ALL THE GEAR, NO IDEA?
In KW #96 the IKO kick off a new series of articles to refresh beginner and intermediate riders on some of the basics that might not yet come naturally. First up, here’s some words of advice to consider when turning up to ride at a new location
Words, photos and illustrations: IKO
The kiteboarding community has grown around the appeal of travelling and visiting new spots. Like many kiters, you probably have that curious spark in you to travel the world and experience conditions that may be different to your home spot.
Travelling to new destinations can either be the best and most rewarding experience, or a nightmare. There are a few subtle factors that can help you avoid the latter and a very important one is of course knowledge and understanding of the wind!
TRYING SOMEWHERE NEW
Many kiteboarders know and understand their usual spot really well, but if they have never experienced anything else, it can make kiteboarding in a new destination seem very challenging.
When visiting a new kiteboarding destination you must rid yourself of preconceived biases. At our home spot, we subconsciously use the trees, buildings and other physical landmarks as references of our direction of travel. This helps you decide if the wind and conditions are good and safe without truly understanding the underlying reasons why.
Whether you are one of the fortunate ones to travel and visit a new kite spot or not, here are some recommendations that will help make your trips safe and positively memorable.
When visiting a new destination it is always great to watch the other kiters and mingle with the local kiteboarding community (riders, certified instructors or IKO Centers for example). This social interaction is the quickest way to gather all the knowledge you might need to safely enjoy a new spot.
When setting up, take into consideration other physical orientation references, such as trees, buildings and rocks, etc, as these are all hazards. When it comes to getting ready to ride, the best way to properly orient yourself is to use the wind and this applies to any session, anywhere.
IDENTIFY THE WIND
The wind direction and its speed are essential factors when accessing a spot. There are three general wind directions we talk about in kiting: on-shore, side-shore and off-shore winds (between those we also have side/cross-onshore and side/cross-offshore). To tell where the wind is coming from, extend your arms out and turn until you feel the wind on your face and both ears. Then join your hands together and they will show the direction that the wind is coming from. Using the wind as your main reference rather than permanent physical objects will allow you to set the kite up to always launch/land and react at the same angle to the wind.
The wind will always push you in the direction it blows. So if the conditions are offshore, a wise rider should figure out if a boat or jet-ski assumes the rescues. When onshore (ninety degrees to the shore and blowing straight at the beach) the opposite happens. A wise rider should make sure they can enter the water without the risk of being blown back towards land. If uncomfortable, you should find another spot with a different orientation to safely go out kiteboarding. Generally, side-onshore wind conditions are ideal as it allows riders to safely manage to get in and out without the need to worry about being blown onto the shore or out to sea.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR ENVIRONMENT
When setting up at a new spot remember to do a SEA assessment: Spot – Environment – Activity; a quick kite hack that allows you to assess your surroundings, to pick the best place to set up and get into the water.
Always set up your lines downwind to avoid danger when launching. Check your lines and your safety systems before launching. Always connect your leash to the front part of the harness for easy emergency quick-release and always carry a line cutter. Wearing an impact vest and a helmet is recommended, too. When possible, start off further upwind to create more safe space downwind for your first runs and when safely orienting yourself with the location. The more safety measures you take, the better!
The wind is abstract which is why we tend to orient ourselves with concrete things without realising the wind is our best friend. It will always point you in the right direction when trying to understand the current situation, while the physical objects like trees and buildings will always appear the same despite the wind being different.
This last tip, other than asking the locals for spot rules, tips and ways to do things, will influence your experience at a new kiteboarding spot and is the most important one. So get used to feeling the wind, adapting to new directions and learning to asses conditions that you’re safely capable of riding in.
The IKO has trained more than 4,000 active kiteboarding instructors and over 200 centres worldwide. Specializing in kiteboard education, promoting safe practices and enhancing the highest standards for the industry, find more on the International Kiteboarding Organization at: www.ikointl.com