We came across this video in our news feed this morning and chances are in a few hours it will be all over yours too and whilst people will argue back and forth about what he should have done better, should he have been on suicide setting in strong winds and whether the camera man should have not filmed but helped him.
In defence of the camera man, distance from the victim did not really make that a possibility – but a faster reaction time as he wrapped himself around a lamp post could have been achieved – assuming they were a kiter and knew what was going on and could help.
Then addressing those who say he should not have been in suicide mode in strong winds. Let us point out (in the increasing popularity of doing this as more and more of us unhook). To the experienced kiter suicide mode is actually more likely to prevent disasters than cause them.
If you are letting go of your bar a lot during tricks then suicide mode (the leash attached to your chicken loop, bypassing the first safety release system) actually helps you quickly regain control of your kite without engaging the often ‘game over’ security which can result in tangled kite, lines, long swims or worse still when the bar gets caught around the lines, helicopter death spiral as you see in this video.
..and before you say that these are old kites and that doesn’t happen anymore. Trust is, it can – and this is from 2 people who pulled the normal first security and then could not pull the second (or chose not to).
This brings us onto a very important often fatal factor in kitesurf accidents. The choice NOT to pull the second security for fear of not losing the kite which you spent your hard earned cash on. Yes, seriously, we have seen people getting dragged miles downwind away from safety because of this, or worse yet, not pulling the safety because they were too busy holding onto their precious board!
This mindset needs to be changed. Riders must realise that your safety and well being is worth a lot more than your kite or board. Learning how to critical decide to dump everything in a moment of critical thinking can mean the difference between life ad death as we have unfortunately been shown on more than a few occasions in the past years.
The real lesson we want you to take away
However important, that is not the lesson we are going to learn today, nope, the most important lesson you are going to to be informed of today and learn the very next time you get your harness on is …how to release your final safety in an emergency.
“But I know how to release my final safety – I learned it in my kite course”
Whilst the above statement is true, there is one very important factor being missed her, doing it under pressure in an emergency situation.
Think you could? Then let's look at what changes and put you to the test...
What changes, …well other than a very finite time to react, there is also the fact that the safety leach will likely be pulling you backwards through the water or up a beach and your initial reaction will be self preservation in the short term (covering your head, breaking your fall, tumbling) whilst your longterm thoughts will be about riding it out, securing yourself and regaining control – well, either that or praying that it just all ends quickly and by itself.
WRONG. You have a very finite amount of time (even more finite the moment you hit dry land) to make the choice to dump that kite, and when you do you’d better be able to do it because knowing you wanted to and were unable is a less than ideal place to be.
So …while you cannot simulate a real kite-mare, we suggest that the next time you hit the beach (do this in a wetsuit or clothes, not a bikini – else you will get sand-burn) – have a friend violently drag you up the beach by your leash and then see if you can pull your final security.
A lot of you might be thinking this is going to hurt, …yes it may, but it is the closest you will get to the real world situation and most of you will realise that you don’t have a hope in hell of getting to that final release in time. …but a little practice is not going to help.
So what can we do do better our chances
Firstly awareness of what it will feel like to try and operate our safety system in that kind of a situation and a mindset to put the value of your well being before the monetary value of your equipment will go A LONG WAY.
However you should also seriously consider when buying your next harness investing on one that has a fixed safety on both sides like the Manera Exo. That is not a plug, on a personal note I discovered this feature on a Naish harness about 6 years ago and would not own a harness without one now. Only recently it got me out of a sticky situation with a down in strong shore-break and currents, helping me avoid becoming potentially fatally tangled in my lines.