Tips for Lifeguards



The FIRST goal when rescuing a kiteboarder or runaway kite is to DISABLE THE KITE. It’s quite simple & easy, as described below, but it’s necessary because an inflated kite is capable of lifting itself off any surface & creating a huge amount of power (much more than your body weight). This can happen even in winds much too light to kiteboard (such as “becalmed” rescues), when it seems easy to hang onto the inflated kite. If slack kite lines wrap around someone or something, the kite could launch & highly tension the lines, which could then cut or lift someone. This makes the kite a potential hazard to anybody downwind. Rescuing the kiteboarder may be a secondary consideration.

The safest, easiest rescue is to allow the kiteboarder to disable their own kite by winding up their own lines and deflating the kite themselves in the water before being rescued. If the kiter is unable to do this, or if the kite is a runaway then:

1. Approach the kite from the side. Compensate for the speed of downwind drift or movement in any surf or current. Avoid approaching from upwind OR downwind, because from downwind the kite could drift quickly into you, & from upwind you or your vessel could get caught in the lines, which usually trail upwind of the kite.

2. Grab the kite securely by one corner, hang on VERY tightly & do NOT let go. Immediately try to create & maintain some slack in the lines by moving towards the kiter, and let the kite flap downwind like a flag. NEVER grab the lines. Pulling on the lines is the way to relaunch the kite into the air, which you do not want!

3. You can disable MOST kites by deflating like a beach toy:

a) Hold the front inflatable edge of the kite (largest inflatable bladder) securely, work your way carefully to the middle, & open the air valve there. Now the kite is no longer a hazard, & you can rescue the kiter.

b) If it’s too hazardous to attempt deflation, you could cut the short connecting links between the lines & one wingtip (with your hook knife), or as a last resort, puncture the largest bladder.

c) A deflated kite can only be rolled up compactly from each end towards the center (or else air will still be trapped in the bladder). Fold the tip at the smallest bladder & roll it tightly around that bladder until you reach the middle, then repeat from the other tip.

d) The lines can be wrapped around the kite, or, if it was a runaway, they can be pulled in (as long as the dangling lines won’t be a problem) & wrapped around the knobs on the control bar.

4. To disable ANY kite on the beach, put LOTS of sand on the upwind wingtip to prevent movement even in strong gusts. Make sure the lines stay slack. If extra safety is required, you can deflate the main bladder, & even remove or cut the lines off one tip (as described above).