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Go Fly a Kite

Go Fly a Kite

CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 2 PATRICK TAYLOR

With the extreme sports world taking off and adrenaline junkies coming up with all types of new activities, the associated risks are also on the rise. Some people see professionals execute these tricks and, unfortunately, attempt them themselves. What they don’t realize, however, is some of these professionals have years of training and use the best equipment money can buy.

I, too, enjoy extreme sports, especially kiteboarding. Similar to wakeboarding, which involves being towed behind a boat, kiteboarding harnesses the power of the wind through the use of controllable kites to propel individuals across the water with or without foot straps or bindings. Kiteboarding’s real risk is the power of the kite and the environment in which you are operating.

There are training classes that illustrate the kite’s safety features, to include managing the kite and what the optimal wind conditions are for your particular equipment. Just about every surf shop has information on the local environmental conditions for the area. Knowing your equipment and the environmental conditions will give you an idea of what to expect and how to prevent yourself from getting into a bad situation.

The training is usually broken down into three stages. The first is the ground stage, in which you use a smaller trainer kite to learn how it works and under which conditions it optimally performs. After the trainer kite, you generally step up to a regular kite to get further used to flying. All of this is done on the beach. The second stage consists of using a regular kite to pull you through the water without a board just to get used to its power and how it performs. The final step includes getting up on the board. It’s recommended that these steps are taught by someone who is experienced in the sport.

When I first started, a couple of friends and I bought kiteboarding equipment on eBay and just went out and tried it for ourselves, without any classes or taking into account the environmental conditions. We just didn’t want to shell out the couple hundred dollars for the classes. This overconfidence in our abilities could have ended tragically. I will share with you two examples of my bad judgment.

Despite not having taken any classes or considering the environmental conditions, we kiteboarded on the beach without incident. Encouraged by our success, we decided to let the kite pull us through the water. That’s when we discovered the inconsistency of the wind and how it would blow offshore as the tide rolled out. The wind was not strong enough and the tide was too strong. Needless to say, our kites would not stay up in the air and we hit the water. We had to flag down a guy on a Jet Ski, who helped pull us back to shore. Had the guy not been there, who knows how far we would have drifted.

On our second attempt, we were a little smarter. The wind on shore was more consistent. The only kicker was that the tide was coming in, creating a lot of turbulent water at an inlet to the river. One of the kiteboarders was on the second stage of the training, doing body drags, when he lost situational awareness and got caught up in the turbulent water. The accident could have been prevented had he released his kite prior to hitting the turbulent water. Again, we were fortunate enough to flag down a boat operator, who picked up our friend and brought him back to the beach.

Fortunately, the only thing we lost through these two examples was pride. After these less-than-fun experiences, though, we decided to take some lessons. My advice to you is the same. Before trying out any new activity, whether it’s on land, air or sea, make sure you are properly trained. Failing to do so could have deadly consequences.

  • 1 April 2015
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 10074
  • Comments: 0
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