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.
RNLI lifeboat crews launched 99 times to kitesurfers in trouble in 2015. Of these call-outs, most were down to kit failure and adverse conditions. In addition, RNLI lifeguards went to the rescue in 54 kitesurfing-related incidents in 2016.
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.
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.
Keeping you safe
Working with the British Kitesports Association (BKSA), we’re looking at ways we can help make your kitesurfing as safe and enjoyable as possible.
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 Locator 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.
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 2015.
- RNLI lifeguard incident data, UK only, 2015.
Don’t be a statistic
99 lifeboat launches to kitesurfers in 2015
54 kitesurfing incidents attended by lifeguards in 2016