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Self Rescue: Can you?

Posted on May 21 2018


After a reasonably traumatic group downwinder in Wellington Harbour, some kiters found themselves in some rather precarious positions.  This post is about the aftermath and how some Wellingtonian kiters decided to respond.

The external conditions that surrounded the event could certainly have been improved and a long hard discussion was had around this.  Fundamentally though, the responsibility lies with the pilot at the bar. If you choose to put yourself into a challenging position, you sure as heck, need to be willing to ride it out.  Being prepared may be even more helpful.  As Snoop Dog once put it, "Don't get ready, BE ready".

Many did ride it out.  Some kites also went past the finish line without riders attached.  The repercussions: "Wow dude, that was crazy", some were silent, some just broke down into tears.  Can't blame them either.  12 knots to 56 knots in 10 minutes is going to be challenging for any kitesurfer.  

It's not until you're in the water and it all turns to custard when you begin to think, "Maybe I should have taken that free 'self rescue' course with KitesurfNZ when it was offered."

Maybe you should have because now it's going cost $160.

It's also one thing to try it from a YouTube clip, it's another to observe, chat and work on all the little idiosyncrasies that are involved in this modus operandi. 

Most kiters are kinaesthetic learners, they like to 'do'.  Movement is key in the process.  There might be plenty of YouTube clips watched and blogposts read but they learn best after they've physically, tried it.

So Blaise St Laurent, approached me for a 'refresher course' for the self rescue.  In reply, I was so impressed with Blaise's humble solution that I decided on the spot, to run a course for free AND invite all who could attend.  We figured it would 'mop up'  those who never had a chance to even take lessons because they simply didn't exist, or for those that needed a refresher, and yes, those that were too tight to pay for this important information and practice but now had an epiphany of sorts.

So Ozone, provided the tent, we brought our own gear to ensure we knew how to deal with our safety releases and ensure the practice was specific to our own equipment.

The results were astounding.  Some gear was brilliant.  Other gear was not.  It was interesting to see, what is standard practice in most kites, is not for other (might I add 'popular') brands.  We also looked at wear and tear of gear and we learned how others brands safety gear works.  This turned out to be invaluable in understanding that some practices need to be 'modified' for some brands of kite gear.  This also assists those that may come to help in a time of need, and understand someone else's procedure for self rescue.

After demonstration and questions, riders/pilots, used their own gear to practice on.  Many practiced more than once and a few took to the water to ensure a 'real experience'.  For that, I applaud them.  It has certainly provided some confidence in those that attended, and strengthened 'our resolve' to be safer on the water. This isn't just a 'one off' either.  It is highly recommended that this safety procedure is practiced/renewed regularly, like a first aid certificate.  It's in that time of need, when you least expect it, that you may be incredibly thankful that you bothered, to give it a go.

 Seven steps to Self Rescue.

 Step Action Comment
1 Punch out Push chicken loop release away. Let go of the release.
2 Pull in the safety line. Finger under the safety lines, thumbs on top, pull in the safety line to the bar.
3 Secure the safety line to the bar. Holding the bar and safety line, wrap the safety line around one end of the bar and secure with two half hitches.  
4 Wind on the excess safety line. Wind on the excess safety line to the back of the bar in a 'figure 8' and secure with two half hitches.
5 Wind on all four lines. Wind on all four lines up using the 'fishing pole' technique to reduce energy consumption. Secure with two half hitches once you have a hold of the kites leading edge.
6 Flip the kite into the 'smiley face' postion. Using your shoulder, slowly turn the leading edge 'upside down' so it looks like a 'smiley face'.
7 Fly back to shore Hope inside the wing tip and using the leading edge bridle (or connected lines) pull in the wing tip to create makeshift sail and return to shore.


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