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After last week’s death of a Canadian kiter from a death loop (the second death loop fatality in Canada this year) I decided to pick your brains about this situation.
Any death loops (death spirals) you’ve experienced or heard about and the cause and potential corrective actions taken may help educate others.
My only death loop occurred soon after starting kiting. A line wrap developed on the kite tip, and with the kite in the water downwind I pulled the line to undo it. Slack developed on the control bar allowing it to flip 180 and when I released the line it wrapped the bar. The line wrap at the kite tip hadn't come off and the kite launched into a death loop. In open water I released the chicken loop and leash without adverse outcome.
Lesson learned: keep the control bar in the other outstretched hand during relaunch or dealing with a kite-tip line wrap, to prevent it from drifting around. If there's light wind and you need to pull more line in using both hands to get the kite moving around for relaunch, feed the line back out gradually to the control bar and check for a bar flip before releasing the line.
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I wrap a line under my bar as i boost the kite into the back window to give me many death loops propelling me upwards to incredible heights. Wrap the other line on the way down to unwind and land. Its about.. Hangtime.
Nobody cares aboot Canadians.
Although I've had many mishaps kiting, I've never encountered that situation...but it seems like you'd be wise to whip your hook knife out and start slashing
Practice your safety release and practice locating your knife. Be able to use either blindfolded.
I caught a gust during a water start and faceplanted, which happens every now and then to me as I just started riding.
However this time my body must have pushed the bar through the lines and made it flip. After grabbing the bar again the kite started looping.
I was lucky in many ways:
- I had a lot of room downwind
- The kite was low, so it did no pull me into the air
- The kite crashed during the second loop
- After pulling the quick release the kite still flagged out
I was able to untwist the bar in the water and get back riding. What worries me about this situation is that especially beginners like me are vulnerable to this, as faceplants are a common part of the learning process. So this just emphasizes how important it is to keep room downwind and practice pulling the quick release.
PS: I got it on video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZsDrS9Xa5M
I have had it happen. Most recently in the surf on the coast. Kite got tossed in the waves and bridle got snagged. I was unable to free it and ended up augered in trying to hold on the it because there was a family on the beach directly downwind. Had I punched out my kite would have wiped them out. I was about ready to try to move down the beach far enough to eject without hitting them when another kiter saw the situation and came and grabbed my kite.
That doesn't really answer your question of what to do. In general, when in doubt about your safety, let the kite go. It can be replaced!! If you have time and are safe, I have had success untangling wrapped lines by grabbing one at a time, starting with the one you THINK is wrapped. Grab it and pull line in and as the kite swings downwind on the 'wrapped' part it will sometimes work itself free. If you see that it is snagged on something on the kite you can sometimes jerk on the line hard a few times to get it to pop free. Not always, but often enough that I have saved many a swim.
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I know of three scenarios:
1) Bridle wraps around the back of the kite, making front tow points uneven => loop.
2) Steering Leader Line gets wrapped around the bar, making one steering line shorter than the other => loop.
Once you realize what is happening you can try to unwrap the bar, or try to steer the kite with the other leader line.
3) I saw this one; After crashing a jump, one side of the bar gets hooked into the hook on the spreader bar. The kiter went up higher than his kite and was in 5M conditions. This one scared the hell out of me after I watched this one, I rode the slingshot surefire spreader bar for a few seasons after witnessing this one.
For all of the above, once the kite finally crashes, the power is diminished giving you the ability to try to remedy the situation.
I have one scenario too, Notrh bar fully depowered in high winds, the velcro that supposed to hold the "depowered slack" doesn't actually do shit and that dongle flying all around wraps around your left or right line and tightens it up pretty good, it takes a few moments to realize why you can't steer the kite, if you wait for a few more moments - loop.
Here's a death loop caught on a GoPro caused by a bar wrap only. The wrap developed during a relaunch attempt, and at 0:38 you can see the wrap (he obviously notices it then from what he says). Notice the bar is locked fully powered and the uneven tension turns the bar into a kite looping position. He should have pulled the middle lines in above the bar to relieve pressure on the bar and depower the kite as soon as he saw that, then attempt to slide the bar into a depowered position, then try to undo the wrap. As it starts to launch, the next mistake he makes is releasing his chicken loop first before the leash, as the bar is then pulled into the looping position by the leash tension, whereas he could have steered it straight if he held the bar. He probably should have released his leash before attempting a fix when this close to shore.
Thanks for the link. That's actually a good lesson I never thought about. In my head the leash was always the last resort, but in situations like this it might be safer to release the leash first, before trying to fix anything. So in case something goes horribly wrong the quick release will set you free immediately.
I remember seeing another loop, this one user error:
-Kiter attaches leash to the wrong ring on the bar end (one ring is attached to the flying line of a steering line, the other ring is attached to the bar end, he attached his leash to the ring on the bar end). The kiter was overpowered and thought they were going to flag out the kite, instead they just put tension on one steering line => loop. The scenario was neutralized by me grabbing his kite while he was being dragged down the beach.
-Another scenario (I believe both mistakes happened to the one I witnessed above) is when the kiter attaches the leash in the wrong orientation. Now when they try to reach the eject, it is at the bar, and not within easy reach on their harness.
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