to totally depower and even waiting for someone to catch their kite when a fatal gust blew through.

d. Poor gear selection for conditions such as too large a kite.

e. Failure to use reasonable safety gear such as a good helmet, impact vest, proper exposure clothing, etc.. Very experienced riders have been killed this year in light winds (11 to 15 kts.), helmets would have substantially improved the odds for survival.

f. Early and late season strong weather. Early riders are rusty and late they may be over confident. Either way November and other months late and early in the year can take a toll on riders.

g. Offshore winds that have passed over uneven ground making it excessively gusty.
h. Use of board leash with or without a helmet
i. Riding alone.


7. How important is the quickrelease in your opinion?
Quick releases are critical. Lots of riders have proven in very painful ways in the past, that you can't always "just unhook." You may not be strong enough, it may twist hard on to your harness hook, you may not have adequate time, etc.. We need a HIGHLY RELIABLE quick release. Actually what we really need is a highly reliable automatic quick release but that is still off in the future. Your quick release must be highly reliable, well maintained and frequently used physically and mentally. In the past, kiteboarders either couldn't find the quick release, it failed to release for a variety of reasons or they simply didn't have time to activate it. People should NOT rely excessively on being able to totally depower using a quick release because these same factors may still apply. The KEY IS TO WORK TO AVOID THE EMERGENCY in the first place. "What do you do if you drive off of a cliff?" Not much, you need to expend your effort in not going off the cliff in the first place, avoid the emergency through training, proper experience building, use of good judgment and early reaction.



8. Do you think that the new generation of kites (Cabrinha Crossbow, Takoon Nova) with the sudden depower system will bring us a new level of safety?

I have yet to spend much time with the new kite design. I recently flew the Crossbow in very light conditions for a short period of time (more about that at: http://fksa.org/viewtopic.php?t=831 . From what I have heard the depower allows management of higher wind gusts so with proper training and acclimatization the design may help to reduce the number of lofting/dragging cases ideally. On the other hand, guys may be more prone to take out a larger kite than they might otherwise select and stay out in building winds longer than they might have in the past. This could create a new class of accidents if human nature leads things in that direction.

9. If a kiteobarder wants to kite totaly safe: Could you give him the five most important advises to avoid accidents for sure?

Totally safe? Find a bubble and a fairy god mother!? Life by definition isn't totally safe. Still there are things a rider can do to improve the odds of a safe session.

a. Obtain adequate, quality professional kiteboarding instruction from the best instructor he can find. More about selection of a training organization at: http://fksa.org/viewtopic.php?t=829 It is IMPORTANT that the student takes this selection process seriously. All instruction is NOT equally beneficial and of similar risk.

b. Make knowledge development and careful experience building an ongoing effort throughout your riding career.

c. Be familiar with the Safe Kiteboarding Guidelines ( http://fksa.org/viewtopic.php?t=227 ), and practice sensible procedures that work in local conditions. Launch and riding conditions are highly variable world wide, learn what works well in your area.

d. Carefully evaluate predicted and actual weather, water, launch and personal conditions before selecting appropriate kite, board, safety gear, etc. and riding. Use proper technique, e.g. launching and landing unhooked, maintaining a proper downwind buffer (DISTANCE), etc..

e. Continuously be aware of conditions around you (changes in wind velocity, gust range, direction, threatening clouds and other weather, seas, other riders, boats, crowds/obstructions in the landing area). Ideally, react well in advance of a material change in conditions that might threaten the rider. If you are careless and wait too late, totally depower early while you still can. Some riders have waited just a bit too long, some even waiting for an assisted landing. Stay aware, use common sense and careful judgment.



10. Is kiteboarding in your opinion a high middle or low risk sports?

Approached with little preparation, awareness or appreciation of some of the hazards, e.g. storms, excessively gusty winds, proper kite size selection, adequate buffer, what makes for a good launch and riding area, etc. etc., I believe the risk can be high particularly in marginal conditions. You can have very experienced riders who ignore or discount poor conditions, prepare poorly, maintain lack of awareness and have thrown that experience advantage out the window and have bumped their risk up to a high level.

If kiteboarding is approached with proper training, careful experience building, use of good judgment, gear, weather & launch area selection and use of appropriate safety gear I believe the sport can be a medium risk sport. Higher and onshore wind automatically bump the risk up. This range to some degree depends upon the conditions selected and/or available to the rider. I believe the caliber of training needs to continue to improve as well. Kite depowering/safety systems need to improve in reliability over past years and eventually be reduced to a couple of systems used industry wide. This will likely take some time.

Obviously, the industry needs to continue to improve rider awareness and appreciation of potential hazards and the means of avoiding them to aid in preserving the market/access and the odd kiteboarder!
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transcribed by:
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