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The launch is an integral part of the kiting experience, and a good kiteboarding launch can be done on your own, but it’s always better with assistance.
Kiteboarding is a sport that’s improved with the help of a friend because it comes with a higher risk when you attempt it alone, so whenever you can this is the best way to launch.
How do you launch your kiteboard the right way?
There are a few different methods to learn when kiteboarding including an assisted launch and a self-launch. Depending on where you’re kiting and who or what is available to you, you should be able to master both types so you can perform them whenever you’re having a session.
There are many parts involved in the sport of kiteboarding but the initial launch is one of the most important. Without it, your kite won’t get the air it needs, and it can lead to very serious injury if done incorrectly.
All good kiteboarders should know the launching process and how to assist another rider with their launch, so we’re going to fill you in on the basics.
Can You Perform a Kiteboarding Launch Alone?
There are certainly ways to perform a kiteboarding launch on your own, but it’s always recommended to get some help if you can.
The launching and landing part of this sport is where most accidents occur but it can be easily avoided if you have some assistance.
The person assisting you doesn’t even need to be a skilled kiteboarder, though it does help, so you can ask a friend or family member or another person at the beach.
They’ll just need to help you get the kite in the air while you focus on other important parts of the launch, and having the extra set of eyes and hands can be hugely beneficial.
Performing a kiteboarding launch alone takes a lot of skill and practice to finesse and when done incorrectly, it can lead to danger. As you’ll be on your own there won’t be anyone to call for assistance, which is why most kitesurfers recommend against it.
However, there may be times when it’s a necessity so you should learn how to do it the right way to minimize this risk.
Preparing for a Safe Kite Launch
Regardless of the type of kite launch you plan on performing, there are standard safety checks that should be done beforehand.
No matter your skill level or how many times you’ve launched a kite in the past, you should never rush through these checks otherwise your risk of injury will be tenfold.
Do you feel fit and healthy?
Do you have enough energy for a kiting session?
Are there any pre-existing injuries or medical conditions you should be worried about?
Are you confident about your kitesurfing skills?
Have a detailed checklist to go over these parts of your gear and make sure to do them every time:
- Bar check: Do all of the parts work (leash/power/quick release)? Is there any visible damage?
- Line check: Are your lines attached correctly? Are they separated?
- Board check: Is there any visible damage? Are the straps adjusted correctly? Are the screws tight on the fins and strap?
- Kite check: Is there any visible damage? Is it the right size for the current conditions?
Kite spot checks
Have you spoken with other riders about what the conditions are?
Can you visualize the launching and landing areas?
Are there rescue systems available to you? Is there an emergency exit downwind you can use?
What is the current weather like?
What is the predicted weather forecast for today?
What are the wind conditions like now and in the forecast?
Rules and plan checks
Do you have a friend who knows where you are or who is assisting you with kiting?
Do you understand the local kiteboarding rules and the rules of the beach or area you’re in?
The Different Launching Methods in Kiteboarding
Now that it’s safe to launch and you have checked all of your gear, you’ll be able to prepare to head off.
These are some common terms used in kitesurfing about different types of launches and what each of them means for.
The Russian launch or Russian start is a common term in the world of kitesurfing.
This was coined back in the early 2000s when international surfing competitions and instructors noticed a trend with Russian kiters.
The Russians were willing to attempt a launch and fail without any practice, and so the term was coined. “Russian launch” is now used to describe the attempt, and subsequent failure, of a launch.
A tethered launch is another way to describe an unassisted kite launch.
If you’re confident enough in your skills, you can attempt an unassisted launch, but you should have someone supervising for your first time.
- Lay your kite out on the sand with the back down and trailing edge in the same direction of the wind.
- Pour enough sand onto the kite to hold it down and then pump up the kite and rig it so the lines are in an upwind position.
- Turn the kite with the leading edge down and at a 45-degree angle across the direction of the wind.
- Do another check of the kite lines to ensure there are no tangles.
- Attach your safety leash and then attach the chicken loop into the harness.
- Turn your kite bar 180 degrees and walk backward to tension the lines. Pull up the kite so that it catches the wind.
- As the kite collects air and starts to launch, ease the bar slightly so it touches the edge of the wind window.
Launching from a Boat
If you’re out at sea and want to launch from a vessel, it can be done best with a helper. Follow these steps to safely launch your kite from a boat for a unique experience:
- Roll up the bar and then roll up the kite.
- Pump the kite up while you’re on the boat.
- Have your helper hold the kite for you while you get into the water.
- Unroll the bar in the water and swim into the launching position.
- Have your helper launch the kite.
The assisted launch is the most common one used in kitesurfing and also the safest. If you’re a beginner kitesurfer then this is the only method you should be using.
There’s no need for your partner to be a skilled kitesurfer to assist but it can be helpful if they understand the various parts.
- The person kiting should attach their leash to the line fist so if the kite manages to escape it won’t drag down the beach.
- Your launching partner should turn the kite on its back and flip in the direction away from the kiter.
- The kiter now walks slightly downwind of the extreme edge of the wind window to create enough tension on the line. This can be seen by minimal to no flapping or movement in the wind.
- Have both the launcher and kiter inspect the lines for tangles before progressing.
- Connect the chicken loop to the spreader bar and walk upwind further until the kite is firm and tight.
- The kiter and launcher should perform a double check of the kite, line, and bars to make sure it’s ready to go.
- Once everything is ready, the kiter can give a thumbs up to the launcher to let go and start kiteboarding.
The launch process is an important part of the kitesurfing and also the one that comes with the highest rate of injury.
Whether you’re a beginner or expert kiter you should understand why it’s so important and what the potential risks are.
We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about launching a kite to give you a basic understanding.
What Winds Are Required to Launch a Kite?
In kitesurfing, the kite generally needs between 5 to 7 knots to launch a smaller kite, making this the best conditions for beginners to learn with.
A more experienced kiter will want the winds to be at least 10 knots to fly a kite due to the larger size of the kite.
What Size Kite Do I Need For Kiteboarding?
The size of the kite used for kiteboarding will depend on the wind conditions and the size of the kiter.
A rough guide is a 12-meter guide for riders weighing between 140 to 190lbs.
You can have a secondary kite as a backup for stronger conditions, and this is usually three meters bigger than your regular kite.