Launching Kiteboarding Kites with a Partner
Launching kiteboarding kites is obviously important, and to be safe it is important to understand a few things. There are ways to launch your kite alone, but at the beginner stage it is best to launch with a partner until you are very comfortable doing it – because of this, self launching will be covered in a different page and not here.
Launching Your Kite with a Partner
Note: You should only ever use a partner who is a kiteboarder, or who has been given clear instructions on how to help launch your kite – and you need to make sure they understand the instructions! Personally, I either use another kiter or my girlfriend. I have shown her exactly what needs to be done and made her repeat it all back to me before we began. You should not just pick someone green out of a crowd, give them a 5 second blurb, and be on your way – that can be very dangerous.
To launch your kite…
- Have your partner hold the kite by its leading edge.
- Take your bar and position yourself so that the kite is at the edge of the wind window.
Whenever possible, try to position yourself so that the kite is pointed out to sea (between you and the sea). This way if you are hit by a gust and pulled by the kite, you will go out to sea and not into whatever is on shore.
In this position, the kite will have little power. The fabric canopy of the kite should be flapping in the wind (this is called luffing), which means that the kite is not catching any wind. If you tried to launch the kite right now, it would not fly.
- Put tension in the lines so that the kite is oriented into the wind correctly and gets its proper shape.
- Walk upwind until the kite’s canopy becomes tight and smooth (no more flapping or luffing). When this happens the kite is catching the wind and can be launched. As you move upwind, your partner must stay stationary – your partner never moves throughout the entire process.
Moving yourself upwind moves the kite deeper into the wind window, which gives it more power.
- Once you are ready, signal your partner with a thumbs up to let go of the kite. If the kite has enough power to fly, steer it slowly up into the air and away from the ground. If the kite does not have enough power and falls to the ground, repeat the previous steps, but this time move further upwind – this places the kite deeper in the wind window and gives it more power.
- Before you fly your kite up to the zenith position (12 o’clock), keep it close to the ground (around 10 or 2 o’clock) and make sure that:
- You have chosen the right size of kite. If it is too big and pulls too hard, land and rig a smaller kite.
- The wind is not gusty and inconsistent - If it is, keep the kite low in the wind window to avoid being lofted. This page covers lofting in more detail.
- You’re off to the races.
Additional Safety Considerations
Some things to keep in mind while you are launching your kite are:
- When conditions are windy, use your trim strap to depower the kite before you launch. Doing this helps keep you from being overpowered at launch.
- When launching your kite, always try to keep it pointed out to sea (between you and the water). This way if you are hit by a gust and dragged, you will go into the water, and not inland.
- When flying the kite out of your partner's hands, steer by pulling on one side of the bar without sheeting in. Only sheet in if you need more power - if the conditions are windy, and you accidentally sheet the kite in you could be pulled.
When Helping Someone Else Launch their Kite
- You must never move. It is the kite pilot’s job to position themselves as they need, so you must always stand still. Anything otherwise can be dangerous.
- Never toss, throw, chuck, roll, pull, or push the kite. All you have to do is open your hands and let the pilot fly the kite up and away.
Hold the kite out away from your body. Keep out of its way when it comes time to launch.
- Once the kite is in the air, stay where you are in case it comes back down or the pilot needs to land it.
- And finally, don’t move close enough where the kite can land on you or you can get tangled in its lines.
Choosing your Assistant
- Use a properly trained assistant or another kiteboarder. Don’t use someone green right off the beach.
- It is safer to self-launch your kite than to keep using people who know nothing about kiteboarding.
I witnessed a dangerous situation once on a beach in Thailand where a kiter was using an untrained assistant to launch his kite. Whenever he gave the thumbs up, his helper took 5-6 steps upwind and then tossed the kite into the air. Basically, the helper moved the kite to the edge of the wind window (removed all of its power), and then threw the kite – which is extremely dangerous. The kite could have rolled downwind, powered up, and taken the owner for a ride (or destroyed a beautiful 12 m2 Naish Cult). It was clear that this assistant didn’t understand how to safely launch a kite, and all beach users were at risk because of it. Please don’t do something similar.
That’s all that’s required if you're going to be launching kiteboarding kites using a partner - it's the safest thing to do at the beginner level. It's also the easiest thing to do at any level!