Rescues and handling kites

This article provides information to rescuers about handling kites during rescue situations both onshore and from boats.

Release systems

Kites are usually attached to kitesurfers using a leash system that usually includes two safety releases.

  • The first safety release (near or at the Chicken Loop) will release the kite so that is attached by only a depower line, thereby almost eliminating all power from the kite.

  • The second safety release (where the safety leash attaches to the harness) will completely release the kite from the kitesurfer

For an injured kitesurfer still attached to his kite it is desirable to immediately pull the first safety release then secure the kite.

If the kite is still causing issues, the second safety can also be released - but only if the detached kite will not cause danger for others downwind.

Handling kites

Kites can be safely handled even in very strong winds by simply grabbing the (fat) leading edge tube close to or at the middle of the leading edge.

The front lines of a kite go through the centre of the bar front and connect to the rider's harness via the Chicken Loop and are also connected to the safety leash. It is usually safe to grab these centre/front lines to control and secure the kite. Kitesurfers do this during a self landing.

The rear lines of a kite connect to the ends of the control bar. Pulling on the control bar will power up and possibly relaunch the kite, so this must avoided during a rescue situation.

Kitesurfing bar safe handling

The rear lines of the kite must NOT be held as this will power up the kite.


Do not pickup or pull on the control bar of the kite during a rescue situation as this will also power up the kite.

Securing a kite

  • A kite can be well secured by turning it upside down on a beach with the leading edge pointing directly into the wind.

  • Sand should be placed on portions of the canopy between the struts to weigh it down and stop the leading edge catching the wind and the trailing edge from flapping too much.

Deflating a kite

  • All kites have a "dump valve" positioned on the inside of the leading edge tube close the centre strut.

  • Some valves are released by unscrewing them (e..g. Cabrinha) while others are released by pulling out a stopper plug (usually after removing a velcro securing tab).

  • Spars can also be individually locked off by a plastic clip near where the spar attaches to the leading edge - releasing the clip will deflate the spar when the leading edge bladder is deflated.

Boat rescue - kitesurfer packed down

Kitesurfers can pack down their equipment as per a self rescue to simplify being rescued by boat:

    • Several meters of the front lines is first wound onto the bar (to prevent the kite powering up)

    • All kite lines are then wound on the the bar until the leading edge is reached (note that this can be very hard to do in strong winds)

    • Once at the kite, it can be partially deflated (e.g the leading edge bladder, but not the struts) and wrapped up into a bundle awaiting pickup by boat.

    • If no boat pickup is imminent, it is better to leave the kite fully inflated as it easier for searchers to spot. You can hang onto the leading edge, or even sit up on it.

You can also attach your board to you by connecting your safety leash (or a cord carried for this purpose) to a footstrap or handle on the board.

In strong winds it may be very difficult to wind the lines onto the bar. An alternative is to pull in the front lines until you get to the kite and can grab the leading edge. Take car to avoid wrapping loose lines around your leg(s) while doing this.

Boat rescue - kitesurfer not packed down

    • If the kitesurfer is still attached to the kite, they can be approached by boat from across the wind direction to avoid getting lines tangled in the propellers.

    • Once the kitesurfer is reached, they should have deployed their first safety leash so that the kite is depowered on the safety line and the bar is out of the way.

    • Once on the boat, the kite can be retrieved by an experienced kite handler by pulling only the front lines into the boat until the kite can be grasped by the leading edge then deflated.

    • The kitesurfer can also fully detach from their kite and the kite be retrieved later (see next section).

Zones for rescue boat to safely approach kitesurfer

While normal maritime procedures is to approach someone in the water from downwind to avoid the boat getting blown onto the person, this would expose a boat to a high risk of entangling lines in the propeller, as the kite and lines will be downwind of the kiter. It is therefore better to approach the kiter in the water from cross wind or from downwind at an angle with great caution.

Retrieving a floating kite

    • If a kite is floating in the wind, the bar and lines will be dragged along behind it (upwind relative to the kite). This area should be avoided by boats at all times to avoid entangling propellers in the lines.

    • The kite can be approached carefully from the side or from downwind and retrieved by grabbing the leading edge. Extreme care must be taken to avoid entangling propellers in the lines.

Boat approach of kite in water

Note that some locations where a boat retrieval service is provide to kitesurfers (e.g. where there is a prevailing offshore wind), the following procedure may be utilised:

    • Kiresurfer lands kite on water and pulls first safety - kite remains attached to kitesurfer by leash

    • Boat approaches kite (still attached to kitesurfer) from down wind, as per above diagram

Option 1

    • Person on boat grabs the kite and detaches the lines from the kite by undoing the larks head knots, boat moves away from lines in the water

    • Kitesurfer then winds lines onto bar (with no kite attached)

    • Boat then approaches kitesurfer who can then board it.

Option 2

    • Rescuer on boat grabs the kite by its leading edge

    • Kitesurfer releases second safety to completely detach kite

    • Rescuer on boat then deflates kite and stows it

    • Rescuer on boat then pulls lines into boat onto bar

    • Boat then approaches kitesurfer from downwind who can then board it.

Assessing whether a kitesurfer needs assistance

    • If a kite stays on the water for a considerable period and the wind is still blowing it is likely that the kite cannot be relaunched and that the rider is either doing a self-rescue or needs assistance.

    • If a kite is flying directly above a kitesurfer for a considerable period, it is possible that one kitesurfer is assisting another kitesurfer (with their board down), or they have a problem with their board or other equipment. A kite flying directly overhead for a short period could be the kitesurfer just having a rest.

    • If a kitesurfer has one hand up for an extended period and/or is waving, they need assistance.

Cutting lines

    • A line knife (hook knife) is the best implement for cutting kite lines as the blade is well protected and the hook guides the lines onto the blade. Some harnesses have a line knife tucked into a special pocket.

Dakine hook line knife

Dakine safety hook line knife