Safety Rules: An essential building block when becoming a kitesurfer
Kitesurfing has become a popular sport and the equipment has become increasingly safe over recent years. Like any sport, safety should be the number one priority for any rider. In Mui Ne there are sometimes more than 150 kiters on the water, and thanks to commonly accepted rules, accidents are kept to a minimum.
The most important authority issuing security rules is the International Kiteboarding Organization (“IKO”). IKO also accredits and sets guidelines for kite schools and kite instructors. No wonder, that safety is prominent when learning kitesurfing. Even before flying a kite for the first time, students will learn how to properly take care of the equipment, the right of way rules, and other safety tricks.
All kiters should wear appropriate safety gear, which include a helmet, a life jacket, booties when needed, and also have a line cutter (to cut kite lines should the kiter become entangled in them). Kiters are advised to never use a board leash (a line that connects the kiter with the board).
Should a kitesurfer get detached from her board in the sea, she should know how to “body drag” in the water with the kite only and recover the board.
It is also important that every kiter know the practice of “self-rescue”. This is a technique used to reach the shore in case of a mishap on the water, like a broken kite line, a deflated kite, an injury after a trick, sudden drop in wind strength, or acute fatigue. The kiter needs to roll the lines around her bar in this case and use the kite as some sort of sail in the water in order to drift towards the shore.
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Most accidents happen actually on land, and not on water. That’s why it is important to never fly a kite with power on the beach. After launching the kite, it is important to im/mediately proceed and go on the water with the board.
The kiter must also make sure that there are no obstacles or people “downwind” when launching or landing a kite, as wind turbulences may make the kite drift downwind and hit them.
Of course, advanced riders should not do any tricks or high jumps close to the beach: when the kite gets out of control, it might hit bystanders.
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Every kitesurfer also needs to learn proper right of way rules. The most important rule is that the rider who is going out on the water and is near the beach has priority over the rider who is coming towards the beach.
Then, when two riders are crossing, the rider “upwind” needs to put her kite high in the sky, while the rider “downwind” should lower her kite. This way, the 25 meter long kite lines will not get entangled.
Kitesurfing also has several hand signals. This is important in particular when launching or landing the kite. With hand signals, the kiter and the launch helper can communicate properly.
For example, the kiter will tap on her head in order to signal that she wants to land her kite. While intuitive, the “thumbs up” signal means that the kite is fine, the kite lines are in order, and the kiter is ready to launch.
Finally, taking good care of the equipment is important, in particular in the tropics like in Vietnam--salt water and hot temperatures may cause rapid degradation of the kite, the bar, the board, and the safety systems.
Once a kiter observes the safety rules, she can enjoy the sport with peace of mind and progress in all safety in this fascinating sport!