Is Kite Surfing Dangerous

Is Kite Surfing Dangerous? Everything You Need to Know

By Sophia the SeaMonster on Jan 28, 2023

Witnessing or hearing something hazardous happens to a kitesurfer doesn’t ever mean a red signal for you, nor does everything going all safe and fun mean it’s a clean chit. Like other watersports, kitesurfing, a risky sport, depends on how you prepare for it and proceed with the entire venture.

The statistics I found and put below on the topic are quite relieving for beginner kitesurfers; however, by scrolling through the hazards section, you might feel you’re about to be severely injured during a kitesurfing session.

The key point is that if you know what you’re doing and what you’re supposed to do before heading out for kitesurfing and in a particular situation while doing the sport, it can become the safest and most fun water sport in the world. Conversely, if you aren’t mindful enough (both before and during the session), nothing can hurt you more than this very sport could do.

So, keep reading until you find yourself damn ready to overcome any fears, know and mitigate possible dangers, and give us a waving hand (if you can manage to free one hand while kitesurfing)!

But let’s start with a pro tip first…

Learn Before the Turn: The Key to the Safest and Most Fun Kitesurfing

Like all other watersports, the need for a mentor is inevitable. And this is especially true for kitesurfing.

Finding someone who’s been there facing all the hazards and finding ways to overcome them would be tons of help. I recommend joining a kitesurf school, and you know the importance - of a mentor(s), peers, on-spot guidelines, and many more. All that’d bring you tons of fun moments and safety body-wise. In a nutshell, spending a few bucks and being open to learning and making mistakes could keep you away from the hospital!

Another suggestion I would like here is to try to go slower. Assuming you’ve learned a lot and rushing to the danger zones and tricks could increase the likelihood of more injuries.

Is Kite Surfing Dangerous? A Brief Overview

Though danger always exists, taking guidelines from peers or a mentor about the possible dangers, taking safety measures accordingly, and knowing how and when to use common sense and intuition can make kitesurfing less hazardous and more fun. Let me quickly go through what different studies revealed on the topic, the possible dangers category-wise, and how you can avoid each one.

Statistics About Kitesurfing Dangers

Dozens of studies have revealed kitesurfing injuries ratio per certain number of hours. Most pre-2010 studies concluded that, on average, injuries occur 5-7 times per 1000 hours of non-competitive activity. The only exception was a study by Wegner & Wegener in 2012, which found that roughly 12 injuries occurred per 1000 hours.

The last study on the topic being conducted in 2016 (no study for the last six years) indicates there should be zero statistics about sport’s-related injuries and other dangers. Maybe it’s because of the advancements in the safety system that lowered the injury rates, and no one felt the need to conduct any further studies.

Interestingly, almost all the studies correlated the risk of injury to two factors: The number of tricks and jumps a kitesurfer performs and the kitesurfer’s experience level.

It was found that sprains and joint injuries were the most common ones. Performing more tricks, jumps, and hard landings puts extra stress on the joints. 

Then comes how experienced the surfer is. The confidence and the knowledge of the sport sometimes backfire - they try different things and attempt to make as many high jumps as possible, increasing the chance of kitesurfing accidents.

The moral of the studies: stay confident; not overconfident if you want safer kitesurfing!

Dangers in Different Aspects of Kitesurfing

Kitesurfing spots can have different conditions as much as they have similarities. So the point is the dangers have much more to do with the area you’re going to choose for the sport.

Wind conditions, for example, may not be as stormy in your region as at some other beaches. So the possible dangers of kitesurfing I’m going to describe may vary depending on your area or expertise level.

Also, I’ll explain how you can mitigate specific dangers by taking appropriate measures, though I repeat, don’t get into it unless you’ve learned from an experienced person.

1. Dangers Due to the Kitesurfers Errors

  • Losing Kite Control - For your kite to be too large or too small for the current wind could create trouble. It’s too large, and it’d get out of control, dragging you out to the sea or an obstacle without being able to release it. On the contrary, it’s too small, and you’ll drift toward an unsafe zone, or the kite will drop into the water.
    How to avoid: Talk to experienced kitesurfers and observe which kites they use successfully.
  • Failed Launch or Landing - your kite goes right into the power zone when launched in strong wind (>30kn).  Controlling and landing become hazardous. You’re most likely dragged inland or offshore on the road etc.
    How to avoid: avoid launching your kite in bad weather.
  • Dropped  Kite Lines - A kite lost by someone can get in your way, causing cuts on your body parts.
    How to avoid: don’t stand downwind from learners on strong wind days. Stay conscious about what’s going on upwind.
  • Practicing on Land - an upward air stream can lift you off the ground while practicing kitesurfing on land and drop on the land like a stone.
    How to avoid: Avoid practicing on the beach in strong winds.
  • Jump-Hurts - When you do a jump, landing hard in shallow water or colliding with another kitesurfer downwind is likely to happen.
    How to avoid: Make sure the path/spot you’re about to jump is clear of people or any other obstacles.
  • Hitting waves - You may stick onto a wave and your kite and drop and wash out.
    How to avoid: Stay away from the area where bigger waves form.
  • Board hitting - Your board can hit you back due to a wind gust, and you get distracted by your powered kite.
    How to avoid: Get some knowledge of winds, wear a helmet, and don’t use a board leash.
  • Hurt by kite lines - Your kite may fall into the water in the wind, lul, and relaunches with a gust. This increases the chance of the damage by the lines getting tighter without letting you know or making you prepared.
    How to avoid: Always be ready for the relaunch and try to wrap the kite line around your body instead of just using your hands to hold them.

2. Weather and Nautical Dangers

  • Wind change - Wind could suddenly pick up or drop, and you get lofted and stuck at sea.
    How to avoid: Release your kite immediately after feeling lifted or dragged too far offshore.
  • Gusty wind - Strong gusts could take you offshore to the sea, plus powerful gusts could constantly rip you off the board and make your kite drop from the sky.
    How to avoid: Release your kite immediately after feeling lifted or dragged too far offshore.
  • Lowering tide - When going down, a tide makes sandbars and rocks very shallow, making You hit these objects at high speed.
    How to avoid: Know the spot and tides and get info on the matter from around.
  • Rip current - When reaching a zone of the strong current, you cannot move even slightly despite the wind being very strong. You and your kite are alone in the chaos!
    How to avoid: Never experiment with going into areas known for rip currents. A beach committee or locals can help you mark those areas.
  • Big waves - You may enter an area with strong waves coming in, and unreliable wind makes it hard for you to escape faster.
    How to avoid: Before kitesurfing, observe the bigger waves’ making and breaking points. Once identified, choose the spot with smaller or no waves.

3. Equipment Failure

  • Line break - One of the lines could break when you’re far away from the shore, and that increased stress causes one or more additional lines to break shortly after.
    How to avoid: Check your lines regularly and do a replacement if necessary.
  • Harness spreader bar break - your harness spreader bar (loops attached to the harness straps ) could break. Your harness remains attached around your waist, but one side of the spreader bar is loose, so the kite lines pull you helplessly on your side, causing you to lose control.
    How to avoid: Opt for a good quality harness. If such an incident still happens, drag your body toward shore or fully let go of your kite.
  • The leading edge bladder loses air - Strong winds could cause your kite’s leading edge to lose air, making the kite flap and swirl out of control.
    How to avoid: Regularly pumping your old kite up to check for discrete bladder and valve leaks and Being on the lookout for slight deflating after each session could minimize the risk.
  • The Twintip strap goes loose - one of the straps on your twin-tip kiteboard could turn loose, and the strap no longer holds your foot. This prevents you from using your board effectively.
    How to avoid: Keenly check your kiteboard straps and screws before jumping.
  • The quick release goes off by itself - your quick release could get triggered too easily and goes off due to a wrong move while riding.
    How to avoid: Check your safety system and replace it if it triggers too easily.

4. Dangers Due to Obstacles

  • Inland obstacle - The strong onshore wind could pull you inland toward a nearby building or tree.
    How to avoid: Release your kite as long as a feeling is lifted, or try to steer it back if you’re confident about being powerful enough.
  • In-water obstacles - Excessive or insufficient wind could drag or drift you onto rocks, reefs, or a peer.
    How to avoid: Learn to ride reliably upwind to avoid the accident.

5. People Hazards

  • Colliding with others - You may go too close to another kitesurfer, and your lines cross, or your kite goes right through the other surfer's lines. The entanglement could cause both parties to lose control of their kites. Moreover, another similar case is that your riding course crosses with a boat or jet ski course; a wind lull keeps you from avoiding it at the last minute.
    How to avoid: kiteboarding in crowded areas and figure out a safe distance between you and other parties.
  • Catching a person - If your lines drop on land or water, they could extend to lay around a swimmer or a beach bystander.
    How to avoid: always check for beachgoer clearance downwind on the sand and in the water near shore.  If your kite drops with the lines surrounding a person, immediately flag your kite to depower it and avoid a dangerous relaunch completely.

6. Underwater Troubles

  • Sea urchins - While walking through the water to the spot you’d start your kitesurfing, you may step onto a sea urchin on sand or rock. Dozens of urchin spikes could get stuck into your underfoot skin and leave you with intense pain.
    Another enemy underwater is weever fish, a venomous fish that hides in the sand. As you step on it while stepping on the water, it’ll give you a painful sting that irradiates your leg and your bones.
    How to avoid: Be careful when kitesurfing on rocky beaches. Ride upwind to reach the spot you want to start kitesurfing from. Stay away from beach bars or reefs. Though there’s no way to save yourself from the fish, keeping a bottle of water or some painkillers is the best idea.
  • Getting trailed by a shark - you may spot a large shark following you. Though the possibility of such happening is lower, it’s not uncommon in Australian and South African spots.
    How to avoid: get out of the water asap, and avoid riding at sunset in shark-infested areas.
  • Hitting a shallow coral - You may hit a shallow coral reef at high speed when kitesurfing around a lagoon.
    How to avoid: Get lagoon knowledge and keep an eye on any reef coming ahead.

7. Health Hazards

  • Cramps - You’d start feeling cramps in your hamstring and calf after a couple of riding hours. It could also be like hitting the gym after a long period - cramps may kick in hours after your kiteboarding session after your muscles cool down a few hours post-surfing.
    How to avoid: A lot of water intake before your surf session, stretching before and after the session, and taking regular pauses can lower the cramps risk. Plus, don’t go for very long sessions if you haven’t built good endurance capacity.
  • UV damage - You could have a bad sunburn and UV eye damage after a kitesurfing day.
    How to avoid: Use sunscreen even if it’s cloudy outside, plus use good quality kiteboarding glasses.
  • Back pain - A same constant pose could give you a sudden strong back pain, making it very hard to ride back to the beach.
    How to avoid: do appropriate preparation, choose the right harness, and avoid being overpowered.

Final Thought

So, no water sport guarantees zero danger, so it does not kitesurf. Learn at least the basics of the sport, be aware of the possible dangers, and get physically and mentally prepared for that. Wishing you the safest and most fun time!

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