Kitesurfing Safety Systems
Kitesurfing Safety Systems
Learn how your safety systems work. In this 15 minutes video, we will cover everything you need to know about modern kitesurfing safety systems. After watching this video, you will become a safer, more independent Kitesurfer.
Kitesurfing Safety Systems : Video Transcript
Kitesurfing isn’t a perfect sport, no matter how skilled you are, things will go wrong from time to time. If you ask any experienced kitesurfer, they will likely give you a long list of so called ‘’kitemares’’.
Thankfully, all modern kitesurfing kites are equipped with multi-stage safety systems which are specifically designed to keep you safe when you encounter any of those situations.
Safety systems design and efficiency have greatly improved over the years and will no doubt keep improving. In the early days of kitesurfing, kites did not even have any safety system.
Having the most modern safety systems on your kite doesn’t mean you will be safe at all times. You first need to 1) understand how your safety systems work and 2) Develop reflexes so you are able to use them quickly, even in panic situations.
All modern Kites use a simple 3 steps safety system. The first step is to let go of the bar, the second step is to release the chicken loop and the third and final step is to release the safety leash. There is also an additional safety system called a Hook Knife.
When you get in any dangerous situation, the first and most important reflex to develop is simply to let go of the bar. Doing so will instantly reduce the speed and the power of the kite, which will typically make the fall down towards the edge of the wind window, where it has the least amount of power.
When you let go of the bar, both back lines will go slack. Your kite will depower with a flapping canopy. As we saw in the previous Kite Control video, longer back lines decrease the angle of attack. A low angle of attack means less wind acceleration over the kite, therefore less lift.
If your kite accidently enters the power zone, letting go of the bar will make the kite exit the power zone towards the edge of the wind window. The kite will then fall down depowered and rest with very little pull.
It’s crucial that you develop the reflex of letting go of the bar at the early stages of your progression. The most dangerous habit is to hang on to the bar when something goes wrong, which essentially powers the kite even more which puts you at even greater risk.
As a beginner, you want to make sure you have the instant reflex of letting go of the bar. For example, when:
1-You lose control of the kite
2-You crash the kite
3-Your Kite enters the power zone by mistake
4-You had a big crash off of your board
5-You are getting dragged or lofted
If letting go of the bar does not solve your problem, then you MUST quickly move on to the second step, which is to activate the chicken loop quick release or QR1.
The chicken loop should always be easy so release, even under strong load.
This is called a push away chicken loop quick release and is the most common type you will find on modern kites.
Simply by grabbing the quick release with one hand and pushing it away from you, the chicken loop will open.
This is Twist quick release, which is NOT Common.
This is a PULL DOWN quick release which is also not common on modern kites.
As a Kitesurfer, you must understand that There are No Official Standards in the design of Kitesurfing Safety Systems. Kitesurfing Manufacturers are free to design Safety Systems any way they please. As a result, Safety Systems may differ in design and functionality. However, all modern Safety Systems operate around the same Universal 3 Steps
For your Safety system to work properly, it’s important that you always connect your safety leash directly to the Safety Line. This means that anytime the chicken loop is released, you will only be connected to the kite by the Safety Line.
In this case that safety line is only attached to a single front line of your kite.
This will INSTANTLY flag the kite, which is VERY SAFE.
When you activate the chicken loop quick release, the bar will slide away from you, ideally all the way to the Stopper ball. This ball is designed to stop the bar from sliding all the way to the kite.
In order for any kite to flag out completely, the distance from the leash to the stopper ball must be at least equal or superior to the kite’s wing span, which is the distance from one wing tip to the other. Having enough distance for your bar to slide is essential for all other lines to go slack, while Only the Safety Line has tension.
As a complete beginner, you can use your safety system at your advantage to perform an emergency self-landing. Make sure you have plenty of room with no obstacles and no one around. Then, Simply let go the bar and activate the chicken loop quick release.
Ensure the kite has flagged out which means it doesn’t pull you anymore. A kite that does not flag out will be exposed to the wind and will still generate some pull, therefore isn’t safe to retrieve.
Start climbing the safety line Hand over Hand. Follow that safety line over the bar and avoid touching the bar. You can avoid the majority of tangles simply by keeping clear of the lines. Be sure to follow only the ONE safety line. Continue following that line all the way to the kite. Grab your Kite’s Leading edge and secure the kite.
Repeat this exercise a few times as it is a fundamental skill for your independence as a kitesurfer.
This Emergency self-landing can be done safely in any wind condition.
Once the kite is secured, you can untangle your lines as explained in the How to untangle lines video.
You can now reset your chicken loop. Each Brand will be different. It’s important you read your instruction manual so you understand how to operate and re-set your Chicken Loop Quick Release.
In modern Kitesurfing, you will find 3 different types of flagging systems. The Single Front line, where the safety line is attached to only ONE of your front lines, which be either the left or the right front line.
The Fifth line, which is an additional line attached to the centre of your leading edge, dedicated for safety.
And the dual front-line safety system, where the safety line is attached to BOTH of your front lines at the same time.
Let’s look at how you can easily analyse which type of safety system you have.
After you finished setting up your kite, simply follow the safety line (which is usually coloured in RED) up to where your front lines SPLIT.
Then, simply pull on the safety line. Here we can see it’s only attached to a single front line.
Here we can see it’s attached to a fifth line
Here we can see both front lines are attached to the safety line.
Single front line and fifth line safety systems are the safest, as they provide instant kite flagging in ANY scenario.
Dual Front-Line safety systems won’t always flag out your kite, especially in lighter winds or in case a Bridle gets tangled around your kite. Bridle tangles often happen to beginners who accidently invert their kites.
Bridle tangles often result in an out of control kite looping continuously. Here we can see that a dual front-line safety system with the QR1 that has been activated, simply does not stop the kite from looping, which is forcing the pilot to release the kite completely.
If the same bridle tangle happened on a single front line safety system or a fifth line, the kite would flag out.
This is a real-life example in very strong winds on a kite using a dual front-line safety system. You can see that even though the QR1 has been activated, the kite does not stop looping and pulling. The Pilot is then forced to release the kite completely.
For those reasons, dual front-line safety systems have almost disappeared from the current market, as single front line and fifth line safety systems are a much safer option.
So when should you activate the Chicken Loop Quick Release?
Simply put, If Letting of the Bar does not solve your problem, the Chicken Loop Quick Release should be Activated. For example, when:
- Your Kite is Out of Control (Line or Bridle tangles)
- You are Over-Powered (Wind is too strong)
- You are Under-Powered (Kite cannot be relaunched)
- Your Kite is tangled with another Kite
- Your equipment is damaged (deflation, line break)
- There is no one around to help you land the kite
- You are too tired or injured
The 3rd and last safety step, is the leash quick release or QR2. This is the easiest one to understand, after activating it you will be completely separated from your kite. This is a last resort.
Thankfully, all safety leashes use a push away quick release.
It’s important that you get familiar with the mechanism of your leash quick release as the design will differ from one brand to another. Practice releasing it and re-assembling it.
After re-assembling any of your safety systems, always check that they have been correctly reassembled so they don’t come undone accidently.
Kitesurfing safety leashes come in various lengths. The traditional Long leashes, which were originally designed to accommodate advanced riders who perform unhooked manoeuvres.
In recent years, Short leashes have become more common as they are more suitable and safer for anyone who doesn’t perform unhooked manoeuvres.
The problem with long leashes, is that most kiters will attach them with the quick release at the back of the harness.
If you ever got dragged by your kite after activating the Chicken Loop Quick Release, you will have a very difficult time reaching the leash quick release if it’s attached at the back of your harness.
Here is a real-life example of a kitesurfer getting dragged backwards by his leash having difficulty reaching the Quick Release.
Short leashes are great, as they force you to attach them at the front of the harness, where the quick release is easily accessible no matter the situation.
Short leashes can also be safely attached to a fixed point on the side of the harness, where the quick release will also be easy to reach.
If you have a long leash, always attach it to the front of your harness or to a fixed point on the side of your harness. However, you may find out that the extra length of the leash dangling in front of you becomes an inconvenience.
So When should you activate the Leash Quick Release?
If you are still getting dragged despite having activated your Chicken Loop Quick Release (QR 1) you need to activate your Leash Quick Release (QR 2). For example, when:
- You have excessive line tangles and QR 1 Fails
- Two or more kites are tangled and QR 1 Fails
- Your primary safety system is poorly designed and does not flag your kite
- Any malfunction with QR 1
- You crashed the kite in Large Waves and the kite is dragging you underwater
There is also an additional safety system called a Hook Knife, which is designed to cut through your lines.
Unfortunately, not all harnesses are equipped with a hook knife, however, they can be purchased separately.
A Hook Knife is only useful in the very rare case lines are tangled around you and the kite is dragging you.
Safety Systems – Summary
- Avoid Purchasing Kites with Outdated Safety Systems
- Familiarize yourself with All your Safety Systems
- Regularly Practice Activating all Safety Systems while the Kite isn't Flying. This will ensure they always work and will also Develop your Reflexes.
- Practice Letting go of the Bar and Activating QR1 Multiple Times while the Kite IS Flying
- QR2 and Hook Knifes are RARELY used, especially if you are Quick to use Previous Safety Systems
- Avoid Connecting your Safety Leash to the Back of your Harness
In the next video, we will talk about how to perform a basic self-rescue.