The old saying still holds true. "When in doubt, read the instructions!"
Kite safety is no exception. Look for a sticker on the packaging or a
printed slip which gives kite-safety warnings and flying tips.
It's definitely worth spending a few moments to read.
Photo courtesy of Mike Ivy
It's a great idea to start flying a new kite in fairly light winds,
until you are used to it. That way you'll feel more in control when you
take the kite out in stronger or gustier conditions. This could apply
to stunt or traction kiting. You might even decide to get a small
trainer kite first, to have a bit of fun and get the hang of flying a
parafoil in a range of conditions.
Choose the right kite, not too big for the wind conditions
you expect to fly it in. Whether shopping on or offline, it's easy to
get advice on this point. Apart from asking the shop owner, you can just
hang out in a relevant forum online to get some answers. Kitesurfing-safety advice is easy to come by, this way. Forums where you can find
land kiteboarding safety advice or advice for stunt flying might be a
little harder to find.
I can remember seeing a news article where a young guy went out
stunt flying with a large power kite—in a gale! He got picked up by a
gust and dumped many meters away and was fortunate to survive.
This kite-safety issue is just common sense really. Fly your new kite in a large enough area,
away from obstacles, including other people. In the case of stunt
flying, imagine the full extent that the kite might arc to the left or
right. Make sure there's nothing there but flat ground.
Can you imagine
someone getting whacked in the ear by a fast power kite? I've actually seen a friend after he got hit in the side of his head by a delta stunt kite—there was blood and bruising. Talking about speed, I've read about a
Flexifoil Stacker that was claimed to have hit 160 kph! Is that fast or
Wear safety gear if you are getting dragged over the
ground, for example in buggying. Protect yourself from getting scratched
and bruised when you come unstuck in a fresh breeze. Maybe a bush
leaped out and got you. Or perhaps you didn't react quick enough to a big gust
and you ended up sliding across gravel.
On the topic of kite safety gear, a helmet is sometimes recommended for kite surfing in the ocean. Most images you see on the Web show people kite surfing without helmets, but in strong conditions it's possible to hit the water hard.
At high speed, water isn't soft any more, and it is possible to get
injured. Some kiting helmets are pretty minimal and don't look anything
like motorcycle helmets and yet offer useful protection. Of course,
when traveling over hard ground, that's an even better reason to use a helmet!
If you use a kite harness, a safety release system allows
you to detach from the kite in an emergency—for example, if you are
about to hit a hard object. Or maybe a huge gust is threatening to turn you into
an unwilling paraglider pilot! Also, if you are using a
fully-depowerable kite, it's quicker to just drop the bar and get out of
trouble that way.
Think about getting kite instruction before getting into
the more advanced extreme sports. It costs a bit but results in fewer
hassles and a smoother entry to the thrills of traction kiting.
Actually, by being less likely to damage your kite, you might even save a bit of money in the long run!
Otherwise, if going it alone without any kite lesson, get good at doing stunts
with your power kite before thinking about letting it drag you along.
Try doing one thing at a time! Be a stunt pilot first, then a kiteboarding hero later.