This article featured in Kiteworld multimedia issue #110. First published: May 2021
Head of training at the BKSA, Andy Gratwick, continues this series building up your practical knowledge to help you become a more well rounded rider. This issue, an awesome topic…
WORDS: Andy Gratwick
PART FOUR: SELF-RESCUES (AND HELPING OTHERS)
How to self-rescue when you are kitesurfing: some of us have done many, some of us none. Everyone has an opinion (and often their own method).
Wherever you are kiting, on whatever kit, have a plan to deal with the worst-case scenario. If no plan can be deduced to deal with a given situation, think twice about whether you should do whatever it is you’re about to do.
It’s impossible to cover every scenario here, so what follows is my advice to cover the general situations you may find yourself in. Of course, I am the biggest advocate of tuition, so firstly go have a coaching session or refresher lesson to reinforce the techniques you might need for your spot and equipment.
- Wind dropping
- Broken kit
I think these cover a chunk of the unique reasons you’ll need to perform some sort of rescue on yourself or a fellow kiter. These are a few key techniques that every kiter of any level should know and be able to perform:
WRAP THE KITE AND SAIL IT IN
This is the most effective form of self-rescue. It’s a darn site easier and quicker than swimming and it expels far less energy. You can roughly travel across the wind, maybe 10 degrees off the wind, and it can get you home safely in cross-shore conditions. You are effectively jury rigging the kite to act like a small junk rig sail and then plodding back across the wind.
Decide whether or not it’s a good idea. This isn’t the best option if the wind is offshore. If there is some cross-shore breeze and, for whatever reason your kit is not working as it should, this method is likely to get you home.
Release the chicken-loop and wrap-up the entire safety line first. Make sure you pull the safety line all the way through to ensure the kite is as depowered as possible.
Next wrap all the lines making sure that the safety line is taught and the rest are not under tension as you wrap them up.
Get to the kite and lock off the lines on the bar. I prefer to use the bungees these days and not do half hitches around the bar end with the lines, just in case you get some fingers stuck.
Once you are at the kite with a wrapped up bar, grab hold of the kite and turn it over so it’s upside down, leading edge into the wind. Get one hand on the wingtip and then the other arm and shoulder under it closer to the middle and flip it.
Chuck the bar away from you to the downwind side of the kite to get the rest of the lines out of the way.
Get hold of the top front line running up to the kite (or end of the bridle if they are long and you can reach). You need to consider and orientate the kite correctly at this point to travel towards the shore / safety point.
Lie on the bottom wing tip and maybe straddle the leading edge. Pull in the top line and plod home in relative comfort.
You could put your twin-tip on your feet or connect the footstrap to your spare leash if you’re
You can lie half on your surfboard or your foil, but be careful to keep the foil down (don’t go too
fast) and try not to allow your lines to wrap around the mast and wings.
Once you’re plodding home, make sure there are no bits of line wrapped around you. I usually
detach my leash at this point, so if I’m coming in through some lumps or shorebreak I can simply
roll out of the kite and separate myself from it to let it wash up the beach without any lines tensioning around me.
Andy… so well practiced he can self-rescue with his eyes closed!
DEEP WATER PACK-DOWN AND GET PICKED UP
This used to be the most common form of rescue, but is perhaps less practiced these days as us
kiters aren’t the newbies we used to be and are no longer getting collected by the RNLI twice a week.
The idea and method is to completely pack your gear into a bundle to enable someone to pick you up, or make it possible for you to swim to a nearby shoreline in offshore conditions.
Technique wise it’s identical to the above method until you reach the kite. Wrap the lines safety line
first and stow everything onto the bar.
When you get to the kite, once you’ve decided this is the best course of action, go to the dump valve
and let the air out of the leading edge.
Make sure your strut clips are locked off first. If you have a Duotone kite, or one with a
valve in the wingtip then it’s easy. Deflate, swim to the other end and wrap all the way. If you have
a central dump valve then go to one end and wrap to the middle, then pull the other wingtip towards
you and back wrap it so both tips are wrapped toward the middle.
Put the bar inside the wrapped canopy to keeps all the lines out the way. You can use your leash or
harness to tie around the ‘kite burrito’ to stop it unravelling.
Pass it to your rescue helper leading edge first so the water drains out easily.