Kitesurfing alone? Read this first!

kitesurfing is a one man sport!


No matter how you look at it, the one single person you can rely on when kitesurfing is you. Kitesurfing in a crowdy lagoon with hundreds of other kiters or completely alone while exploring a secret kitespot miles away from the civilisation does not matter. Still you have to be prepared to work things out on your own in all kind of undesirable situations. Keep reading and you’ll get some tips on how to independently get in and out of the water and still make it 🙂


To kitesurf alone is not recommended in any way. The reality is however that many of us don’t have any option but to kitesurf alone. Verkligheten är dock att många av oss inte har något annat val än att just surfa helt på egen hand. Men innan du beger dig ut på en solosession så försäkra dig om att du vet vad du gör. Först och främst, kitesurfa ALDRIG ensam om:

  1. The water temperature is below the 5-50/50 rule.
    In water of 50 degree fahrenheit a man at the age of 50 needs appoximately 5 minutes to swim 50 yards with a 50/50 chance of surviving.
    What this rule say is that in a water temperature of 10 degrees celsius or 50 degrees fahrenheit, then a 50 years old man have the ability to swim about 46 meters or 50 yards in 5 minutes with a 50 percent chance of surviving. This rule is highly depent due to parameters such as your body fat index, the condition of your wetsuit, if you’re a good swimmer, well trained etc. Nevertheless, the conclusion of this rule is that kitesurfing alone in cold water isn’t such a good idea. If you end up in cold water, then it won’t take long before you start suffer from hypothermia meaning that your motor ability will become more and more limited. Barely being able to move your limbs, then it’s highly inconvenient to be 200 meters away from the shore…
  2. If the weather is unstable or when there is a high risk for sudden weather changes where the wind speed might increase or decrease a lot.
  3. If waves, currents or the wind will make you drift far away if you end up in trouble.

In case you have a common sense, then use it. Don’t overrate your skills and check the weather forecast just before you head out for a session. Choose a spot that you know well and have well-thought-out solutions for possible unwanted situations you might end up in. Here follows some advices that are good to keep in mind in case you decide to go kitesurfing on you own:

  1. Always inform someone where you’re about to go for a session and when you estimate to be back.
  2. Avoid shady launch spots and places which might be crowded by common people as you come back.
  3. Kitesurf in an arespot a which has a safe area downwind, in case you fuck up things.
  4. Easy riding. Now is not the time to try nailing that trick where you fail and beat up yourself 9 times out of 10.
  5. Make sure that you under all circumstances have a backup plan in case something goes bad. Pilots have a plan of how to act in different emergency scenarios and are always prepared to make an emergency landing. Panicing is avoided if you have a well-tought-out plan and you can save many precious seconds when things get gnarly.
  6. If threatening clouds thorn up or if the wind speed increases to the upper range for what your kite is constructed for then it’s wise to cancel your session. Holding on to a kite that is too large for the current wind strength can entail difficulties at launchin and landing.
  7. Don’t ride further out from the shore than you can swim. This might sound obvious, but take into account that a distance that seems short when you’re up riding on the water can be very far to swim!
  8. Ensure that you know how to perform a perfect self-rescue. Knowing how to do this in theory is not enough, but knowing how to it in practice is crucial. Take the opportunity to practise self-rescue on a not so windy day.

Self launch

Have you ever arrived to the kitespot when it turned out to be perfect conditions, but not there hasn’t been a single kite buddy nearby to help you launch the kite? Instead of asking sunday walkers or people walking their dog to launch your kite and giving them lessons in how to assist you launching your kite, then it’s most likely both better and safer to self launch your kite. During good conditions then self launching is a safe way to get your kite up in the air. All it takes is that you can judge the wind and that you can rig your kite. There are four different ways to launch a kite on your own with out help from someone else; sand launch, beach launch, anchoring launch och drift launch. If your kite spot is located at a beach or if there is big flat lawn next to it then you can choose from the beach launch, sand launch or anchoring launch. When there is an absence from both grass and sand, then one can launch the kite by using the drift launch technique. Practise all methods when the wind is not too strong (ideally around 6-7 m/s) until you feel comfortable self launching your kite. Also remember that the different techniques for self launching vary a bit depending on you kite model and the current wind conditions.

Beach launch

This method is well suited for spots with vast sand beaches free from shells or other sharp objects that can puncture the kite. This method is in particularly great for bow-kites but works fine for all types of kites.

  1. Pick a good and safe spot with at least 30 meters of free space in all directions. We don’t want people nor other solid objects nearby. Another important aspect is to make sure that the land is free from seaweed, branches and other stuff that can grab on to a line, we don’t want to begin our session with a kitemare!
  2. Rig the kite as usual with your lines pointing downwind from the kite. We’re just making one exception, turn the kite a little bit towards the side to which you plan to launch your kite. If it’s windy then you can put some sand on the canopy next to the centre of the leading edge, just to avoid the kite from drifting of its position. Be extra careful to check lines and connection points. Now is not the time to be careless!
  3. Walk away to the control bar. Pull the depower strap. Start walking up the wind in an arc while keeping a firm pressure in the centre lines (NOTE! If you don’t keep pressure on the lines then the kite will not rotate). Also, it is enough to just hold on to the chicken-loop (CL) as you move yourself into position.
  4. Stop when the kite’s canopy is stretched out by the wind and check the lines to see that there are no tangles before you continue to the launch position. If you’ve done this procedure correctly then the kite will raise on its wing tip, ready to launch!
  5. Then as you launch the kite do it with minimal power in the kite. A gentle yet firm pull on the steering line can be enough if the wind is good. In stronger wind then it’s recommended to launch with one hand resting on the CL so that you quickly can pull the QR in case something goes bad.

Watch this video for a better understanding of the procedure. Fast forward to 02:25.

Sand launch

This method is actually called beach launch, but I renamed in here not to confuse you as a reader. The method is best suited for c-kites and for kites that aren’t too stiff in the Leading Edge (LE) in inflated state.

  1. Rig the kite as usual and place it close to the shoreline. Raise the kite and hold on to it on its lower wing tip to find the optimal angle it shall have against the wind.
  2. Fold the wing tip inwards and scoop a pile of sand over the wing tip so that the kite stay in place as you let go of it. Make sure that the sand is placed on the outer side of the wing tip, Böj samma vingtipp in mot kiten och ös på en hög av sand över vingtippen så att kiten inte sticker iväg om du släpper den. Se till att sanden hamnar på utsidan av vingtippen, thus not on the inside of the canopy. If it’s really windy then you might have to put quite a lot of sand on the kite to be sure that the kite won’t move. Check the lines so that they are not laying over any of the struts and that they are not twisted. Put lines on top of the sand.
  3. Hurry back to the control bar and connect the safety leash to the safety line asap. The kite is sensitive for gusts and the sand will not stay on the kite forever.
  4. Pull the depower-strap all the way. Hook in the CL (some perfers unhooked launch, since you then simply can let go of the control bar in case something goes bad. However, you might as well keep one hand on the Quick Release (QR) so that you quickly can activate it in case something goes wrong). Slowly back away from the kite so that it gradually gets stretched out by the wind. If the upper wing tip is bending towards the ground then you have positioned yourself too high upwind in relation to the kite. If the kite on the contrary is fluttering and seems to wanna fall backwards (downwind) then you have positioned yourself too far downwind in relation to the kite. So be sure to position yourself in an optimal position.
  5. When you have positioned yourself in a correct angle against the wind and as the upper lines are stretched out, then take a quick step back and away from the kite and keep an even pressure in the control bar.
    Follow this procedure correctly and the sand covered wing tip will unfold. When this happens then visually check that the lines and the bridles aren’t tangled.
  6. Slowly steer the kite up until you have it positioned about 45 degrees from the ground. Grab your board and enter the water.

Anchoring launch

The principle for this method is to find some kind of post, a stump or anything that is anchored to the ground to which you can hook in the CL. Do like this:

  1. Rig the kite as you normally do, about 3/4 of line span away from the anchoring point. Place the kite with its LE facing upwind.
  2. Walk away to the anchoring point and hook in the CL. Now you’ll need an extra leash or a piece of rope with loops in its ends and a carabiner in one of the ends. As long as you have something that you can twirl around the anchoring and some kind of hook that you can hook in to the CL. Pull the depower-strap all the way if you havn’t done so already.
  3. Walk back to the . Flip it around and position it in the edge of the wind window with stretched lines. If the wind is stable and not too strong then the kite will kindly stand still and wait for you while you hurry back to the anchoring point.
  4. Hook in your leash when you’re back to the anchoring point. Unhook the CL from the anchoring point and hook it in to your harness instead.
  5. Launch as usual and head out in the water.

Here are two videos that further describe the anchoring launch:

Drift launch

  1. Rig the kite as usual. Hook the leash into safety line. Grab the control bar and walk to the kite. Walk carefully so that twist the lines or get entangled in them.
  2. Flip the kite, grab it by the middle of the LE (don’t release the kite) and walk a fair distance out in the water.
  3. Once you’re out in the water and located a safe distance from land (at least 50 meters) then flip the kite with the LE down in the water and facing upwind. Now let go of the kite that will start drift downwind. As the kite drift downwind walk upwind at the same time to get tension in the lines, the sooner the better.
  4. The kite will now probably still lay in the water with the LE facing upwind. Now turn the kite (by pulling one of the steering lines) until the wind the fills up the canopy.
  5. Now it’s just a matter of making a simple water relaunch (pull one of the steering lines and let the kite walk to the edge of the wind window).

Another video that demonstrates how to perform a driftlaunch. Note that they have choosen to wind up the lines on the control bar in this example, which also works fine.

Self Rescue

To snap a line or having your LE blown out are two misadventures that can happen when you’re kitesurfing. If you’re unlucky one of these incidents happens just when you’re kitesurfing alone or when you’re far away from other kiters that perhaps can rescue you. Both of these situations require that you wind up the lines on the control bar while swimming in the water (if you’re in deep water), something which is easier said than done… The key for a successful self rescue is to not panic. One can read at Wikipedia that: Panic is a sudden sensation of fear, which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking, replacing it with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frantic agitation consistent with an animalistic fight-or-flight reaction.
Imagine a scenario where the kite for some reason has crashed in the water. Perhaps did the LE blow up or the bridles got entangled, the kite is in either case impossible to get back up flying. You lay there in the ice cold water several hundreds of meters from land and commence a self rescue. Suddenly you notice that a line is entangled in one of your feet… this is hence a situation when it’s not time to panic since it only will make the situation worse. Pause for a moment and slow down, save your energy, think of a plan and slowly swim upwind using your arms only. Gradually ease the foot from the line and go back to winding up the lines on the control bar once you’re free. Keep calm and stay focused. Also remember that “hot” water still is far from your body temperature and it will slowly but steadily weaken you.


Tip! If you’re kitesurfing alone then it’s wise to bring an extra leash. For example you can put it in the space between your lower back and the harness. You can use the extra leash to secure the board once you’re busy winding up the lines.

A line snaps

  1. Start by winding up one of the lines while swimming away from the kite to keep yourself away from the other lines that will become slack. Wind up the line until the kite is completely flagged (about as many meters as the span width of the kite), then wind up the remaining lines.
  2. As you reach the kite then secure the lines around the control bar with a clove hitch or some other knot that prevent the lines from winding up again.
  3. Flip the kite and put it on its “back” in the water. Lay down on the LE and grab the bridles to one of the wing tips. Form the kite to a little sail and let the wind take you back to the shore. Moreover, this is a manouver that you must practise for the day when you eventually have to do it.

Exploded LE

  1. Start in the same way as when a line has snapped. For instance wind up the safety lines in its entire length so that the kite becomes fully flagged out.
  2. As you reach the kite then grab one of the wing tips and place the bar inside the kite whereupon you roll up the kite to a roll (provided that you closed all the valves to the struts after you pumped the kite. Without air in the struts then you won’t be able to make a roll of your kite).
  3. Lay down on your little raft that you just have created and paddle back to land.

Self landing

You have just finished an epic session in the sunset only to discover that everyone has left and there is not a single soul on land that can help you land your kite. Don’t worry, here comes the solution! Self landings are easy to do as long as you know what you’re doing. Self landings in strong onshore wind is never recommended. If possible land the kite where there is wind shadow, for example behind an embankment or a high shrubbery. If this isn’t possible then make sure to keep distance from the beach and on a safe distance to other people that may stay downwind.

  1. Steer the kite down in the water, at the edge of the wind window, away from land.
  2. Unhook the CL as the lower wing tip has reached the water. Release the control bar and let the kite’s safety system handle the rest. In strong wind there is a risk that the kite will fly up and down in the water like a flag fluttering in the wind. Make sure that you have a good amount of space downwind, free from stones and the like that can tear the kite if being hit from it. Or even worse, the kite hits another person.
  3. As the kite is flagged out then start move towards the control bar along the stretched safety line. As you have reached the control bar then follow the centre lines, make sure that there is equal tension in them by all time.
  4. Once at the kite, simply grab it and secure it on land.

Tale the opportunity to practice self launches and self landings the nest time you’re kitesurfing with a buddy so that you’re well prepared once it’s time for a solo session. To kitesurf alone only requires some more thought and common sense in general. Please, read also this article about kitemares for more valuable tips!


/Gustav – IKO Kitesurfing Instructor

kitesurf alone