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Kitesurfing Rules of the Road (KiteRegs) The purpose of this Code is the improvement of safety standards and the standardization of the rules of the road for kitesurfing. The Rules of the Code are based on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (ColRegs), state regulations, yachting rules and generally accepted regulations operating in the kitesurfing and windsurfing world. The Rules shall be obeyed by all kitesurfers, although they do not have legal force as yet. The Rules should also be used to resolve disputes. The Code consists of two parts. The first part is a collection of all the Rules of the Code and the second part contains extensive comments explaining how the rules should be interpreted.

Application The Code applies to all persons practising kitesurfing on any water region. The Rules do not replace any special regulations concerning specific situations or kitesurfing spots such as artificial water reservoirs, rivers, overcrowded spots or kitesurfing competitions. Such special rules shall conform as closely as possible to these Rules.

Part I – Rules Rule 1 – Responsibility 1.1. All hazards and special circumstances shall be taken into account when applying these Rules, which may mean a departure from them if deemed necessary in order to avoid a collision. 1.2. Every rider shall be aware of kitesurfing dangers to him/her and others in his/her vicinity. The rider is liable for all damage caused by him/her and his/her equipment. 1.3. Every rider shall obey the local rules which may override these Rules. 1.4. It is a duty of every rider to give all possible assistance to anybody in danger. Rule 2 - Definitions 2.1. Port tack - the wind blows from the left side in relation to the sailing direction, and the left hand is the front one, so-called "port". 2.2. Starboard tack - the wind blows from the right in relation to the sailing direction, and the right hand is the front one, so-called "starboard". 2.3. Windward rider – a rider sailing closer to the "source" of wind; sailing "above" in relation to another rider during the meeting, so-called "upwind rider". 2.4. Leeward rider – a rider sailing further from the "source" of wind; sailing "below" in relation to another rider during the meeting, so-called "downwind rider". 2.5. Give-way manoeuvre – an alternation of course or speed carried out to avoid a collision by a give-way rider. 2.6. Give-way rider - a rider obliged to give way during the meeting.


2.7. Stand-on rider – a rider who has right of way and is obliged to maintain his/her course during the meeting. 2.8. Manoeuvre - a jump, a trick, or a change of course or speed. 2.9. Meeting – a situation on the water when riders meet each other and one of them must give way in order to avoid a dangerous situation or collision. 2.10. Dangerous situation - a situation which endangers both users in the water and on the shore. A development of a dangerous situation leads to a collision. 2.11. Collision - a situation when riders, or their equipment, collide or they collide with other users on water or ashore. 2.12. Safe distance - a distance that shall be maintained in order to avoid a dangerous situation. 2.13. Kitesurfing on waves – surfing on breaking waves usually in a shore-break zone, so-called „wave". 2.14. Good Kitesurfing Practice (GKP) - a set of generally accepted principles of safety, based on many years in kitesurfing community. Rule 3 – Coastal zone 3.1. A rider preparing to launch or land a kite on the beach, may do so if his/her actions do not lead to a dangerous situation. 3.2. A rider approaching a coastal zone gives way to those who are in the zone with their airborne kites and as they enter or leave the water. 3.3. A rider laying in the water, holding a kite in the zenith, swimming to a lost board or re-launching a kite from the water has the right of way. Rule 4 – Sailing Rules (applies to a meeting of two kitesurfers only) 4.1. Head-on situation (opposite tacks) - a port tack rider gives way to a starboard tack rider. 4.2. Similar courses (same tacks) - a windward rider gives way to a leeward rider. 4.3. Overtaking - anyone overtaking (faster) keeps out of way of anyone being overtaken (slower). 4.4. Position of kites during the meeting – a windward rider raises his/her kite above 45 degrees and a leeward rider lowers his/her kite below 30 degrees. Rule 5 – Multiperson meeting (Rule 4 is not applicable) 5.1. The most upwind rider raises his/her kite to the highest point and the most downwind rider lowers his/her kite to the lowest point. Other riders passing between the riders at the extremes set their kites in intermediate positions in order to avoid kite tangling. 5.2. It is recommended that meetings involving more than two riders be avoided whenever possible. Rule 6 - Manoeuvres 6.1. Before performing any manoeuvre, ensure that such an action will not endanger anyone. 6.2. The downwind area for a landing place shall be checked before commencing a jump. 6.3. In particular it is recommended to double check the area "behind” before performing a manoeuvre.


Rule 7 – Surfing on waves - Wave (Rules 4 & 5 are not applicable) 7.1. A rider surfing on waves has right of way irrespective of tack. 7.2. If there are two or more riders on the same wave, right of way has a rider surfing closer to the breaking part of the wave or a rider who got first on the wave. Rule 8 - Action by a give-way rider 8.1. A safe distance shall be maintained during a give-way manoeuvre. 8.2. Any action taken to avoid a collision shall be positive, readily visible to others and made in ample time and with due regard to the rules applicable on the water. Rule 9 – Action by a stand-on rider 9.1. A stand-on rider shall maintain his/her course until collision is unavoidable without his/her own manoeuvre. 9.2. The same rider shall fly his/her kite in a position specified by Rule 4.4. 9.3. This Rule does not relieve a give-way rider of his/her obligation of giving way. Rule 10 - Meeting with other water users (not being kitesurfers or windsurfers) Every kitesurfer gives way to all other water users except the power-driven crafts under 7 metres. It is recommended that passing and overtaking of such water users should take place on their leeside and at a safe distance.

Part II – Comments First of all I would like to apologize to girls in kitesurfing that comments below look like dedicated for men only (“he/him/his”). It does not discriminate against you at all but a correct form “she/he, her/his” would look a bit odd when being read. Introduction. When I launched my first kite in 2002, there were not more than 50 people interested in this sport in Poland. Since then the number of kite riders has multiplied tremendously. Some people moved from windsurfing or yachting, some have never been in contact with any water sports. Consequently, the rules of the road used by kitesurfers come from different sources, if any at all. With the rapidly increasing number of novice riders, I realised that it is necessary to present clear rules of the road for kitesurfers and promote their usage in order to improve safety. These Rules are based on The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (ColRegs), state rules, sailing and windsurfing regulations. Had not kitesurfing been different from the sailing, it would be the simplest way just to adopt the sailing regulations. Such a situation happened when windsurfing appeared on the water scene. However, a kitesurfer differs from a yacht, a motor boat or even a windsurfer – at first glance we see a completely new design of propulsion. The kitesurfer sails on a small, light weight board weighing only 3 kg and the source of the propulsion is a kite flying 30 meters away with its square surface of up to 20 m 2. When the kite flies above water it occupies exactly the same width as a container vessel of length of 250 meters! At the same time, the manoeuvrability of advanced rider is comparable with a jet-ski. On top of that some of us are able, like


a hydroplane, to jump into air on 10-15 meter levels and finally land 100 meters below. We are able to become airborne for 10 seconds or more. Imagine that a container vessel, with manoeuvrability and speed of a jet-ski and ability to take off, is given into the hands of youngster who has just finished a few hours of a kitesurfing course. It is the highest concern of all of us that even such an inexperienced person will ride safely, obeying clearly explained and standardized rules. The creation of three exceptions to the yachting rules is caused by the otherness of kitesurfing to other water sports and risk minimizing. The author hopes that they will be accepted by all water users. The first exception refers to the possibility of reducing speed by the stand-on rider while overtaking. The second exception concerns meetings of more than two riders, during which there is no stand-on rider. The third difference is in the introduction of the precise length of power-driven crafts, whom we give the way to. Detailed explanations were given in the comments to the relevant rules. An effective and prompt promotion to the world of water sports will be Code’s success as an average rider’s knowledge of rules of the road is usually insufficient. Most people have heard about three basic Sailing Rules concerning passing on water, and apply to these rules. However, their interpretation of specific events looks poor. Besides, the knowledge of the regulations in a coastal zone, during the kite re-launching from water or surfing on waves, it is based at least on the odd premise. As a result, half of us give way and the other half believe that they have the right of way. We sometimes behave like car drivers who cannot determine to which side of the road they should drive. Additionally, many people learning kitesurfing these days have come into the sport without any water “roots” and most often do not know any rules and codes of conduct on the water. Therefore the comments are written in a language understandable for such people. For the same reason the KiteRegs do not contain too detailed rules like in The Racing Rules for Sailing issued by the International Yachting Federation. The main reasons for creation of this Code are: lack of understanding of the binding rules of the road; dissimilarity of kitesurfing to other water sports; introducing general, uniform and applicable standards. With the rapidly increasing number of new kitesurfers, a lack of such rules may lead to serious individual consequences and accordingly to the ban of kitesurfing on our favourite spots. The scope of application. The Code has to be used on all waters by all kitesurfers. The KiteRegs poster and translations into the most popular foreign languages, available to interested parties, will be distributed by kitesurfing schools and rentals. This will enable all riders to understand these Rules. The Code has been constructed in a way that will enable anyone to resolve any disputed situation. The Rules do not always give exact answers, such as the measure of passing distances. Therefore, extensive comments have been added to explain the Rules in a more precise way. KiteRegs do not limit anyone to lay down specific, additional rules that aim to improve safety on water in special locations and situations. For example, soon we may need to limit the amount of riders during on-shore winds at over-crowded spots or a restricted area for overtaking will be required in such places along a shoreline. Another example may be a kite school establishing exclusion zone where its trainees, distinguished for instance by yellow vests, have the right of way at all times. If someone, who is not their trainee, is going to enter such an area he will have to give way to anyone in a yellow top lycra. Obviously information indicating an existence of


such special zone should be properly displayed ashore and on water. It may happen too that the organisers of kitesurfing competitions may introduce other regulations. A governing body introducing such local rules should base them on the provisions of this Code and aim not to conflict with this Code. Rule 1.1. An absolute priority of every rider is to avoid any dangerous situation. These Rules are not able to identify all possible situations that may occur on water but they provide solutions to most every day scenarios. Rule Responsibility should be applied in any situation not presented in the Part II of the Code. Sometimes it may occur that we have an obligation to take action that departs from these Rules, if such actions will avoid a collision. For example, a meeting with the beginner, who apparently does not feels confident, it allows us to depart from the Rules and give way despite being the privileged person. Rule 1.2. Kitesurfing in certain conditions and situations can be a sport endangering health and life of a rider and those accidentally found in his proximity. The rider has to know how to operate his kite safety systems before launching. A leash has to be connected whenever the system requires it. Unconditionally every rider has to know and practice how to release the kite’s killing system. The use of faulty equipment is shameful. Learning kitesurfing without protective equipment is more risky. It is recommended use a helmet at all levels of skills. Everyone should be aware of his responsibility for any damaged caused. As we know from sad experience fatal accidents happened to riders and those who by coincidence found themselves in the wrong place and time. Therefore every rider should have the 3 rd party liability insurance which will protect against financial responsibility. But let’s keep in mind at all times that even the best insurance will not protect us against moral consequences. Rule 1.3. The law does not generally keep pace with a fast-rolling life, and even more with new sports such as kitesurfing. There are no specific international regulations concerning kitesurfing. The creation of such a law is a time consuming process, therefore the local authorities at many spots, seeing the threat of kitesurfing, have introduced the local rules to determine behaviour of kitesurfers. Arriving at an unknown spot, we absolutely must read and obey local rules that describe relationships between many different water users. In other words, local law is paramount and must be strictly obeyed, even if it is in conflict with the provisions of the Code. Unfortunately, we are facing an increase of serious limitations concerning kitesurfers. If we fail to comply with local rules, we may risk civil consequences and certainly will not help our sport. Thus, if the beach is closed for the kitesurfing, better to pack the equipment and look for another venue. Rule 1.4. We help everyone on the water! Due to the peculiarity of our sport and the skills of riders, sometimes we physically are not able to help the needy in and on the water. In such situations, the aid we give will be to check the type of threat, and to notify people on shore, who will call the proper services responsible for rescue. On the water, the most people we meet are windsurfers and other kitesurfers. We should check every time for requiring assistance if they are laying in the water. People who do not need help, laying in the water and seeing an approaching rider should raise their thumb to show that everything is OK. In this way the person riding downwind does not have to lose more height. Another type of assistance will be towing up a lost board.


Rule 2. A few definitions require more accurate explanation. 2.7. The definition of stand-on rider does not mention to keep the speed. There is a very important difference compared to the collision regulations of the sea where a stand-on vessel has to maintain both her speed and course. This deviation is caused by the specific nature of our sport where a stand-on rider has a duty to stay on his course. By all means he may reduce his speed to shorten the period of overtaking for the sake of safety to all. Example: being overtaken, we have right of way and we must maintain the course. Good Kitesurfing Practice is to slow down in order to shorten the process of overtaking. What are the advantages? The overtaking rider is on the top of the world, because he feels like a speed demon. At the same time, the meeting is shorter and the risk of collision is minimized. 2.8. Manoeuvres. It should be remembered that the change of speed is also considered as a manoeuvre. This is the best anti-collision manoeuvre during the meetings on the same courses, where the windward rider has to give way. A course alternation may not always be practical, for example, due to lack of space. Slowing down or even halting may explain the situation in the most transparent manner. 2.9. Meeting, by definition, is a subject to the give-way manoeuvre by one of the participants of the meeting. For example, if there are two riders passing each other without the need of such manoeuvre, then there should be no meeting. Since there is no meeting, Rules 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 do not apply. 2.12. Safe distance cannot be given in precise values due to the specific circumstances of each meeting. During meetings, the ideal solution would be to maintain a distance longer than the length of the lines. Unfortunately this is not always feasible on popular spots, especially on the summer weekends. In such situations, a safe distance is the distance that will not raise any doubts of the participants during the meeting. Of course this depends on the riders’ skills, wind and water conditions. Passing at a distance of two meters will be completely normal for experts on flat water during fresh winds. Under the same conditions, beginners should pass each other at minimum distance of 10 meters. With the gale winds and waves reaching 3-4 meters, the safe distance for experts will be longer than the length of lines. The measured unit presenting the safe distance is not in meters but the sense of comfort and safety based on the common sense of all participants during the meeting. The less responsible or the less experienced rider you are going to meet, the more room should be added to your planned passing distance. 2.13. Wave riding means surfing with a kite. It cannot be confused with the riding at sea. These are distinct subjects, which have been described in detail in the comments to the Wave Rule. 2.14. Good Kitesurfing Practice (GKP) – it is a very broad concept defining a set of well proven kitesurfing practices. It is impossible to mention all the good habits, because they vary with kitesurfing developments. For example, mandatory use of a leash, no longer proves to be necessary in some models of kites for this year. One thing is certain, that it is always the safe practice to secure a kite on the beach, or to wind up lines on the bar if


the break takes longer than a couple of minutes. On the contrary, kiting at sea alone during offshore winds is an example of bad kitesurfing practice. Typical examples of GKP are: avoid of jumping on and off the beach or near to other people; using protective equipment; any help given to other riders during kite launching or landing; towing up a lost board, giving way to more experienced riders on the waves etc. Behaviour in accordance with the GKP not only distinguishes the world-class kitesurfer, but it also tells you about his culture and personal responsibility for safety in the kitesurfing world. Rule 3.1. Before launching a kite from the beach, one must be sure that it does not create any danger, not only for other riders but also for other people in the vicinity. In addition, the fact that the kite can drag a few dozen meters during launching this should be taken into account. A rider launching his kite on the beach gives way to anybody around him, the same as a yacht leaving the marina and a vessel leaving the harbour. Any rider who is about to join “water traffic� is a give-way person. Once it is safe to do so, he launches his kite (he is in traffic flow now) and just at this moment he gains the privilege of the rider being in the coastal zone.

Rule 3.2. This rule causes controversy on the Polish coast. It should be more clear and widespread that, in the coastal zone, priority is given to the rider who enters the water, who stays on the beach or in the shore zone, and his kite is airborne. He may stand on the beach, in the water or just be leaving water after the session. The beach and the shore zone are places with the highest number of kitesurfing accidents occur (up to 90%). Moreover, accidents on the beach are usually much more dangerous than on water. Additionally, completely random people may become victims. It will not help us if the media describe kitesurfing as a sport for irresponsible and dangerous people. Unexplained behaviour is when a rider gybes or performs a trick a few meters from the shore, delaying other riders who are about to enter the water. It is logical to turn earlier then come back two minutes later and perform the trick on an empty beach. If he fails the trick and his kite falls in water, then nobody is hurt and the kite laying on water won’t delay any other riders.


An exception to the case described above is the situation when there are wave surfing conditions off the beach. Then all riders give way to the one who rides the waves first. In practice, it means that nobody launches his kite in the best place for waves. For this reason the launching and landing zone is usually located nearby where no one rides waves in the shore zone. The reason for the second exception may appear with rapidly changing wind conditions. Suppose that a "fat", black cloud is approaching rapidly. Logic says to land a kite immediately and wait until situation is cleared. Therefore in such a moment, in accordance with GKP, the rider who is preparing to enter the water, should land his kite and assist during landing other riders’ kites. Imagine the opposite situation: wind rapidly calms down. We are ready to enter the water with the bigger kite. At the same time, we notice a rider straggling to reach the beach. Good practice will be to depart from the Shore Zone Rules and to give way to the rider approaching the shore. We may lose a few precious seconds on the water but for sure we will gain respect of others at the same time. Rule 3.3. The situation is very similar to the one described above. There is absolutely no reason that a rider should delay re-launching his kite from the water due to the other rider kiting next to him with full control over his kite. A lot of us forget that a kite’s re-launching from water is not always a simple manoeuvre and depending on rider’s skills or his equipment can prove to be impossible. This especially concerns a impact zone. Rider’s health and in extreme circumstances even his life depends on the fast re-launching. For example: the kite falls into an impact wave’s zone and the rider drifts towards a breakwater or a rock. Why would he even look around and give way to anybody, losing precious seconds, during which the kite may be smashed by breaking waves? Similar situation concerns a rider swimming towards his lost board.


A rider who keeps his kite vertically in the zenith has right of way. Keep in mind that he is unable to give way due to the lack of adequate power. Such situations occur when riders put their feet into the board’s straps, and wanting to improve or adjust their equipment, deciding to clear a doubtful meeting by waiting in such position or simply just want to rest. Word of comment requires the situation when a rider being in water, can control his equipment and is going to launch it. He still has a right of way, but in accordance with the principles of GKP he should wait a second, if another rider passes in his close proximity. Finally, it is worth remembering that there is no problem for the rider with full control over his equipment to give way to the rider who, being in water up to his nose, swims towards his lost board.

Using maritime

terminology, above case may be referred to as to "vessels not under command" which are unable to give way to others. Rule 4. The Sailing Rules apply only to meetings of two riders. During the meeting of three or more people, it is impossible to determine the relationship between meeting participants. The justification has been presented in comments to Rule 5.

It should be added that the Sailing Rules are obeyed only when a dangerous situation exists. Imagine the meeting between two riders kiting on opposite tacks and the port tack one is on windward side. If the port rider interprets this meeting as a one that does not endanger the starboard tack rider – then he does not give way. He, in advance,


raises his kite above 45 degrees, giving a clear signal to the starboard rider: “I’m going to maintain my course and let’s pass like this in a safe distance”. If the starboard rider considers that the situation is not actually dangerous, he accepts the decision of the port rider by lowering his kite below 30 degrees and both of them pass without any claims. If a dangerous situation does not exist then Rule 4.1 is not applicable. However, if the starboard rider has any doubts, then immediately raises his kite above the port rider’s kite, showing this way a clear signal to him: “Go downwind immediately”. Additionally he may shout: "STARBOARD!" In other words, the dangerous situation has appeared, and as a result both riders have to obey Rule 4.1. If the starboard rider does not see a positive response by the port rider, he may apply Rule Responsibility and will have two options. The first one is to make a rapid U-turn and the second one is to halt and raise his kite to the zenith. The second option involves the risk of tangling of kites’ lines. Rule 4.2. The upwind rider keeps out of the way of the downwind rider due to the fact that the rider being on windward side has more space to execute any manoeuvre. The exception to this Rule is the situation when two riders are approaching to the shore. The upwind rider, kiting just in front of the downwind one, cannot turn as it would result in a collision or tangled kites. Without clear space he is forced to stop and raise his kite to the zenith. In such a situation the downwind rider is obliged to give way to the upwind one and depart from Passing Rules in accordance with Rule Responsibility. He should provide a space safe for the upwind rider by making a U-turn well before the shore.

Rule 4.3. Two dilemmas appear when we think about overtaking: who gives way and on which side to overtake the slower rider? The first dilemma in general should not come to anybody’s mind. A widely accepted principle in yachting and international maritime regulations is the formula: "any overtaking vessel shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken regardless of the type of vessel or type of propulsion”. We overtake a motorboat, a yacht, a cruising ship or a jet-ski in the way that they do not need to change their course in order to avoid a collision. But if the same water users overtake us then they must ensure a safe distance. For this reason, on contrary to other Sailing Rules the definition of Rule 4.3 contains the word "Anyone" instead "Kitesurfer".


The second dilemma is worth further examination. The overtaking rider has to decide on which side to pass the slower one. Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages. During overtaking on the leeside, the kite of slower rider may disrupt the wind of the faster rider. Not always but usually, the slower rider presents lower kitesurfing skills. Overtaking such a rider on his leeside increases the risk of collision when less skilled rider has to raise his kite and may lose control over his board what can result in landing on a faster rider’s neck. This situation usually occurs at sea or during gusting winds. The positive side of overtaking "from the bottom" is the fact that during downwind ride we obtain faster speed and that shortens the process of overtaking. Therefore a leeside overtaking is recommended for everybody and especially for beginners. Novice riders have to take into account the fact that it is a long manoeuvre and should be carried out at a distance greater than the length of the lines. If they cannot maintain such distance they should halt the overtaking manoeuvre. Now a few words about windward side overtaking so-called "from the top". The main advantage is no risk that the slower rider may harm us in any way. The second advantage is that we stay in "clean" wind all the time, which affects the kite’s control. The disadvantage of overtaking "from the top" is the longer period for this process because of going more upwind than during the leeside version. What is even worse, the need to raise a kite above 45 degrees can affect the speed or cause loss of control over the board. Reasons given above should clarify why overtaking on the windward side should be performed only by advanced riders. Rule 4.4. Heights of kites above the waterline are contractual and given in accordance with GKP. If conditions on the water and the rider’s skills allow, the downwind rider may hold his kite just above the water (for example 10 degrees), allowing the upwind rider to lower his kite up to 30 degrees. This is a very welcome practice that gives more control to the upwind rider. In a result the meeting will be safer. Quite opposite is the situation when the downwind rider is keeping his kite at an altitude of 45 degrees or above. This is a bad behaviour that actually may lead to a collision when the upwind rider is a novice kitesurfer.


Rule 5. The multiperson meetings increase the risk of collisions and should be avoided. It concerns especially beginners. Seeing that in a moment the multiperson meeting will take place and having doubts whether it is safe, the best way is to make a U-turn on the opposite course. If there is no place for that, just stop, set your kite in the zenith and wait until the situation is cleared. It is worth mentioning that being in such a position a rider obtains the right of way in accordance with the Shore Zone Rules. For example: the starboard tack rider meets with two port tack riders kiting in parallel direction, 10 meters apart. The upwind port rider is on the collision course with the starboard one. If he complies with Rule 4 he should go downwind to give way to the starboard one. But he cannot do this, because he simultaneously has to give way to the downwind rider who for instance additionally might be overtaken.

Taking into account the possible effects of a collision during these meetings, the special principle has been created. This principle distinguishes kitesurfing from the other water sports. During meetings involving more than two riders no one is privileged, but each must respond as a give-way rider! It means that everybody has to take an avoiding action once he realises that such meeting is going to take place. The most common action performed is a small course alternation and setting the kite in a way to avoid tangling. Rule 6. There is no need to write too much about this Rule. The essence of double checking the space behind the rider’s back before any jump, trick, or even change to switch or blind was highlighted by a separate Rule. It often happens that one rider switches his position and forgets about a colleague kiting 20 metres behind. Just a


small error and the rider falls into water losing control of his kite. Two riders collide or tangle their kites few seconds later. This is the reason why doing any tricks during the meeting is treated with distain. Rule 7 about surfing on the waves (riding the waves popularly known as the "wave") is the least known and most poorly interpreted Rule because of the lack of experience due to flimsy surfing conditions on the Polish coasts. Surfing is a niche sport in Poland and usually is practising on foreign beaches. However, world’s surfing culture began to shape nearly one hundred years ago. Surfing is mastered on almost all warm beaches of the world and decisively it is the most popular water sport that uses a board. The surfing rules are implemented all around the world - without any exception. In recent years, the Poles have begun to appear in the most remote overseas locations. It turns out that we are the world leaders, if we look through the prism of the equipment we use. Unfortunately our weaknesses are revealed during wave riding: ignorance and the lack of knowledge of fundamental principles keep us away behind from the world standards. Consequently, there are often situations when the starboard tack rider does not give way to the port tack rider just cutting a beautiful wave crest off the lip. We believe that since we are on the starboard tack, no one has the right to endanger us. Unfortunately, there is nothing more misleading. Surfing on the wave means the sudden change of kiting direction: once riding down the wave and a moment later climbing on the same wave and to take another snap turn on her peak. It is also a ride along the breaking wave that looks like an escape from the white water. Wave riders during such rapid turns may also turn the kite by changing tack every few seconds. How to determine what tack he rides in such situations? Moreover, quite often he is in position where giving way would cause a rider to go under the breaking wave and would force him into falling into a multiple spin, mummifying in his own lines underwater and total loss of control over his kite. One does not need to have a great imagination to foresee that it may end up with massacred kite or the threat of drowning.

Indeed, waves are not modelled by computers but by Mother Nature. Their shape, size and dynamics change with the arrival of another set. Why the rider, who has just jumped on the best wave of the day, would have to give way to Mr.Starboard Smith who is going upwind in impact zone?! Remember: the impact zone is the surfing area, not dedicated to catching the height. The height should be caught outside of this zone. This is logical, and above all safer. Unfortunately, most of us cannot distinguish what is a wave riding and what is a riding at sea. Lack of understanding of this difference means that we will not know when to obey Rule 4 and when Rule 7! A wave riding is not defined by wave height, as majority of us think. Surfing can be practiced in the half-meter waves on


the Baltic coast, and on 30 meter monsters in Hawaii. If we see someone who is riding a meter high wave in the shore breaking zone then we use Wave Rule. If the same person is going upwind between 4 meter waves on the high seas, then we obey to Sailing Rules. As far as surfing is concerned, there are few such beautiful places on this planet where several riders may surf on the same wave without creating dangerous situations. However the majority of wave spots do not guarantee such opportunities. Therefore we need to know the second wave rule: a rider who gets first on the wave or surfs closer to the breaking part of wave has right of way. This is due to the danger of falling caused by the dynamic power of a closing wave and “white water” wall on which balancing is virtually impossible to maintain. That is why getting to a wave already surfed by another person is treated as daylight robbery and it is not tolerated around the world. After such incident we can expect at least the sharpest exchange of words on the beach. For these reasons, a wave riding is governed by the separate rule that gives special privileges to those who ride the waves. In the maritime law, an equivalent of the surfing rule seems to be a priority given to vessels restricted by their manoeuvrability, such as vessels in the narrow channel constrained by draught, vessels laying cables in the bottom of the sea, dredgers working around ports’ approaches. Fishing or sailing vessels and all other powerdriven vessels have to give way to such specified vessels. Since a wave rider has limited ability to manoeuvre, he must be treated as privileged in relation to any other rider! Let’s remember that the above relationships are established for kitesurfers only. How do we coexist with other wave “rippers”? Unconditionally we give way to all surfers, the one doing body boarding, stand-up-surfers and all other "swimmers" who get on the wave without the help of an external drive. Please remember that giving way to them by jumping over their heads is unacceptable and will be treated as rabble. We must understand that all who got into the surf zone without using any other drive than their own hands, do not have any possibility to give way and may be exhausted by breaking through the waves, and on the top of that are difficult to spot between waves. They look at us, quite rightly, as an additional and serious threat. We can be sure that kiting next to them or jumping over them, we will not be seen as acceptable practice. To avoid such unpleasant events, among other things, the prohibition zones for kitesurfing or time restrictions have been established at the famous wave spots. Good Kitesurfing Practice in waves says keep out of the surfers’ way. For example, according to the Australian Kitesurfing Association (AKSA), it is advisable to keep a greater distance than 30 meters. Keeping away from surfers is the only way to gain their respect. And if we are to gain their trust and acceptance, the best way is to connect a surfer by a leash and to tow him trough the breaking zone up to the area where he can begin to play with the waves. Additional commentary requires a meeting on the wave with a windsurfer, who in similarity to us is driven by wind strength and for this reason cannot be grouped with other water users driven by muscles power alone. The windsurfing wave rule is opposite to the kitesurfing one: a windsurfer going out has right of the way over a windsurfer on the wave approaching to the shore. There is a logical explanation. The windsurfer, in contrary to the kitesurfer, cannot jump up from a flat water to fly over the breaking wave. For him it is much more difficult to break through the impact zone than come back on or between the waves. Therefore the Code states that a kitesurfer gives way to a windsurfer sailing out in the impact zone. The windsurfer sailing towards the beach has the same rights as a kitesurfer. Let’s summarize the Wave Rule. Before snapping the waves and making bottom turns double check if it does not disturb a windsurfer breaking through the impact zone and to any other wave surfers driven by their own hands.


Rule 8. Always try to ensure a safe space being on the water on the beach. Somebody may be surprised – even on the beach? That’s right, the answer is: always and be aware. Before the kite is launched we check first that the kite’s launching will not endanger anybody in close proximity and then we check the appropriate area downwind of us in a case of unexpected dragging. If both conditions are not met then we halt the launching and wait till it is clear to do so. British Kite Surfing Association (BKSA) requires 50 meters of clearance downwind of the launching rider. Do not forget that such a rider “joins the traffic” and he is a give-way person according to the Shore Zone Rules. Maintaining of the safe distance is essential during overtaking due to the extended period of this manoeuvre. Regardless of which side was chosen for overtaking, the priority is to maintain a safe distance. See comments of the safe distance definition. The ideal would be to overtake at a distance of more than the lines’ length. We all know that sometimes there is not enough room on the water. Therefore the easiest way is to apply the principle of GKP: if you are overtaken by a faster rider from your windward side and you feel that the overtaking distance is too small – simply go downwind as many metres as you need to feel comfortable again. Similarly, a faster rider should apply to GKP too: if you feel that your overtaking distance is too tight – halt overtaking, make a Uturn and enjoy your supersonic speed on the opposite tack. Passing the moored craft on its windward side must be carried out at the safe distance. In this case the exact value in meters can be given as a rider passes a stable unit and has full control during such meeting is in his hands. BKSA recommends passing the moored boats in the distance not less than 50 meters. Rule 8.2. Someone may question a need to establish a rule concerning behaviour of a give-way rider. As it turns out, a moment of decision making to give way and how it is performed is radically different for various participants in a meeting. For one rider, the passing at a distance of two meters may be safe enough but for another rider a clearance of 20 meters may look like millimetres. Therefore the safety of all those on the water should be our priority. Seeing a new rider we can quickly find out which kitesurfing level he represents. The first rule: the lower skills of a stand-on rider, the sooner we should perform a positive give-way manoeuvre. Rule two: no one should feel uncomfortable kiting in our proximity. Seeing that our dynamic style breeds terror in the eyes of others, we should polish up our aggressive style elsewhere. Thus, instead of fear, we can instil admiration by being watched by beginners from the safe distance. This Rule clearly indicates that action taken by a give-way rider has to be positive and readily visible to other meeting participants. A succession of small alternations of course shall be avoided. Let’s imagine that a port tack rider flying his kite at 45 degrees meets with a starboard tack rider in a moment. The port tack person rides 10 meters upwind and has doubts concerning a safe distance. Finally he takes a decision to give way. The worst what he may do in this situation is a small downwind change of course and lowering his kite 5 degrees. His action most probably is not noted by the person on the opposite tack. The port tack rider, seeing that his action does not clear the situation, repeats the same action again. There is no time on water for such practise! Bear in mind that these two riders approach each other with the speed of 70-100km/h. In a water environment that is the speed of light! From this reason our decision about a give-way manoeuvre has to be positive. The correct action in the above case is to go downwind at least 20 degrees and lower the kite just a couple meters above water. This is an unequivocal action and a safe practise.


Rule 9 characterizes behaviour of a stand-on rider. It seems to be a clear case – he has right of way, so what do we write about? However having the right of way does not give any privilege to the stand-on rider, but on the contrary, it imposes the obligation to maintain his course. It means that he has to remain on his original course until the end of meeting. Such behaviour makes life easier for a give-way rider who is able to predict and estimate the passing distance. A course alternation by the stand-on rider only raises doubts in a give-way rider’s mind and it makes it harder to perform a proper manoeuvre. The second duty of a stand-on rider is to fly his kite in position enabling a give-way rider to carry out a decisive and safe anti-collision manoeuvre. The problem arises when a stand-on rider sees that a give-way rider does not take any action and senses a collision. What to do when he is the privileged one? Seeing that the collision is imminent without his sole manoeuvre, he becomes exempted from the obligation to maintain his course and in accordance with Rule 9.1 and Rule Responsibility he must perform a manoeuvre to avoid collision. In such cases the most effective manoeuvre is a U-turn. A sudden halting and flying a kite to the zenith would also seem to be logical, but it can lead to tangling of kites. It is important to take such departing decision at the right time. When a dangerous situation appears - we become more vigilant, but we still maintain course. When a collision is very likely to happen and there is no adequate response from a give-way rider then we perform anti-collision manoeuvre. The importance of Rule 9 is more significant, the more crowded the spot is. If there are only two riders on the water and one of them will be giving way even being a stand-on rider, which is entirely irrelevant, because in this way the collision will be avoided anyway. The case becomes more complicated if the same, unaware rider goes on a sunny and windy summer weekend to the overcrowded spot. Despite his good intensions he will introduce more confusion to other riders. Rule 9.3 underlines the fact that a give-way rider cannot abuse Rule 9.1 and has to fulfil his task of giving way. If everybody obeyed these Rules it would not be necessary to create Rule 9.1 as a contingency instruction for a meeting with an irresponsible person. Rule 10 is the most cumbersome rule, due to the lack of regulations that would recognize kitesurfing as a specific class. In general, according to the law we do not exist yet. According to the definition of the ColRegs, we are a sailing vessel to which all power-driven vessels shall give way. According to the national regulations we are usually treated the same as windsurfers and we should not interfere with power-driven vessels. According to the local regulations we would be banned everywhere. If one is not sure what are the mutual responsibilities between kitesurfers and other water users, we can expect surprising and adverse court decisions in the case of collision in near future. Kitesurfing in view of the length of kite lines, rapid manoeuvrability, high and long jumps, as well as speed and power which it generates, is a unique sport and must be treated as a separate category before universal legal regulations are enforced. Until it is not endorsed, the Code recommends always giving way to all non power-driven water users who are not kitesurfers or windsurfers and to power-driven crafts less than 7 meters.


Non power-driven water users include all yachts under sails and all water users driven by power of wind and muscle. For instance: a rowing boat, a surfer or a body boarder breaking through the waves, a diver on a reef and finally a group of children swimming on inflatable sharks on unattended beaches. Kitesurfing obviously is not practised on dedicated swimming zones. On the lifeguarded beaches we will be asked in rather strict way by the rescue staff to move away. On the beaches opened to the public and not being lifeguarded, we will kindly ask the sunbathers in very polite way to move a couple of meters upwind of the area we want to trim the equipment in and to launch and land it. It works in most cases and provides a secure clear space for us and safety for our, hoped for admirers. More over we give way to power-driven crafts and vessels longer than 7 metres as well. The explanation of this fact is based on facts mentioned above. The other shorter power-driven crafts have to give way to us. The Code establishes the limit of 7 meters for practical reasons. Such small crafts are easy controllable and pretty often more manoeuvrable than a kitesurfer. Therefore we should have the right of the way over any jet-skis or small speed boats. The worst scenario on the water nowadays is to have a jet-ski rental next to a kitesurfing spot. It is easy to predict the behaviour of a teenager who rents such a powerful machine for 15 minutes and additionally hears that according to binding rules kitesurfers give him the way. He should keep away from us! Author hopes that this principle based on common sense will be widely accepted in the world of water sports. What about a ski-jet towing a rubber banana, a water skier or a wake boarder? In this case we give way due to their restricted manoeuvrability. It is exactly the same like in ColRegs where towing tugs have the status of “vessels restricted in their ability to manoeuvre” and all other vessels have to give way to them. In some situations, especially during meetings on the opposite courses, it may be difficult to assess a craft’s dimensions. In case of any doubt we assume that the craft is longer than 7 meters and then we give way according to the Rule Responsibility.

We must also remember that other people in the water may have difficulty in recognizing our intentions. For sailors we are speed demons, and we will always be treated with great suspicion, especially since they are usually not able to determine the tack we sail on. How do surfers perceive us was presented in comments to Wave Rule. KiteRegs equally treat windsurfers and kitesurfers with exemption of meetings in the impact zone (see the comment to Wave Rule). Experience has shown that this is the best way to avoid dangerous situations. But remember if you overtake a windsurfer, choose his leeside to avoid catching the top of the mast. For the same reason, during the meeting with a windsurfer on the opposite tacks and being the upwind rider, raise the kite higher than during the same meeting with a kitesurfer.


The Rule 10 recommends that during a meeting with "non-kitesurfer" we should choose the leeside of other water users. There are many reasons: our lines don’t catch the mast of a yacht; surfers won’t be splashed by our wash; we do not fall on a sailboat when the board’s edge control is lost. That brings me on to the last comment concerning such meetings. All the above presumptions lose their force in case of an overtaking. The maritime sailing rule reminder: “every overtaking vessel keeps out of the way of the slower vessel regardless of its type and propulsion”. The author hopes that the work presented above will be widely accepted and will improve safety in kitesurfing. BE SAFE, BE SEEN, BE SENSIBLE... ...NOW LET’S SOAR!

Marek Rowiński May 2009 Copyright © Wydawnictwo Kamera


Kitesurfing Rules of the Road  
Kitesurfing Rules of the Road  

The purpose of this Code is the improvement of safety standards and the standardization of the rules of the road for kitesurfing. The Rules...