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Kiteboarding: Rules of Navigation | "Ride With Blake"

Posted by Blake Olsen on

Yes, These are the rules...but you should know that not every kiter follows them or knows what they are!  

If you see someone who doesn’t seem to know what they are doing, just kindly inform them of what you have learned from this video. 

Safety is Key! 

Don’t expect other kiters to get out of your way.  You can tell by watching their kite movement as they approach you, if they are going to give you respect or not. 

If you have any questions, give us a call 800 622 4655


Printable Reference for the Rules of Navigation


Entering The Water

As you launch your kite and are heading out, you have the right of way. The most dangerous part of kiteboarding is when you are launching and landing your kite. Don’t launch your kite if someone is trying to come down but once the area is clear, put your kite up and head out towards the water. The person heading towards the beach needs to give way to you so that you can safely get out on the water. Use your best judgment.


Once You Are On The Water

Who has the right of way? Well, think of this as a food chain of respect. The person at the top of the food chain has to be the most respectful to the others because they have the most power and can move the fastest in any direction.

Top of the food chain is a motor boat or a jet ski, they can go anywhere they want and are not reliant on wind. 

Secondly come the foilboarders.  They have a lot of power and can pretty much go in any direction almost into the wind. They should give way to the less fortunate ones who are fighting to stay upwind. 

Then comes the Kiteboarders. They can move quickly and turn on a dime, so they should give way to the windsurfers, sailboats, paddle boarders, surfers, divers, swimmers and everything else. 

You get the idea, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Windsurfers and surfers are the ones you encounter most on the water and want to make sure to give them proper respect and stay a safe distance away. 

Also beginner kiters have the right of way over experienced kiters.  We were all there once and need to try and help them out. You are the one in control of the power and everyone else is at your mercy, so be respectful!

This also applies to slower vessel. Give way to the slower kite or vessel on the water.


Upwind / Downwind Kite 

The upwind kiteboarder should maintain a controlled course and raise their kite.

The downwind kiter should lower their kite and head slightly downwind to create a safe passing distance.

When two kiters are on the same tack, the kiteboarder that's upwind gives way to the kitesurfer downwind.

Port / Starboard 

This is the proper, lawful terminology that you learn in any boaters safety course and it’s good to know. So if you ever encounter Coast guard or a Marine Patrol boat these are the terms you’d want to use.

Starboard (traveling to the right) must maintain a steady course with the kite high.

Kitesurfer on a port tack (left hand forwards) must yield right of way, which is typically lowering your kite and going downwind...however it's the person on the starboard tack that decides where he or she wants to go

**That doesn't mean that if you're downwind you shouldn't watch out for the rider upwind - not everyone knows these rules!**

Windward / Leeward 

Windward (upwind) rider has the right of way and should put the kite high and maintain a steady course.

Leeward rider or the downwind rider should give way to the windward rider and head slightly downwind and put kite low.

When two kitesurfers are passing each other riding in opposite directions

  • upwind kiteboarder must keep their kite high,
  • kiteboarder downwind must keep their kite low.

In the surf, kitesurfers riding a wave have the right of way...except when the other person is leaving the shore.

When you're riding behind someone, stay vigilant as they might not look back before maneuvering

Above all, always assume that the other person might not know the rules, so stay wary of them.