Kitesurfing has had an alarming safety record in its young history.

124 fatalities have been reported from 2001 to 2010 (sources: fksa and kiteforum), and we wonder how many more go unreported.

A couple of factors mitigate that safety record: the safety of equipment has been improving in recent years, and kiteboard racing doesn’t involve aerial freestyle maneuvers close to shore. Despite the equipment improvements though, fatalities are still happening at an alarming pace. Just in the first part of June 2012, as we were preparing this report, we learned of three more tragic accidents: one fatality in Thailand on June 1, a second fatality in Belgium on June 9, and a third person who didn’t die but is in critical condition after a kite accident in the UK on June 12. Even more recently, tragedy struck in Lanzarote on August 1 and on Cheney Lake in Kansas on August 5, with another close call on Bracklesham Beach in the UK on August 3.

The difference with kitesurfing is that one small lapse of judgement, equipment problem, or weather change could result in immediate significant injury or worse. Kitesurfing requires very specific conditions (weather, launch site, etc.) to be safe.

All too often efforts to Emergency Depower the kite in a high wind emergency are unsuccessful. You can be flying at high speed very fast and by the time you have a clue what is going on and what to try to do about it you may well have impacted. The best approach is to avoid the high wind emergency in the first place. This was true ten years ago before dozens of others had been lost in similar conditions, despite improvements in technology, it is still true. – Rick Iossi, Florida KiteSurfing Association (FKSA)

We don’t know the risks of 80, 40, even 20 high level kiteboard racers charging the course with Olympic funding on the line. Why? There has never been a race with more than twenty high level riders in close proximity. Although elite athletes will take the risk, kiteboard racing goes against the first safety principle taught by kite instructors: for safety, keep distance from every one and every thing.

We do know that recreational and freestyle kiting is more dangerous than recreational windsurfing. We don’t know how risky (or safe) kiteboard racing is – Andrew Nathanson, MD, FACEP, Clinical Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Alpert Medical School of Brown University

The discipline of kiteboard racing is too young for anyone to have a proper understanding of the risks involved, esspecially at non-ideal venues. Parents, coaches, Yacht Clubs, National Federations, insurance companies – everyone is looking for answers, but not at the expense of their kids’ safety.

The following posts further illustrate the extent of our concerns:


One comment

  1. Bruce

    Yachting New Zealands Coaching Development Officer during the last 3 months has been promoting sailing to the disabled & was alarmed by the high number of people wanting to continue sailing of some kind after having serious spinal injuries due to Kite surfing.

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