Why kitesurfing safety is fundamental?
The sport of kitesurfing is quite recent. Although it was done before, the first model of inflatable kite is only about 24 years old.
In principle, the practice entailed high risks, because a kite kite can generate a lot of force and if this is not under control and with adequate safety measures, the consequences can be serious. Many have been dragged or lifted and thrown to the ground. They have even been injured and others have died practicing this sport.
During those years, kitesurfing safety consisted of always trying to maintain control of the kite and hoping that conditions would not suddenly worsen. Over time, kite equipment manufacturers have improved the situation, modifying equipment to allow emergency maneuvers in case of danger and implementing highly reliable safety systems. Today the situation has improved a lot and that is why kitesurfing is being more and more practiced around the world.
However, kiting is still a risky sport and the existence of safety systems does not have to fool us into believing that nothing will ever happen. There is always the possibility that something could go wrong and we could suffer an accident with serious consequences (for us or even for other people).
The main safety systems in kitesurfing
The 4-line system
The first kites were controlled with two-line bars and generated power through a fixed angle of attack. Then it has been decided to separate the traction from the control system to reach the bars we know today, where the central lines act to transmit the power to our body by connecting to the harness, and the two lateral lines are in charge of the control, so the inclination of the bar allows us to move the kite.
But, in addition to this, depending on how much we move the bar closer or further away, we can change the angle of attack of the kite, increasing or decreasing the power that the kite can generate.
This is why the first safety lesson we learn during our courses is to release the bar. This allows the kite to return to the lowest possible angle of attack and reduces the power of our kite.
It is a semi-fixed adjustment of the length of our center lines that allows us to increase or decrease the difference between the center lines and the side lines and thus modify the angle of attack of our kite and reduce it further if necessary.
This safety system works in a very similar way to the bar movement.
The first kites were C-shape, a type of kite whose center lines are connected directly to the leading edge. This allows only small modifications of the angle of attack and does not have much influence on power reduction.
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In contrast, since the SLE (Supported Leading Edge) system has been developed, the leading edge is attached by flanges. This gives the angle of attack more range of movement and more scope for power reduction.
El Quick Release (QR) del chicken loop
The chicken loop is our direct connection between the harness and the kite. The quick release is an element that allows you to release the kite from the leash or harness quickly if you are not able to control it for some reason and your integrity may be in danger.
If releasing the bar is not enough, we will have to activate this system so that the kite is flagged without any power only connected by the safety line once we have injected it. A common circumstance in which we would have to activate is crossing the lines with another kite as we can have the power of two kites pulling us. So do not think twice and if you cross with another kite release your quick release.
There are many systems developed by different brands. Anyway, all of them usually have very bright colors in the moving parts that allow you to activate the system.
The Re-ride system
When the quick release is activated, we are usually still connected to the kite through the leash, which allows us not to lose the kite. But we may notice that a lot of the power has been removed. How much power is removed and how it is removed depends on what kind of safety system our kite has.
The most commonly used in the past was the mini fifth line system, which totally removed the tension on the side lines, leaving the angle of attack of the kite wide open. Unfortunately, with this system the tension remained on both center lines, so the kite was left with power (although much less) and acted as a sail in full flight window.
This system has been replaced by the Re-Ride system, mounted on all modern bars. With this system, when releasing the QR, the tension remains only in one of the central lines, so the kite remains tilted, open and makes that, even if we remove all the power to our kite, we do not lose it.
Kite Leash QR
The kite leash is our last connection to the kite after activating all the other safety features mentioned above. It is also equipped with a “quick release” system, because it could happen that the activation of the chicken loop QR does not remove the power from the kite and we need to disconnect completely from our kite.
Sometimes people who are in danger do not activate this safety for fear of losing the kite. It should still be remembered that human beings usually value their own lives more than a kite kite, so if you are among them do not hesitate to activate this safety in extreme cases. Also, as kites cannot generate power without being connected to a fixed point, in most cases they recover without problems.
Quick Release and Mini Leash
With all this, we finish what, for us, are the most important points about kitesurfing safety to be taken into account by anyone who is going to practice this wonderful sport. It is important to mention that these safety systems will allow us to be safe, not only for us but also for the rest of the people around us.
Finally, we should mention that we already know that kitesurfing is a risky sport and that knowing its safety system, something they teach us at the beginning, is something fundamental, but it is also true that we cannot be afraid to practice it because its safety systems are very reliable, reducing accidents in the water by more than 90%.