Kitesurfing Right of Way Rules
Knowing rules of way on the water is crucial to staying safe and keeping others safe too. As kiteboarders we tend to move faster than other vessels, we can jump higher than windsurfers and we have far greater manoeuvrability than surfers, sailboats, kayakers and others. This also means that we are the ones who should be watching out for other water users.
We have to remember that our kites are extremely powerful. The longer you ride and the more wipeouts you experience the more you understand just how much power you’re holding down. Remember about your lines – when under tension these can pose a great hazard to others. Especially when the kite moves across the wind window.
When you’re on the water with other kitesurfers, especially at very busy spots, these simple rules of way should help you to stay safe. However, please keep your eyes open as not all kiteboarders out there actually know them. So always assume that you might be the one giving way to others, even though you’ve got a priority.
- Other water users with limited manoeuvrability (yeah such as tankers!) are always right. The same goes for slower water users e.g. swimmers or sometimes even windsurfers.
- Kitesurfer on a starboard tack (right hand forward) has the right of way.
- Kitesurfer on a port tack (left hand forwards) must yield right of way which is typically going downwind, however it’s the person on the starboard tack that decides where he or she wants to go.
- When two kiters are on the same tack, kitesurfer that’s upwind must give way to the kitesurfer downwind – e.g. if he’s faster, let him pass. That does’t mean that if you’re downwind you shouldn’t be mindful of the guy upwind – not everyone knows these simple rules.
- When two kitesurfers are passing each other riding in opposite directions
– upwind kiteboarder must keep their kite high,
– kiteboarder downwind must keep their kite low.
- In the surf: kitesurfers leaving the shore have the right of way.
- In the surf: kitesurfer riding a wave has the right of way, except when the other person is leaving the shore.
- When you’re riding behind someone stay vigilant as they might not look back before manoeuvring.
A bit of common sense on the spot is also very important:
- Don’t stand around with your kite at 12 when resting or having a chat. Especially at exit and entrance points off and to water. Or in the middle of the spot! You might make even the nicest kitesurfers pretty cross!
- Don’t ride up close behind someone – you never know if they won’t change their course without looking over their shoulder.
- Keep a distance from kiter in front of you and don’t run people into the shore for that extra couple of seconds of riding – I can’t count how many times I’ve almost ended up on the rocks because someone was having time of their life going on a full speed just behind me.
- Don’t self-launch your kite if there are others to help – chances are that this will be the one time when your line gets caught somewhere and you’ll end up crashing into others.
- At the same time, offer help to others with launching and landing.
- Unless you’re a pro riding Jaws where losing your board might end up with you losing your life, or you’re riding in a big swell (where a loose SURFBOARD can cause harm to others) AND you’re very experienced and know how to depower your kite immediately after a crash, keep the leash for your dog – or don’t be surprised if someone cuts it in half. Here’s why.
- Make sure to chat with locals before riding on their spot – there might be some additional rules that you might not be aware of. We’ve got couple of spots that have hidden rocks on the high tide for example, that’s why everyone tacks away from them as soon as possible. Hence why you will get some angry looks when throwing tricks too close to the shore – we hate calling ambulance in.
Always make sure you’ve got your eyes open! On busy beaches without designated kitesurfing zones there can be a lot of water users, not necessarily aware of the risks. It’s easy to overlook someone swimming in between the waves so always proceed with caution when it’s crowded. Stay safe!