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From surfing the waves to mastering tricks, the opportunities to learn with kitesurfing are endless. With the right tuition at accredited kitesurfing schools, anyone can enjoy this exhilarating watersport safely.

Kitesurfer in Poole Harbour

Photo: RNLI / Nathan Williams

Kitesurfer in Poole Harbour

Understand the risks and kitesurf safely

British and Irish waters are incredibly unpredictable and one of the biggest dangers with kitesurfing is kiting alone or in adverse conditions.

Taking some simple steps to stay safe will reduce your chances of getting into trouble and help you get the most out of the sport you love.

Working with the British Kitesports Association (BKSA), we’re looking at ways we can help make your kitesurfing as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Simple checks for safe kitesurfing

  • Always kite with another person.
  • If you go alone, take a means of calling or signalling for help.
  • Never ride out further than you can swim back.
  • Equipment failure does happen. Be prepared.
  • Check the conditions and tides. Don't go out in conditions you can't handle.
  • Check what sizes of kites other riders are using. If you do not have the correct size, do not go out.
  • Do not ask or allow someone who is not familiar with kites to help you launch or land - give them some training on how to do it.
  • Always tell someone you are going out and when you will be back.
  • Follow the safety advice from the governing body for kitesurfing, the BKSA, and other expert organisations.

Equipment for kitesurfing

As well as the basic safety equipment such as a buoyancy aid, helmet and a means of calling for help, you’ll need the following kit to get started...

Relaunchable kite – these are inflated with a pump to give the framework buoyancy and structure. The kite is manufactured using marine-grade ripstop and dacron. 

Bar and lines – used as the connection to the kite and a means of steering; also incorporated are all the safety devices that enable depowering of the kite almost instantly. 

Boards – these come in many sizes; twin tips are most common, which can be ridden in either direction, and surfboards are used where there are waves. 

Harness – this enables your body to take the load and power of the kite while your arms steer and control the kite. 

When heading out onto the water, you need to be able to call for help. Having the appropriate means to tell the coastguard exactly where you are is the quickest way to save your life. Here are some options:

Waterproof handheld Digital Selective calling (DSC) VHF radio

A waterproof DSC VHF allows you to send a distress message with your location direct to the coastguard with a single button push. You then follow this with a voice call on channel 16, which is broadcast to all VHF radios in the area.

Personal Location Beacon (PLB)

A PLB can send a distress message to the coastguard from anywhere in the world, providing there is a clear view of the sky. The distress message and your location will be sent to the coastguard, who will launch a rescue service to your GPS position. You can also use a PLB anywhere on land, so they can be used as safety kit for other outdoor pursuits.


Some GSM or satellite trackers have an SOS function which allows you to call for help from a Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC). They will then pass on your distress message to the Maritime RCC who will task the appropriate rescue service for you. 

All trackers are different and costs, specifications and network availability vary.

Mobile phone

Always take a fully charged mobile phone with you and keep it stored in a waterproof pouch. If you get into difficulty, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. You may also want to use the RYA Safe Trx (UK) or ISA SafeTrx (Ireland) apps to track and log your passage.  These apps will also alert your emergency contacts if you fail to return before your ETA.

Remember: Not all coastal areas have mobile phone signal, so you may need an alternative means of calling for help.

Kitesurfing safety: Useful links and resources

Figures taken from:

  • RNLI lifeboat return of service data UK and Ireland 2020.
  • RNLI lifeguard incident data, UK only, 2020.

Don’t be a statistic

50 lifeboat launches to kitesurfers in 2020

106 kitesurfing incidents attended by lifeguards in 2020