You roll up to the beach, sunny, warm, sand racing across the land, palm trees classically blown-out, flags and windsocks pinned, a perfect side-off wind direction. Needless to say, any Kiteboarder will drool over these conditions. But complications arise quickly. Other riders cars are parked erratically, some to close to the waters edge, and with no organized system you roll your truck into the mess and add to the chaos. You locate some retail to rig and launch, but once on the water chaos and frustration abound. On your first tack out you dodge a beginner crashing, then swerve away from several intermediate riders focused so much on their tack that they do not see you. You think you are in the clear when an advanced rider drops in from above you like a bird of prey, whooping and hollering to watch out for his landing zone. You move evasively away and before you can catch your breath the gauntlet closes in around you again.
This scene sound familiar? If it is, I know how you feel. But there is hope, with a little friendly persuasion we can all enjoy the space we need to progress without clutter.
First issue to address is parking logistics. Everybody can park in a line parallel to the water at least 500 feet away from the waters edge, and equal distances between each other. This creates a zone between the cars and the launch site to pump and rig. It is easy to achieve this parking plan if you simply ask the first few arrivals to make a good example. Once the example is set other people will follow suit. The majority of chaos however is on the water, not in the parking lot.
With all of the riders mixed together it looks like a chaotic symphony, much like a bee hive. But inside a bee hive there is organization; warriors, workers, nurses, and other bees are performing different tasks in the same space, and there are little collisions as far as I know. In order to live harmoniously amid chaos, like our Bee friends, we must delegate space requirements. Areas where riders of similar skill levels can push each other, and learn from one another without unnecessary risk. This is what I suggest, and the logistics behind why.
Lessons: schools should be located downwind from recreational riders at all times. Students and instructors have special needs depending on what level the lesson is operating at. Beginner lessons are focused on Kite control and Safety systems. These lessons require sufficient room for a student to fly the kite, over the water, on both sides of the window, at at least thigh deep water. For this lesson the instructor has a fair amount of control over the space the student takes up. However, lessons for body drags, water-starts, and first rides are harder to control. Students at this stage typically go downwind, spend lots of time with the kite in the water, and still make unpredictable turns and spectacular crashes. If the student is located downwind from other riders, then there is no risk of colliding with a rider who is downwind from your student. So lessons and schools, please bring your students downwind from the crowd. Its less stressful for all.
Beginners and Intermediates: This group should stay to stay upwind from the lessons going on downwind. This group is the largest at any Kite beach, and describes to occupy most of the water real estate that has easy access to the launch / landing zone. They should also have access to shower water if available. Why? You no longer have an instructor to insure your safety and keep you relaxed. So mistakes happen. When these mistakes happen having access to shallow water and the landing zone keeps beginners relaxed, and that keeps them progressing. Beginners and intermediaries also benefited from being surrounded by riders of the same skill level. They learn from watching one another how to transition, and pass other riders on the water, and develop the all important "early action" strategy to keep plenty of room on the water.
A note for learners: when two kites are going to cross paths on the water there is one proper way to do so. The Upwind rider leaves the kite high, and the downwind rider brings the kite low. That is all.
Advanced and Professional: Riders at this level tend to focus on learning new tricks. Learning a new trick takes time, patience, perseverance, and above all, plenty of water space. Sometimes one area of water is better than others for throwing tricks. Just make other riders aware of these areas so that beginners know to avoid that space. As an advanced rider you can remember back to your days as a beginner. Remember how hard it is to learn with people jumping all around you? I do. So as an advanced rider you must take on the responsibility to stay out of a less skilled riders way. It is easier for us to dodge, charge upwind and downwind, and fix Kite-mares. So be the bigger rider, stay away from beginners when you throw down. If you must show off for the crowd, make sure the landing zone is going to be clear, and that nobody will be cut off by your maneuver.
Other water Enthusiasts: As Kite boarders we know that our sport takes up space, but we are usually not the only enthusiasts at the beach. We share space with windsurfers, kayaks, stand up paddle boarders, boat traffic, fishermen, and a myriad of other water enthusiasts. But as the kite pilot you must always assume that other water enthusiasts have no idea what kiteboarding is, or how it works. Because they do not know the danger, it is once again our responsibility to keep everyone else safe, and not just ourselves. So keep clear away from these foreign water enthusiasts, stay downwind from fishermen, kayaks, boats, and windsurfers who are playing in the same area. Never approach another person on the water with less than two kite line lengths between you and them.
Thank you, and let keep our sport safe and unrestricted.