The Importance of a By-Pass, or Safety, Leash
by Jake Mitchell
When new to the sport of kiteboarding, there are certainly a lot of different things to learn and consider! However, one thing that can very easily be overlooked by first-time kite surfers is the importance of a by-pass leash, often called a safety leash. That small, rudimentary piece of equipment is a very important safety feature, effectively giving you a fail-safe in the event something goes wrong. The by-pass leash will keep you attached to your kite when you unhook, either purposefully or by accident. There is nothing worse, or potentially dangerous, than having to chase after a rogue kite, especially with many other people around. On many kitesurfing kites, it also connects to a safety feature on the bar that will automatically depower your kite. It is important to identify the proper connection point on the bar, however, and is something that should be properly investigated before flying a new kite. Safety leashes also come standard with a release on the back where they connect to the harness, in the event you need to jettison the kite.
Some manufacturers have rings or loops on the steering lines where the leash can be attached. This method has been around since nearly the beginning of kiteboarding, and generally allows for full depower. It does make the bar harder to spin when recovering however, and can lead to tangled lines. Often, the attachment point found on the bar is designed as the preferable safety leash attachment location.
The term "suicide leashing" is sometimes used, and references when the leash is hooked to the chicken loop. When performing unhooked tricks, this will prevent the kite from fully depowering in a crash, making it easier to relaunch the kite and give it another pass. On kites that offer a safety ring attached to a depowering line, the leash can be hooked through both that and the chicken loop. If the safety then later needs to be invoked, the kite will still depower with the release of the chicken loop. This attachment method should be only employed by experienced kite surfers.