Disaster averted

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Disaster averted

Postby rowboat » Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:06 pm

I had a little mishap the other day that I think it's important to share. I'm a very experienced kiter, and yet I got into a situation that could have been really ugly. I think it's important to share these experiences in the interest of avoiding repeats of any sort - and also to, well, take my lumps honestly.

As many of us know, the main beach at Crissy is currently closed, so we are all launching from the adjacent parking lot. I was excited, got into a rush and rigged quickly, and launched my kite while standing on the asphalt, with the kite over hard surfaces as well. As soon as the kite was in the air I could tell I was dangerously overpowered. I danced my way forwards, doing my best to control the kite at zenith, skipping barefoot towards a 3' stone wall. I got briefly yarded a couple of feet into the air towards a car coming through the parking lot, and managed to steer myself between the car and a stone planter box back onto the ground. Several people started yelling at me to "not fuck this spot up for the rest of us," while one calm-headed true friend approached quietly and helped me depower the kite to the point that it was normally controllable.

Here's why this happened: I have two types of kites, and the pigtails on each are the opposite of each other. That is, the rear pigtails on one type of kite are loops, on the other, they are knots. Of course the front lines are the same (reversed). I have one bar that is usually set up for one set of kites, and vice versa. That day I rigged the "other" bar onto the kite with loops on the rear lines, which required switching the pigtails on the lines.

(I did that because I was thinking I might swap kites with other riders that day, and the bar that I have set up for the kites I usually ride doesn't have a normal hook, etc. –- but that doesn't much matter. Both bars will work with both sets of kites if the trim is adjusted properly.)

Perhaps you can guess what happened... I failed to check and adjust the trim on the bar before launching, and so I ended up with an extra 6-8 inches of front lines on the bar/kite that I launched, meaning that I was fully/over powered when sheeted out and still powered/backstalling when sheeted in at all. The kite was very, very difficult to control in the configuration.

I could have been badly injured. I managed to escape that through a combination of delicate kite handling and the assistance of one person who saw what was happening and acted quickly and calmly to help.

Reflections on the experience:

1) I won't ever launch on/over hard surfaces again. That was the first and last time doing that.
2) Rushing often leads to errors, perhaps especially for more experienced / confident riders.
3) I have a very particular setup, and while a checklist might work for some, the best system is a system you don't have to think about, which is why riding matching gear is an easy win.
4) I do have my bars labeled for the two types of kites that I ride, and although they can be trimmed either way, the safe thing to do is simply stick with the matching set.
5) Panic is a bitch. I wasn't blinded by it, but it's notable that my first thought wasn't to depower the kite - I was occupied with other reactions. I may well have arrived at that solution myself in time, or not.
5) If I see someone in trouble, I will move first to assist, and reserve my advice on their actions for later.

Big thanks to Stefaans for the assist.
-- Lose the Handles
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Re: Disaster averted

Postby yojimbo » Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:36 pm

Glad you posted this. I have the same issue, 3 different kites and one bar. One kite has knots on all the pigtail attachment points, the other two its half and half. I ended making knots on all my pigtails, thus avoiding any confusion and delay in rigging.

Having loops on bridle pigtails must be a relatively new thing, and obviously leads to mayhem. Not sure why manufactures decided to do this but its really dangerous.

Use to have 2 bars as well, but I stopped doing that once I realized I could just have one bar for all my kites. My bar is adjustable but I only use it on its widest setting, I think 50cm, which I particularly like on my 7 and 9 m kites as it really helps the kites turn faster IMHO.

As an experienced kiter as well, I have also had my share of near disasters. I once anchored a new bar to a 200 lb picnic table. I had my 7m rigged. The stopper thing had a screw in it and it came from the factory totally tight , and close to the bar. I let go of the kite, and it immediately goes to 12, taking the picnic table with it. The table must have gone 10' into the air. It could have landed on somebody or crashed into a car. Fortunately it landed in the sand and missed everything and the kite crashed in the parking lot. I felt like such a jackass, but realized that I was very, very lucky that nothing bad happened.
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Re: Disaster averted

Postby OliverG » Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:08 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience. Big ups to Stefaans who stepped up to help you calmly steer the situation to a safe ending. I'm sorry to hear others responded in an alternate way - you could have been badly injured.
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Re: Disaster averted

Postby Aloha » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:34 am

I've been launching from Fisherman's Wharf since Crissy's been shut down - is there a better place to be launching?

What is the parking lot adjacent to the main lot?
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Re: Disaster averted

Postby Tony Soprano » Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:14 pm

Crissy beach is OPEN, you just need to walk in, parking across the frontage road.

No need to hazard yourself at the steps/first chance beach were this occurred.

The Season is over with a small chance of riding some days with appropriate gear and experience.

Terrible time of year to come to Crissy for the first time.

I am glad Bowen is ok, the wind held out for the three days of foiling races, will be dead for the rest of the week.
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Re: Disaster averted

Postby le noun » Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:37 pm

Aloha wrote:I've been launching from Fisherman's Wharf since Crissy's been shut down - is there a better place to be launching?


No better place.
On the plus side: you get to have In&Out burgers just after your session (but don't walk on the embarcadero with your kite at 12, you'll get yelled at).
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Re: Disaster averted

Postby Ron » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:44 pm

Thanks for sharing. Same thing here, experienced kiter and i had a couple of similar experiences which have been resolved by "taking it easy". My main issue was rushing my set up: too excited about the session and trying to get as quick as I can on the water, just stupid. You don't need to take a lot more time but for me what works it to set up my gear calmly and do a quick mental check prior to lauching. You just need to control that adrenaline kickin-in especially when the conditions are great and you can't (but have to) wait to get out there!
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Re: Disaster averted

Postby peta » Tue Oct 15, 2013 2:11 pm

+1 on the rushing. Same thing here experienced but bad stuff happened because of rushing. I have a very set routine, always doing it exactly the same way. The only thing so far that has screwed me up when I rush it and I have skipped steps of the routine.
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Re: Disaster averted

Postby jwest21 » Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:06 pm

I've luckily not had any incidents that endangered me by rushing to get on the water, but I did show up to Alameda my first season with some great winds and rushed to get out on the beach and setup. While staring at the fun everyone was having, I flew open my kite bag and tore a hole down my canopy with the zipper. Still got out after hunting down some sail tape from a friendly rider (I now always carry some with me), but lost so much more time than just taking it slow and setting up right.

Glad you came out of your kitemare safely.
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Re: Disaster averted

Postby More Waves Please » Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:22 pm

Hang glider and paraglider pilots stress to set up exactly the same way every single time you rig. Whatever your routine, do it the same way every time - from unpacking kite, to laying out and untangling lines to the order in which you connect your lines to the kite. After a while, you can set up and go really quickly without thinking too much about it.

I'm surprised to hear so many rider have different kites and bars in their quiver. That by itself can lead to problems (as some of you have experienced). I ride with one bar that works with all 3 of my kites. No chance of grabbing the wrong bar or reversing lines. I guess that's another benefit of sticking with the same brand of kite throughout your quiver.
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