Kitemares – how to handle the worst situations with your kite

How to deal with kitemares?

“WHAT THE HELL DO I DO NOW!?” A question that every kitesurfer most likely will ask himself one day. Not knowing what to do in a tricky situation is not good… a bad decision or a few seconds of doubt can lead injuries not only of your kite, but you and others as well.
As a kitesurfer it’s recommended to be mentally prepared in how to act in different situations before they really happen. Always be prepared to activate the safety system so that you know what will happen when you pull the Quick Release (QR). On this page we present four common and potentially dangerous situations. How to act and what to do to avoid these situations? You can avoid most of the potentially dangerous situations that can happen when you’re kitesurfing, by simply being careful and by using common sense, but when things still go bad then you better be prepared.

The kite gets caught in a wave

If your kite gets caught in a wave, then do whatever you can to quickly get it back up in the air again before next wave hits the kite. If you kite is hit by a big wave then there are a high risk for damages if you do not know what to do.

  • Immediately when the kite hits the water, then work hard to get it back up in the air.
  • If the kite still is in the water when the next wave is coming, then you have to consider letting go of the kite. This is however not something you should do if there are persons down wind of you or if you’re close to a road. In case you’re kitesurfing next to a beach packed with people then you better pray for a good outcome.
  • If it is safe to release the kite, then unhook the QR and pull the safety leach so that you’re totally disconnected from the kite. Swim to the beach as fast as you can, with a bit of luck you might be able to catch the kite before it even reach the beach.
  • If you cannot release your kite, then flag the kite on one line, either by unhooking the bar and grabbing one of the “Oh Shit Handles” or by activating the QR in case it flags out on one line. Be sure to swim away from the lines not to get entangled and then swim in the waves direction. It is important that the kite is flagged out on one line only for minimum power, hopefully it will be fully depowered and not get damaged by the waves.

How to avoid this problem?

Frankly, having the kite caught in the water is easily avoided by keeping the kite flying in the air by all time. But crashing the kite in the water is almost inevitably when you’re practising tricks. Practise relaunching the kite until this is like second nature for you, the faster you get it up from the water, the less problems you’ll have when kitesurfing in waves.

Crashing your kite in another kite

The days when you were more or less alone in the water are long since gone. The kite spots are getting more and more crowded and no matter how careful we are, kites entangled in each other is unfortunately something you have to take into account when kitesurfing. When your kite gets entangled in someone else’s kite then stay calm and think out a way of how to solve the situation.

  • As soon as your kite gets entangled in someone else’s kite then disconnect your safet leash and be prepared to pull the quick release.
  • If both kites still are flying, then place them low in the wind window close to the water. If you’re able to communicate with the other kiter, then you might also be able to free your kite from the other kite by gently steering it out of the tangle.
  • If one of the kites become uncontrollable then both kites must be released. Danger occurs if one of the parts releases his or her kite. If you release your kite and if the bar or lines somehow gets stuck in the other kite then the other person will be connected to two uncontrollable kites. If you reckon that you must let go of your kite, then signal this to other person so that he/she is preparred for the worst scenario.

How to avoid this problem?

This situation is easily avoided by just being aware of your surroundings. Look around before you make a trick or before you change direction and keep a good distance to other kiters, especially beginners.

Sudden wind changes

As you probably know the wind is never reliable. At any day during any session the wind might change direction, greatly increase or decrease in strength. Sudden wind changes can take you by surprise, but one can often see signs that tell what is going to happen.

  • At first sign of a change in weather, then surf back to land and land your kite. These signs include dark incoming clouds, wind that becomes very gusty, wind that change character or which temperature suddenly changes (for instance a gust that feels much warmer or colder than usual or a fast approaching wind line).
  • If you get overtaken by a stronger wind, then your first measure is to pull the depower strap and head back to land. If there are other kiters on land then call for their attention. Sign that you want to land your kite (even if you don’t give a sign they will most likely figure out that this is what you would like to do). So as soon as your kite is closing in to the shoreline then someone will be there to catch it. Ride slowly and keep your kite low until someone catch it.
  • When no one is there to catch your kite then position yourself at least a line span away from land and activate the safety system. Your kite will flag out in the water whereupon you can walk or swim to land. To fly an overpowered kite above land is never a good idea.
  • If you’re out in the water when the wind suddenly drops then take of your board and start bodydragging back to land. Hopefully you’ll be able to reach land before the wind eventually dies off completely. If there aren’t wind enough to keep the kite flying then make a self rescue and swim or drift back to land.

How to avoid this problem?

To avoid surprises be sure to check the local weather forecast before you head out for a session. Still be aware of weather changes and don’t push your luck by staying in the water when you see clear signs telling you that an incoming weather change is on its way.

Entangled lines and bridles

If the bridle or if any of the kite’s lines get wrapped around any part of the kite then you’ll not be able to control the kite. The kite often begins to loop no matter what you do with the control bar.

  • If you have open water downwind then hang on for a ride. After a few loops the kite usually crash into the water and remains there. When the kite is in the water then you can hopefully fix the tangled line or bridle by pulling/jerking the tangled line. Even though you have open water downwind then be prepared to activate the safety system in case the situation becomes unmanageable.
  • If you don’t have open water infront of you and is close to land, then immediately activate the safety system. The kite will flag out in the water and it will hopefully be easier to untangle the tangled line.
  • Tangle kan occur in any situations when the kite crash in the water, but also when you’re for instance self-launching the kite. Always be prepared to activate the safety system when you’re launching the kite (even when you have a launch assistant) in case the kite becomes uncontrollable.
  • Always carry a line-cutter, i.e. a small knife attached in the leash, so that you can cut lines in case of an emergency. Inspect the knife before a session to make sure that it’s sharp and in place. They have a tendency to disappear, so it’s wise to have a spare line-cutter.

How to avoid this problem?

When you’re about to self-launch a kite then double check that the lines are in place and that there is no risk for them to stuck in some objects as you launch it. It happens that the lines or the bridle get tangled if you crash the kite in the water with slack in the lines. If this case pay extra attention for tangle before you relaunch the kite.

The kite falls down from the sky

Some of you might think, what does he mean by falling down from the sky!? It’s rare that the kite falls down from the sky during stable wind conditions and when you’re kitesurfing safe and controlled. There are two reasons for the kite to fall down from the sky. One is a sudden lull that makes the wind so weak that it can’t hold the kite in the air. The highest chance for this to happen is if you have the kite parked in zenith where the kite is more prone to lose power when there is a lull. The occurence of lulls that make the kite fall down from the sky usually occur when the wind is weak and when the consequences therefore seldom ain’t severe.
The second reason for the kite to fall down is that you have gotten so close to the kite that the lines start slacking to a point where there is no more power in the kite. This can happen if you lose the control over the kite when you’re making a trick or jump. For instance if you jump and land with high speed riding downwind while you have the kite above/behind you instead of in front of you, then there is a risk for the lines to start slacking.
What is precarious with a kite that falls down from the sky is that there is always a high risk for the kite to invert which can make it impossible to control the kite if the wind comes back. The worst case scenario is however with no doubt that the slacking lines may fall down over you. Slacking lines will not remain slacked very long. Either the wind picks up again or the kite will start drift away once it lays in the water. If the wind catch the kite as it falls down through the power zone, then all lines will straighten out in a shock load that can snap lines and pulleys. One or several bursting lines is way better than having your spine ripped out from your body, yet at the same time we’ll have another troublesome situation with an eventually uncontrollable kite. Now imagine having a slacked line wrapped around your hand, a wrist or your neck as the kite falls down into the powerzone where the wind might pick up again… you can probably figure out that the situation can become very unpleasant.

If the kite falls down from the sky, then it’s time to take action right away! If you’re lucky then the wind will catch the kite and straigthen the lines and nothing will happen but you being yanked a bit in the water. In every situation, straigthening out the lines way, the sooner the less unpleasant consequences. This is what you should do:
1. Kick off the board. Sparka av dig brädan. If you have time and the presence of mind then throw the board to the side away from where the kite might fall. We don’t want any lines to get tangled in the board.

2. Run away from the kite! Run or swim as fast as you can! At all costs try to straighten the lines, the sooner the better. This is extra important when the wind the strong. Even if you don’t manage to straighten the lines fully before the kite eventually power up then you reduced the risks for line and bridle tangle, kite inverted, shock loads etc.

3. If you manage to straighten the lines and fear that things are about to get nasty then make yourself ready to pull the Quick Release and make sure that no lines are wrapped around your neck!

How to avoid this problem?

If the wind is gusty and sort of comes and goes then avoid parking the kite in zenith. If the kite falls down when it’s positioned at 10 or 2 o’clock then you have nothing to worry since it will fall in either the left or right side of the wind window. Besides, the kite is not as sensitive for lulls, when it’s parked further down in the window. Keeping the kite in constant motion also greatly reduce the risk of having your kite falling down from the sky.
If you love to jump and play around in the water then don’t overrate your skills and keep an extra eye on the kite. I know from experience that holding back when you’re getting hot isn’t easy, but you can at least be mentally preparred for the worst 🙂

The purpose of this little lesson in “kitemares” is not to scare you from kitesurfing, but make you aware of the risks with kitesurfing. Use common sense and you don’t have to worry to much! 🙂


/Gustav – IKO Kitesurfing Instructor