As you are riding further and further away from the safety of the land, if something goes wrong and you cannot relaunch your kite, you must know how to rescue yourself from deep water. A self-rescue is the term used for the technique to safely wind up your lines when in deep water, get back to your kite and use it as a sailing craft to get back to land. 

When to self-rescue?

There are several different techniques that can be used. The following technique requires the least amount of strength and can be used in all conditions by all riders who have a modern, one line, flag out style safety system. If you have a two line safety system or a five line safety system, check the manufacturer’s website for their recommended self-rescue technique. 

  • During the self-rescue stay upwind of your lines and make sure that you do not get any part of your body caught in your lines. 
  • If you have your board, the easiest way to self-rescue with your board is to put your board on your feet. 
  • In light wind you may have to pull on your safety line to help it pass through your bar to let you kite fully depower.
  • When handling any Kitesurfing line, hold the line with your palms facing down using the “hand over hand, thumbs out” technique. This method gives you maximum grip on the line. It also enables you to let go of the line as quickly as possible if your kite powers up and pulls the line from your hands
This is the self rescue position but before you get here there are many important steps to learn so read on… 🙂

Part one – Wrapping your safety line….

  • Let go of your bar and activate your safety system.
  • Wait until your kite has turned around, your bar has stopped moving up your safety line and there is little or no pull from your kite. 
  • Pull yourself up your safety line using the palms down, hand over hand, thumbs out technique until you get back to your bar.
  • When you get to your bar, you need to stop the kite from powering up while you wind the rest of the lines up. This is a crucial part of the self-rescue and is called locking off.
  •   As soon as you touch your bar, wrap your safety line around the end of your bar, as quickly and as tightly as possible. The hand action is similar to winding a car window down. This is locking off any unwanted power so you can easily wind the remaining lines on to your bar to get yourself back to your kite.\
  • When you have almost wrapped up all your safety line around the end of your bar, you must tie off your safety line using two half hitch knots to keep it in place. (note: if you have an elastic bungee at the end of your bar then you can lock the line off with this – the point of doing this is to make sure your lines do not come off your bar)
Pinch and twist to make a half hitch
  • To make a half hitch, pinch the line with two fingers and then twist your fingers so the line now makes a loop with the lines crossed over. This is called a half hitch. 
  • Push the end of your bar through the twisted loop and pull the lines tight. Put in two half hitches twice so there is no chance your safety line can come loose. 
  • Hold the remaining four lines and wrap them on the bar as tightly as possible the same way as you would pack your lines away normally, end to end, in a figure of eight.

Self Rescue Part Two – Getting back to your kite

  • To make it as easy as possible to wind your lines up and get back to your bar use the fishing pole technique.  
  • Hold your bar like you would hold a fishing rod with both hands underneath it, one hand in front of the other and with your lines over the end of the bar furthest away from you. Put the end of the bar closest to you on your stomach and pull the bar back like you have caught a big fish.  This will create slack in your lines and will make it easier to wind your lines on to your bar.
  • Keep wrapping all four lines up as neatly as possible until you are between two to three meters away from your kite. This is an important part of the self-rescue. If you wind all your lines up it will make it very difficult to flip your kite over and turn it into a sail.

When you are between two and three meters away from your kite you must lock off your lines with two half hitches.

To make a half hitch hold your hand out with your palm up and grab your lines, pull them towards you to create some slack, turn your palm over to face down and push your bar end through the loop you have just made, then pull your lines tightly and repeat. 

To stop lines coming off wrap them around the end of the bar like this with two half hitches. Alternatively you can use your bungees at the end of your bar if your bar has them.

Let go of your bar and pull yourself back to your kite along a centre line using the “hand over hand, thumbs up” technique until you get back to your kite and you can hold on to the main bladder.

Part Three of self rescue– Turning your kite into a sail boat and getting back to the safety of land

Your first job is to turn the kite over. This is not easy when you are in deep water so there is a technique that you need to learn to help you…

  • Hold on to your kites main bladder so you are upwind and your kite is down wind of you.
  • Move yourself along the main bladder to the wing tip that is nearest the land.
  • Face the land and put your shoulder that is closest to your kite, underneath the main bladder.
  • Pull the wing tip under the water at the same time as you push with your shoulder and your kite will turn over into the smiley face position. 
  • With the wind on your back, choose which side of your kite is in the direction of land.
  • Move yourself along the main bladder and get hold of the bridle so it makes a handle. 
  • Keep hold of the bridle and move yourself back to the other end of your kite. This will bend your kite into a C shape that makes a sail pointing toward the land.  
  • Face the land,hold your bridle with one hand, if you have your board on your feet then now you can take if off and hold it with your other hand as you would if you were body dragging normally with your board. 
  • Position your legs so they are trailing behind you.
  • Be patient as progress can be slow.

Part four – The full pack down

The full packdown is where you turn your kite from a “sailing boat” to a “surfboard” where you can lay on top of it using it as a buoyant safefy craft and easily paddle back to the land.

Why do you need to perform a full packdown?

If the wind has completely died or even worse its changed direction to an offshore wind and your self rescue is not taking you back to the safety of land then you need to perform a full packdown otherwise you are stuck out to sea and will have a long and dangerous swim.

It is much safer to stay with your kite which is inflatable and easier for a rescue boat to find you if needed.

If you are going to be rescued by a boat it is much safer to have packed down your kite and most importantly your lines so the boat does not run over your lines which will disable the boat propellors and cause a double rescue situation.

When to perform a full pack down

  • Only if you are not making any progress back towards the land.
  • Only if you have to get through large waves to get back to the land.
  • Only if you are 100% sure that you are going to be rescued by a boat.

How to perform a full deep water pack down

  • Before you take out any air from your kite, check that your struts will stay inflated as a kite with no air will sink. 
Double checking that the safety valves are closed on the struts so when you let the air out of the main bladder you dont let all of the air our of the kite causing it to sink.
  • Most modern kites have valves on the struts that should be clipped shut to prevent the whole kite deflating. Double check that these valves are closed.
  • Open your dump valve on your leading edge.
  • Keeping your dump valve above water, squeeze as much air out of your main bladder as possible.
  • If you can squeeze 90% of the air out of your main bladder your pack down will be much easier.
  • Reseal the dump valve to stop any water from getting inside your kite.
Resealing the main bladder. This is such an important step to stop your kite filling with water not just for safety but also to protect your kite from getting salt water inside which when dry will cause salt crystals which can puncture the main bladder.
  • Get your bar and put it inside your kite in line with a strut near the wing tip. 
  • Roll your kite up as tightly as possible from one wing tip to the other so your kite looks like a sausage. 
Bar put on inside in line with a strut helping you to roll your kite more easily into a “sausage”
  • Unclip your safety leash on your harness and tie your rolled kite up so it does not unroll. 
  • You now have an inflatable life raft that you can swim with through waves, back to the land or hand to the kind person in the rescue boat.

 If you are rescued at sea by a boat, make sure you thank your rescuers and offer to pay them a small reward for the rescue as according to an ancient international marine law they have salvage rights and can claim your equipment as theirs.

 Practice your self-rescue and pack down on a no wind day in safe, shallow water or on the land.

You will not regret learning the self rescue and full packdown as you will have full confidence you can deal with any situation and it could save your life one day.

Self-Rescue & deep water pack down made simple

  • Avoid a self-rescue by conducting and effective wind and site assessment every time you go Kitesurfing. Avoid marginal conditions, If in doubt, dont go out.
  • Release your safety, wind your safety line around the end of your bar, lock off your safety line, wind yourself back to your kite, turn your kite over, hold a bridle, bend your kite over into a C shape position and face the land.
  • Only perform a full pack down if you have no other way of getting back to the land

Similar Posts