Learning to launch and land a kite is perhaps one of the most important skills to master when learning to kitesurf. Not many schools adopt a teaching methodology that spends enough time on this aspect, and the result is sadly manifest on the spots.
The next time you go to a spot, I invite you to wait a second before you inflate your kite and analyze the other riders.
You will be amazed how many trivial mistakes (positioning, line connections, knots, etc.) occur during take-off, which are potentially dangerous for the average rider, but also for all the people around.
To land and launch a kite correctly, you need to have good control and above all to have assimilated some basic theoretical notions.
Don’t forget that most accidents happen during the take-off, and this is what I will focus on.
In this article, I will review some practices that should not be underestimated in order to perform this action in a safer way, and the reasons why they are important.
Fly your kite in light wind
This may seem like an unrelated topic to you, but it’s not.
Answer this question: have you or another practitioner in your practice ever taken off a kite and, for various reasons, instead of going up the edge of the window, the kite spun on itself, one or more times, to end up in the power zone?
I’m sure it did.
This happens because of a lack of control.
If you are in a disturbed wind area, or if the wind is light, the launch can be complex.
If you know how to fly a kite in less than 10 knots, you will discover all the positions the kite can assume, how to manage them and what to do to avoid a violent take off and loss of control.
Being able to ride in light wind also allows you to practice launching a kite in the power zone, with the back lines, or even to voluntarily rotate the kite in a radical way to launch it in the power zone and create maximum acceleration.
Mastering the kite in this way in safe conditions will increase your perception and handling skill, and you will be able to anticipate a possible mistake in strong winds.
The more you practice in light wind, the more you will avoid the classic mistake of pulling the bar when you feel no pressure in the bar.
Bad positioning, it’s your fault.
The most important thing when launching a kite is to position yourself correctly in relation to the wind direction.
It is essential to keep in mind that for safety reasons, and in order to have a controlled launch, you should always start the procedure a little downwind of the kite, so that you walk, gradually, until the lines start to be slightly taut and the kite inflates without generating too much pressure on the assistant. At this point, you must check if everything is in order (if you have knots, if the lines are all connected, etc.), then make the last movement in the wind direction to obtain the correct tension and give the signal to your assistant to take off your kite.
- The most common mistake is to position yourself too “upwind”.
In this configuration, the assistant will have difficulty placing the kite correctly and, if the tension is too strong, the kite may slip out of his hands and take off violently without you having been able to check that everything was fine. DANGEROUS!
- The other mistake is to position yourself “downwind”, and give the assistant the green light when the lines are not powered at all. The kite will start to rotate and head towards the power zone.
If there are other people around you, or if the lines get stuck in an obstacle, the risk of having a problem is huge.
I often see practitioners who, once the bar is unrolled, have no idea in which direction they should launch their kite and risk making one of the two mistakes mentioned above!
And remember, if you position yourself wrong, don’t blame the assistant, blame yourself.
Do not give the ok if you are not sure
As we saw in the previous point:
if you are not sure, if you don’t feel pressure in the bar, if you have any doubt, if you are not sure if the lines are free of knots, etc., don’t give the signal to your assistant.
Instead, give the signal to your assistant to lower your kite.
Don’t hesitate to ask someone for advice
It’s better to claim not to be an expert than to end up in the news afterwards.
Along the same lines as the previous paragraph, if you’re not sure, ask for help.
If you’re in this situation, you’re not yet at the level to train on your own, so I assume there are other riders out there to ask.
Observe, and then search for someone who you think is competent.
Politely ask them to help you get off the ground, and don’t be afraid to tell them that you are a beginner. It’s best to get everything straight from the start.
I think it’s better to expose yourself and your weaknesses than to pretend to be a “champion” and end up with your kite on a tree.
Don’t launch alone if you have someone on the beach to help you
Kitesurfing is a sharing activity. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to launch the kite together, it is even recommended.
I rarely see (fortunately) riders heading to the water, kite in hand, to take off alone when the beach is full of people. Why is that?
Too much confidence? Show-off? Fear of asking?
Whatever the answer, it’s absurd.
In addition, most people who do this are not professionals.
It is important to know how to launch alone and this is an excellent quality. But why choose a risky way when you can make sure to preserve your own safety, the one of the other riders and to ensure the longevity of a spot?
Don’t forget that the more accidents there are, the more each spot will be subject to restrictions and/or closures.
Know the hand signals
You don’t have to scream or yell at your assistant to launch or land a kite. There are universal signals to give the information:
- Make the “C” sign with your hand, to tell the assistant to put the kite in the takeoff position, i.e., holding it in the middle (in the area of the center batten, with the bottom surface facing the rider and one ear resting on the ground).
- Thumb up, so that the assistant will release (not throw) the kitet so that you can take off. This sign should be given when you are sure you have control of the kite.
- Touch the head with the palm of your hand, to let people on the beach know that you want to land. This can be used at the end of the session, or even if, at the moment of take-off, you realize that you have a problem with your lines and need to re-land the kite.
Always keep a hand on safety
At launching, even if you are an expert, you are never safe from a minor mistake, such as forgetting or misconnecting a line (we are often in a hurry).
Therefore, it is always important to have a hand on the chicken loop, because if the kite gets toomuch speed, the faster you neutralize it, the less damage you can cause.
Double check your connections before launching
Check the knots, go back and forth once or twice to make sure you don’t have any crossed lines, check the bridles.
In short, a double check is cost-free and will allow you to launch with more confidence.
If you are not an expert, check the skills of those who assist you
No one is born an expert, so the first few times, you will probably have doubts and apprehensions when you take off.
Even if, in theory, you think you have it all figured out, the reality may surprise you. I therefore advise you to play it safe and ask for help from a competent or trusted person.
Otherwise, if he or she is as inexperienced as you are, the probability of you making a mistake increases considerably.
Identify the safest launching area
Depending on the location, the launch can be really tricky and/or dangerous.
Watch the area carefully, ask local riders, watch others.
If you feel unsafe and the location allows it, move away from obstacles and find an area free of danger (trees, bushes, etc.). If possible, take off directly from the water.
Train the launch and landing in a safe area
It should become an automatism.
If you want to master this action, practice as much as you can.
First, get used to smoothly lowering and raising the kite. Then, train yourself to stabilize your kite in all positions, even with the kite almost three feet off the ground. The more you master this, the less likely you are to make a mistake.
Next, find a beach free of obstacles and practice, with the help of someone, launch and land several times to understand the proper positioning to achieve the optimal line tension.