Situational awareness while kiteboarding will assure that your time on the water is enjoyable. Before every session, whether it is personal or a lesson, we evaluate the conditions and environment. Throughout our session we continue to evaluate the conditions and environment.
Situational awareness is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed. For kiteboarding, there are variables we’ll go over worth paying attention to that can prevent dangerous situations or accidents.
Before Getting To The Beach
Before you even go to the beach you want to make sure the conditions are right and you’re choosing the right spot to go to. If it’s a place you’ve never been, try to reach out to the local kite shop or kite group to get more information. Here are some things to consider:
- Wind Direction
- Make sure it’s a side shore, side onshore or onshore wind.
- Wind Strength
- Do you have the proper sail for the conditions?
- Wind Trends
- Will the wind stay the same strength for the day?
- Will the wind switch directions at any point in time?
- Try to choose a spot away from other beachgoers
Before you begin pumping up your kite, you want to assess what’s happening on the beach. You want to visualize launching and pick a spot to rig where there are the least number of potential hazards. Some potential hazards include:
- Other Kites
- Broken Glass
Before you go on the water, take a minute to see what’s happening on the water, remember the acronym SEA (Site, Environment, Activity). If you’re unfamiliar with the location, ask a local kiter where any potential hazards are. Potential hazards could include:
- Dead Spots
- Are there spots where there isn’t wind?
- Deep Spots
- If its a shallow spot, are there places you can’t touch bottom?
- Water Temperature
Also look at what’s happening on the water. Things to consider are:
- Kiteboarding Lessons
- Other riders
- Non motorized watercraft
- Motorized watercraft
Your conditions and environment change with time so as you’re riding you want to continue to be mindful of what’s going on around you. Situations to consider:
- Other Riders
- Know your Right of Way Rules
- Water Depth
- Accidents happen in super shallow water so avoid these spots
- It’s much more difficult to relaunch a kite in deep water so if you’re not great at water relaunching avoid crashing your kite or avoid riding in deep water.
- A sign that a current is going with the wind is if your kite has more bar pressure than normal
- Try to find a place to ride where current has a minimum negative impact
- If the currents going into the wind, it can help you get upwind easier
- If you lose your board and the current is going into the wind, it’s possible your board travels into the wind
- Swimmers/ Other Water Users
- Always keep your distance from swimmers or other people using the water
- If the wind feels like its dropping, stay closer to shore or come in
- If you feel the wind picking up and you’re already on too big a kite
- Go in to the beach and ask for help or land
- If you’re caught in a squall
- Engage your safety system and wait for the squall to pass
Coming In To Land
When coming in to land your kite, a person in the process of launching has right of way. When you see that the beach is clear, come in and give the hand signal (tapping your hand on your head) to indicate that you’re landing. A person landing has right of way over someone looking to go out. Find a spot with the least potential hazards and indicate to the person catching your kite that’s where you’ll land.
Situations change so be aware of what’s going on around you. If you’re not sure, ask for help. If you’re in an unfamiliar place or do not feel comfortable, don’t go further out than you can swim. Be familiar with your safety systems and how to do a proper self rescue. If you’re mindful and are prepared for any situation you’ll be a safe and happy kiteboarder!