Offshore Kiting and Communication

Offshore kiting beyond local beaches requires careful consideration of the weather forecast, and some form of communications for when things go wrong.

As kiters, we have four methods of on water communications in order of preference.

  1. Marine Radio
  2. Cell Phone
  3. Personal Locator Beacon
  4. Commercial Satellite Rescue Service

Marine Radio is by far the most common sense tool to take on the water. Marine law requires all boaters to carry a marine radio and to monitor channel 16 while on the water. It allows you to communicate with all other vessels and ships around you and directly with the Coast Guard.

A basic marine radio costs around $99 and increases in price as you add more features such as GPS and selective calling. Putting a marine radio into a dry bag and stuffing down your wet suit is simple and carefree way of ensuring you have a means of communication if things go wrong.

Portable marine radios themselves tend to be built with waterproofing but salt water is corrosive and to ensure longevity, protecting the radio with a dry bag is recommended.

Price: $100-$400 for radio depending manufacturer and features (GPS)

Pros: Every boat and coast guard monitor marine band channel 16. Battery in radio last a considerable time when not in use. Works internationally so just as applicable in Australia as in USA.

Cell Phone is a no brainer except that many of us now have cell phones that cost many hundreds of dollars. A consideration is to purchase a cheaper phone that can be placed in a dry bag for use as needed. As a word of caution, a cell phone by itself can be unreliable when more than a mile offshore especially when attempting to call from the water surface. Another disadvantage is the inability to talk to other boats around you – Nothing more frustrating than being stuck far offshore watching a boat pass by you and not being able to communicate with it.

Price: $50-250 for Cell Phone plus ongoing service plan.

Pros: Easy to use.

Cons: May be easily damaged or lost on water. Requires programming of numbers such as local coast guard. Battery needs very regular checks to ensure charged. No international support.

Commercial Satellite Rescue Service such as Spot can be useful with very limited two way communication capability but requires planning to ensure individuals programmed to receive messages can actually take action on your behalf. Worst case, pushing the emergency button will send “everyone” with likely a full coast guard rescue response including helicopters and other equipment. Ideally should only be used in a true life threatening situation.

Price: $150’ish for unit plus ongoing service plan.

Pros: Easy to use.

Cons: Requires coordination with message recipients as to how to respond. Pressing emergency button will generate a large rescue response.

Check out https://www.freedompop.com/ An inexpensive cell phone service, but do check regularly to ensure your cellphone is charged.

Personal Locator Beacon is a device designed to be used in a true life and death situation and as such, should really not be used if you are in a non threatening situation. Unfortunately, dropping a kite due to lack a wind is a non life threatening situation. Pushing the emergency button will send “everyone” with likely a full coast guard rescue response including helicopters and other equipment.

Price: $250’ish for unit.

Pros: Easy to use.

Cons:  Pressing emergency button will generate a large rescue response. Servicing / battery replacement requires specialized support. Requires unit registration before use.

Summary

If you had to choose one device, a marine radio placed in a dry bag would be the first choice If you wanted an extra level of protection, adding any of the other three such as a Cell Phone, “Spot”, or PLB would provide additional safety and redundancy but understand the limitations and ongoing support needed for each of the devices. Makes no sense to carry a PLB if it has not bee registered or registration has expired.

Many kites coming to the sport without previous boating experience – With boating experience, you learn quickly how commonplace marine radios are.

 

 

Tips for Lifeguards

KITEBOARDER RESCUE INFORMATION FOR LIFEGUARDS:

GRAB THE KITE FIRST, THEN THE KITER. NEVER GRAB THE KITE LINES!

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).

Stingray Hit Prevention and Treatment

How to avoid Stingrays hits and treat Stingray hits

Southern California is home to millions of Stingrays who like to sit in the warm shallow waters.

Prevention

Don’t walk around in shallow water. Shuffle your feet when entering and leaving the water. One foot forward and follow with your rear foot and a stomp helps to frighten the Stingrays away.

Treatment

If hit by a Stingray,  most likely it will be a puncture wound on your foot or ankle. If bleeding is severe, apply pressure to the wound and call 911. You will have about 10-15 minutes after a hit before the pain becomes intense.

Quickly pack your gear up or have a friend assist with your kite gear.

Seek medical assistance from Lifeguards who have access to hot water to soak your foot. If hot water is not available, hot air from a vehicles heater may help until you are able to get to hot water.

Soak your foot in hot water – As hot as you can tolerate without it scolding you for around 40 minutes.

Once hot water soaking starts, pain relief will be immediate. The heat from the hot water neutralizes the venom proteins. Avoid pain killers while soaking your foot in hot water – pain killers may dull your sense of pain and you may inadvertently scold yourself.

Portable hot water stingray kits are available from https://www.originalwatermen.com/watermen/equipment/portable-ray-rx-stingray-kit.html