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Kiteboarding RIGHTS OF WAY “Rules of the Road”

As a general rule-of- thumb, all traditional sailing and wave sailing rules should be applicable for kitesurfing. 

Kitesurfing rights of way

All right-of-way rules require a water-craft to keep clear of another. The distance to keep clear is not quite exactly specified; however, the racing rules do specify some restrictions for the two sailing boats when they are approaching within two hull lengths of each other. Thus, as a rule of thumb, it's wise to keep a distance of twice the hull length from the water-craft to be cleared. This is fairly straight forward for all water-crafts except kitesurfing crafts. For a kitesurfing craft, the kite and the lines make this much more complicated. We will discuss this "keep clear" requirement in details after reviewing the common sense, traditional sailing and wave sailing rules.

General Common Sense Rules on the Water

Following are the general common sense rules on the water:

  • Avoid collision at all cost, even when you have the right of way.
  • Keep clear of less manoeuvrable water-crafts:
    • All recreational water-crafts shall keep clear of commercial ships.
    • More manoeuvrable motorized water-crafts shall keep clear of all sailing water-crafts.
  • [When it seems that a boater is having problem controlling the boat properly, all other boaters should keep clear (a boat in distress or directed by an incapable captain should be considered as a less manoeuvrable water-craft)]

Traditional Sailing Rules

There are three main rules to be observed when two sailing water-crafts approaching each other on the water:

Sailing Rules

  1. Opposite tack rule: A boat on port tack (left leg going forward for kitesurfer) shall keep clear of a boat on starboard tack (right leg going forward for kitesurfer).
  2. Same tack rule: A boat to windward (upwind) shall keep clear of a boat to leeward (downwind).
  3. Overtaking rule: An overtaking boat shall keep clear of the boat being overtaken.  (when you pass someone, you have to keep clear).

Wave Sailing Rules

These are the main rules when wave sailors approaching each other in the wave:

Wave Sailing Rules

  1. Opposite tack rule: A wave sailor coming in (surfing the wave in) shall keep clear of a wave sailor heading out (jumping the wave).
  2. Same tack rule (on the wave): All wave sailors shall keep clear of a wave sailor in front of or nearest to the peak of the wave (the breaking part of the wave).
  3. All kitesurfers shall keep clear of all surfers (surfers are less manoeuvrable than kitesurfers).

Kitesurfing Enhancement to the Sailing Rules

All the rules above are applicable to kitesurfing. The only enhancement we need to define is how a water-craft shall keep clear of the other if one or both of the water-crafts is a kitesurfing craft.

When kitesurfing, a kitesurfer can fly the kite anywhere in the forward half portion of the wind window. This means that the kitesurfer and the kite normally occupy a space equal a quarter-of-the-sphere that has the kitesurfer at the center and the radius is the line length. If we consider that to be the space to be kept clear or the "hull" of a kitesurfing craft then it could be up to 25 m in length and 25 m in width (25 m is the average modern line length). If we apply the rule-of-thumb keeping clear distance of two hull lengths, this means that we have to keep clear a distance of up to 50 m. This would drastically reduce the number of kitesurfers sailing at a certain place.

Fortunately, the angle where a kitesurfer normally fly the kite is between 30 and 60 degrees vertically. At these angles, the kite is normally high enough in the air that the clearing distance is more or less dependent on the highest point of the other water-craft. If the clearing distance is set at a distance equals 3 times the height of the highest point of the other water-craft, that will allow the upwind kitesurfer to sail with the kite as low as 20 degrees vertically (regardless of the line length).

As two kitesurfers approach each other, the highest points of the kitesurfers could be equal to the line length or 25m. Even if both kitesurfers keep the kites stationary in a moving forward position at 45 degrees vertical, the lines should never collide. However, the upwind kitesurfer should fly the kite high and the downwind kitesurfer should fly the kite low.  This way, the two kites will never collide and both kitesurfers have a large margin of error.  In such case, the highest point would only be 2.5 m and the minimum clearing distance is only 7.5 m.

The following table summarizes the minimum clearing distance for most water-crafts (either the kitesurfer has to keep clear or the other water-craft has to keep clear) when they approach a kitesurfer:

Without the presence of large boats, the minimum clearing distance is normally at 15 m.

The minimum clearing distance as described in the above table is only applicable if the kitesurfer is upwind of the other water-craft. If the kitesurfer is downwind of the other water-craft, the rule-of-thumb clearing distance of two hull lengths should be applied (unless the other water-craft is a also a kitesurfer).

Additional Kitesurfing Rules

  • All water-crafts shall keep clear of a water re-launching kitesurfer. The area to be kept clear shall be a semi-circle downwind from the kitesurfer (at the center of the circle) with the radius equals 1.5 times the line length or 40 m (to allow for a downwind drifting margin).
  • When a kitesurfer jumps, he/she can travel down wind up to 25m or 1 line length.  A kitesurfer must not jump if there is an obstacle within a semi-circle downwind from the kitesurfer (at the center of the circle) with the radius equals 1.5 times the line length (40m, to allow for a downwind drift margin).
  • All common sense, traditional flat water and wave sailing rules should be applied to kitesurfers.
  • If the kitesurfer is upwind, the distance to be kept clear is dependent on the highest point of the downwind water-craft (as described in the table above).
  • If a kitesurfer is not upwind, the distance to be kept clear is the rule-of-thumb two-hull-length distance.
  • When two kitesurfers approaching each other, the upwind kitesurfer should fly the kite high, the downwind kitesurfer should fly the kite low and a minimum clearing distance of 7.5 m.  Click http://www.kitefilm.com/video/passing_other_riders.wmv (7 MB) to view a video regarding this rule.
  • Without the presence of large boats, the minimum clearing distance is about 15 m. This is about 2.5 times the rule-of-thumb clearing distance of 6 m for windsurfers. This would allow up to 40 kitesurfers in the same space that normally accommodates 100 windsurfers.
  • A kitesurfer should only jump there is no obstacle within the 1.5 line length (40 m) radius semi-circle down wind.

A few weeks agoasetofkiteboarding regulations were published in Poland, a book and a poster.  It took the publishers over a year of tweaking and debate to come together and agree on a finalized version.  The rules cover almost all of the most common situations that we may encounter as weridetowardsanotherkiteboarder.
Water-craft Highest Points Minimum Clearing Distance Other Requirements
Surfers 2.5 m 7.5 m Kitesurfers have to keep clear of surfers all the times
Personal Water-crafts 2 - 3 m 9 m PWCs have to keep clear of the kitesurfer all the times
Small to Medium Motorized Boats 5 m 15 m Motorized boats have to keep clear of the kitesurfer all the times
Windsurfers and Small Sailboats 5 m 15 m Traditional and wave sailing rules should be applied
Kitesurfers 2.5 m (upwind kite is high and downwind kite is low) 7.5 m Traditional and wave sailing rule should be applied. Furthermore, the upwind kitesurfer should fly the kite higher than 45 degrees vertically and the downwind kitesurfer should fly the kite lower than 45 degree vertically
Large Motorized Boats 10 - 15 m 30 - 45 m Motorized boats have to keep clear of the kitesurfer all the time. If the large motorized boat is in narrow, restricted water for its size, the kitesurfer has to keep clear.
Medium Sailboats 10 - 15 m 30 - 45 m Traditional sailing rules should be applied
Large Sailboats Very high Line length Traditional sailing rules should be applied. If the large sailboat is in narrow, restricted water for its size, the kitesurfer has to keep clear.
Commercial Ships Very high Line length Kitesurfer has to keep clear of commercial ships all the times

Emergency packdown reminder video;

Kitesurfing Dictionary

  • Air time: the amount of time spent in the air while jumping. This can be remarkably long; the record is Jesse Richman's 22 second long jump. Five to ten seconds is not unusual.
  • Apparent wind: the kite's speed relative to the surrounding air. When kitesurfing in a straight line, the kite's apparent wind is a combination of the wind speed and the speed of the kite and rider over the surface, but since the kite is highly steerable apparent wind can vary widely depending on how the kite is being flown. Most ways of increasing power from the kite involve giving it a higher apparent wind somehow, i.e. diving the kite, riding faster, or riding at a greater angle into the wind. Any of these raises the kite's apparent wind speed.
  • Back Stall: A condition in which the kite ceases to move forward through the air and becomes difficult to control, often resulting in the kite flying backwards and crashing. Back stall is often caused by lack of wind or by flying the kite with too great of an angle of attack.
  • Big Air: doing a very high jump utilizing the lift of the kite. The jump is often assisted in its initial stage by the rider being catapulted off the lip of a wave.
  • Body dragging: being pulled through the water without standing on a board. This is an early step in the learning process, and is recommended before trying the board after flying a trainer kite.
  • Boost: to suddenly become airborne
  • Brain Fart: to forget what trick you intended to perform mid air and end up crashing or landing on the water.
  • Charlie browner: same as kiteboarder or kitesurfer.
  • Chicken loop: a hard rubber loop attached to the middle line which has been fed through the control bar. It is used to attach the control bar to the harness so the kitesurfer can produce tension in the lines using their entire bodyweight instead of using purely arm strength.
  • Chicken bone/chicken finger/donkey dick: a hard rubber "tongue" attached to the chicken loop which the rider feeds through the spreader bar hook to prevent the rider from becoming "unhooked".
  • De-power: to reduce the kite's power (pull), generally by adjusting the angle of attack of the kite. Most kites and control bars now allow a rider to rig a kite for a number of different power levels before launching, in addition to powering the kite up and down "on the fly" by moving the bar up and down. Depowerability makes a kite safer and easier to handle. Some new kite models, especially "bow" kites, can be de-powered to practically zero power, giving them an enormous wind range.
  • DP: dawn patrol; a very early morning session.
  • downwind: the direction the wind is blowing towards; to leeward. When a rider is facing downwind the wind is at their back.
  • Downwinder: a kitesurfing "trip" (could actually be as short as a few minutes) where the rider starts at one point and ends up at another point downwind of their original position.
  • Edge: tilting the board with its edge into the water. Used to control the direction of travel. Learning to edge properly is critical for learning to tack upwind. Edging is one of the fundamental skills of kitesurfing and is one of the ways kitesurfing is different from windsurfing or wakeboarding. While windsurf boards have daggerboards and/or skegs to steer the board upwind while lift and planing is provided by the board itself, generally kiteboards actually combine both functions and the bottom of the board lifts the rider and steers simultaneously. Kiteboard fins are generally much smaller and are for keeping the board in the water (see "tea-bagging"), but are not essential. Because kite boards have a small rocker, a deep edge can allow the board to act as a large low drag fin. Edging in wakeboarding is used for steering the board; whereas in kite boarding not only does edging steer the kite board, it is essential for kite control and controlling board speed. Riding downwind towards the kite subtracts massively from the kite's power and helps control board speed as well.
  • Facial: total loss of flying kite control while on the beach, resulting in the harnessed rider being dragged face first downwind across rocks and sand.
  • Freeride: kiteboarding style. Plain kiteboarding that does not involve tricks or jumping. The main goal is keeping a good edge and ability to traverse upwind. This would normally require a board with little rocker.
  • Freestyle: kiteboarding style. Freestyle involves tricks (or combinations of tricks) where the rider is jumping off the water and experiencing enhanced elevation using lift generated from the kite. Freestyle is, weather-wise, a multi-condition concept and is to some degree equipment-specific. "Big air" is commonly associated with freestyle.
  • Goofy: the footedness of the rider, with the right foot leading.
  • Guinea pig a person who goes out to test if the wind is rideable or not. If it is, others start riding too. Also known as a Wind-dummy.
  • Heel side: the side of a board on the edge where a rider's heels are (opposite of toe side). "Riding heel side" is riding with heels down.
  • Hindenburg: (a reference to the Hindenburg Airship disaster of 1937) a kite falling out of the air due to the loss of tension in the control lines, and therefore the loss of kite control. Hindenburging can be caused either by lack of wind or by the kite advancing to a position upwind of the kitesurfer in the wind window, also called "overflying the kite".
  • Handlepass: while unhooked, passing the control bar behind a riders back while in the air.
  • Hot Launch: recovering and launching the kite from a position deep inside the wind window so the kite is immediately under maximum power (potentially dangerous).
  • Kiteloop: is a powered group of tricks where a rider loops the kite through the power zone.
  • Kitemare: a kiteboardsurfing accident or dangerous mishap. Kitemares can be deadly.
  • Launch: getting the kite in the air. The kite may be launched assisted or unassisted. An assisted launch is generally safer than an unassisted launch.
  • Lofted: to get lifted vertically into the air by the kite due to a strong gust of wind. A very dangerous occurrence that has resulted in several fatalities when kiters on or near land have been dragged into obstacles. Can be avoided by minimizing time on land with the kite flying directly overhead, and by not kiting in overpowered situations.
  • Luff : when the air flow stalls around the kite. It may then stall and fall out of the sky. Like sails, a luffing kite has rippling and flapping panels. When launching the kite, if the kite is luffing, the rider should move farther upwind, or the person holding the kite should move downwind.
  • Mobe: this term has two meanings: either a class of wakestyle tricks involving an invert with a 360-degree spin or a specific trick involving a back roll with a frontside 360 handlepass (while keeping the kite below 45 degrees). The former meaning stems from the latter, which was the first type of mobe to ever be landed. Other types of mobes include: mobe 540, mobe 720, slim chance, KGB, crow mobe, moby dick, Pete Rose, blind pete, crow mobe 540, etc.
  • Nuking: wind blowing at great speeds (30-40 knots). These conditions are very extreme and dangerous for most riders.
  • Offshore: wind blowing at the water from the shore. Never ride in offshore winds without some means of recovery, i.e. a chase boat. This is somewhat less important in smaller bodies of water, of course.
  • Onshore: wind blowing perpendicular to and directly at the shore from the water. A challenging condition for beginners, especially if waves are present.
  • Dookie Dive: loss of power during air time resulting in a crash into the water.
  • O-Shit Loop: two loops on either ends of the bar that are attached to the kite lines and run through rings attached to the bar. A standard leash attachment point.
  • Overhead waves: waves two or more meters (6 ft) from trough to crest;
  • Overpowered: the condition of having too much power from the kite. Can be a result of an increase in wind, incorrect kite choice (too large for the conditions), incorrect adjustment, simply going too fast, etc. Interestingly, experienced riders who are overpowered can switch to a smaller board to compensate, to a degree, although it's common to have just one board.
  • pop: height gained above the water using only the board and tension in the lines to get lift, with the kite usually positioned at 45 degrees. Lower kite angles are possible for more experienced riders. Used as a basis for many tricks and regarded as an essential skill for progressing.
  • Port the left side of a ship, as perceived by a person on board facing the bow (front).
  • Power up: when the kite's power increases (suddenly), because of wind gusts or the kite's movement.
  • Power zone: is the area in the sky where the kite generates the most lift (pull), this is generally between 0 to 60 degrees arc from the center of the downwind direction.
  • Re-Launch: a general term for getting the kite back up in the air after crashing it (on land or water). A relaunch is unassisted and requires the rider to follow a kite-specific procedure (check the manual). As years of development have gone by, the more recent kites are easier to relaunch.
  • Self Rescue: a maneuver by which a rider with a downed kite manipulates the kite in the water to assist them in swimming back to shore. The rider generally wraps up their lines until they reach their kite, then positions their kite so that it is on its back as it would be carried on land but with the wing-tip closer to shore catching the wind. This wing tip acts as a sail and helps pull the rider to shore. This is considered an important maneuver to learn.
  • Send it: to move the kite aggressively up through the power zone.
  • Schlogging: this is riding extremely underpowered. A rider has no power to plane and definitely not enough to jump. A rider and their board bounce from planing on the surface to being dragged in the water.
  • Shit hot: the art of stylish smooth moves.
  • SLE: Supported Leading Edge. A C shaped kite with an inflatable leading edge, currently the most advanced kite design available allowing massive de-power.
  • Side offshore: wind blowing between sideshore and at a 45-degree angle away from the shore.
  • Side onshore: wind blowing between sideshore and at a 45-degree angle towards the shore.
  • side shore: winds blowing parallel to the shore. Usually the most desirable direction for kitesurfing.
  • Spreader bar: a stainless steel bar that attaches to the rider's harness. It has a hook that holds the "chicken loop" when riding hooked in.
  • Starboard the right side of a vessel as perceived by a person on board facing the bow (front).
  • Stomp: to successfully perform a trick.
  • Tack: the direction which is being sailed, normally either starboard tack or port tack. In a starboard tack the wind is coming in from the rider's starboard (right-hand) side, similar to sailing a boat. In normal riding, the kitesurfer takes a heading which is as close to into the wind as possible, and in any event leads at some angle slightly upwind, sometimes as much as 45 degrees; jumping or wave riding usually results in traveling downwind, so the net result is to maintain relative position. Alternatively, see "downwinder".
  • Tea-bagging: popping out of and falling back into the water intermittently due to light or gusty wind, poor flying skills, twisted lines etc.
  • Toe side: the side of a board on the edge where a riders toes are (opposite of heel side). "Riding toe side" is riding with toes down.
  • Underpowered: the condition of having insufficient power from the kite. Can be a result of insufficient wind, choosing a kite that is too small for the wind, rigging incorrectly, board too small, water current in the same direction as the wind, not riding fast enough, etc. A rider who is continuously diving the kite and sending it back up in a sine-wave pattern is usually underpowered.
  • Unhooked is when a kitesurfer is riding while the chicken loop is not attached to the rider's harness.
  • Upwind: the direction from which the wind is blowing; windward; into the wind.
  • VaS conditions:  Very rough sea conditions, generally with overhead wind waves causing severe shore break.
  • Wakestyle: A style of kiteboarding in which the rider usually uses wakeboarding (or kiteboarding) "boots" for their kiteboard (as opposed to straps and pads), ensuring their feet remain firmly attached at all times (hense the term "Wakestyle"). This style is also associated with performing powered tricks with the kite as low to the water as possible (something generally perceived by kiteboarders to be more difficult and stylish).
  • Walk of Shame is the act of walking back upwind to the location where the kite was originally launched.
  • Wind-dummy a person who goes out to test if the wind is rideable or not. If it is, others start riding too. Also known as a Guinea pig.
  • Wind window is the 120- to 180-degree arc of the sky downwind of the rider in which the kite can be flown. Roughly one fourth of a sphere's surface. If the rider is facing downwind on a flat surface, like the ocean, the wind window consists of roughly all the area the rider can see, from the rider's peripheral vision on one side, along the horizon to the other side, and then directly overhead back to the first side. If the rider somehow puts the kite out of the window—for example, by riding downwind very quickly and sending the kite directly overhead and behind—the kite will stall and frequently fall out of the sky.
  • Zenith the location in the wind window directly over the kiter's head. This is the neutral position where kitesurfers can place the kite to stop moving or prior to movement. This places the kite in a more vulnerable to "Hindenburgs" position than any other.


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