Kitesurfing: New Rules of Navigation

Kitesurfing: New Rules of Navigation

This video has been on my mind forever. I know it's going to drive some of you crazy but it must be said. Different Rules of Navigation should be observed in flat water spots. Like a slick behind a sandbar, an island or a jetty. A buddy of mine Leo Chen put it best. It's not about possession of the spot. It's about thoughtful use of a rare resource.

Flat water is hard to come by and sought after for riders who are pushing their progression on the water. Love or hate this idea, I think we can all agree these spots should be shared in a way that everyone can enjoy and get a turn.

This is a complicated topic and every spot handles it differently. If you take nothing else from this video, It comes down to talking to the locals before you go out. A simple conversation and being considerate goes a long way.

I’m going to cover what I’ve observed over the years, I’ll share some insights from friends in different communities like the bay area. Hopefully this video will make more people aware of how we might be able to share these spots better and get some conversations started on the beach.

Classic kitesurfing crowd 

Why do We Crowd Together?

As kitesurfers we are free to ride anywhere but funny enough we tend to ride in crowded groups. It can get tricky because often kiters are jumping and doing tricks that require a lot of room downwind. I encourage you to spread out and give people room who are trying things. In these areas, the classic rules of Navigation apply and work well. Granted, if you want room to practice tricks, you'll want to find your own space. 

Flat Water Etiquette

In a slick, certain behaviors should be avoided at all costs. It's these areas we should abide by a different set of rules. These locations are hard to come by and sought after the same way surfers regard prime wave breaks. We should keep these areas clear and follow a rotation. There are certain things we should also avoid at all cost like short tacking or simply riding back and forth downwind of the landing zone.  

Short tacking

This is where two riders are coming at each other and one rider stops and goes the other way riding directly downwind of the other. This should be avoided at all cost as now the upwind rider can not do a trick without crashing into the downwind rider. Go with the flow and avoid riding directly downwind of someone else's line.

Solo set somewhere in Brazil

Hogging the Slick

It's tempting to dominate the slick and scare other riders out. It's much better to have a conversation with people on the beach and educate the new riders.  If you are new, observe the flow and take turns. For example, you can ride a bit slower behind someone and wait for them to do their trick before you do yours in the prime spot.

There is an entire ocean prime to tack back and forth 

Riding Back and Forth

If you want to cruise there is an entire ocean to do that in. Riding back and forth in a slick is kind of like hanging on in the prime section of a wave preventing the surfers from riding. If you’re hanging out just downwind of a slick, you're in a danger crash zone and preventing others from trying things. It's best to talk with the locals and observe the local flow if you want to ride in this specific area.

Shoutout to the Bay Area kiters! 

My buddy Tobias sent me a post from someone named Erik McGregor and I think he really nailed it. I’ve got to give a huge shout out to the Bay area kiters on this one. They are used to dealing with crowds and seem to have a solid system. I’ve seen this used in many other crowded spots like Brazil and I think we could all benefit from using a similar approach. 

You can see an animated version of the PSA in the video. Riders will form a queue just upwind of the flat water near the Jetty, sandbar or whatever might be creating the flat water. The Green area is the trick zone. Avoid tacking upwind in here or freeriding. It should be reserved for tricks.  

Riders will get into a rotation circuit that allows everyone to get a trick in on both tacks. You can see the natural flow here. The red X represents where to take off. The Blue X is where you will land and exit the slick. Follow the arrows upwind back into the queue. 

If the location is busy, there may be a line of people waiting. If its just a handful of kiters, you can get into a natural flow and ride continuously. 

Flat Water Rules of Navigation

Credit ( Eric McGregor)

  1. Acknowledge the flat water area as a special zone
  2. Enter from upwind of the area. Don’t tack up or ride back and forth in the trick zone
    1. You won't be able to see what's upwind of you and you will be jumping ahead in the queue of riders sharing the spot
  3. Stay clear of those in the trick zone. Give them the right of way to try their trick.
  4. Observe the rotation and get into the circuit outside of the trick zone.
    1. This is where it gets tricky. If the trick zone is small, there might be a few people waiting with parked kites. Hang out and wait your turn. If the spot is large or deep, people will just naturally tack way out. Usually far downwind of the zone or far upwind of the zone. Follow the flow of the spot.

Locals should decide

Ultimately it's on the individual to speak with the locals about the spot and learn the way its normally handled there. A quick conversation and being considerate goes a long way!

So to that end if you are just into carving around it would be more considerate to not ride directly downwind of these spots. It's not only dangerous but you're not reaping any benefits either. If you do want to rip the slick, observe the rotation and talk with the locals using the spot about guidelines. 

Most important, avoid riding downwind of riders and be considerate. 

Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic

Many people dream of quitting their job, traveling the world and pursuing their passions. Rygo is one of those people who pulled the trigger. A few years into his career, he decided to change everything and travel as a kiteboarder, freelance videographer & writer. His mission is to share the stoke & help people put the boarding into their kiteboarding. Get outside and kite!


Producer of: Ride with Blake I Sessions I Versus I Destinations I Foil Fridays

22nd Oct 2020 Rygo

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