Kitesurfing Self Rescue & deep water Packdown


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There are many reasons, such as equipment failure or an accident on the water, that may require you to do a self rescue and water pack down. The ability to self rescue and pack down your kite allows you to regain control in undesirable situations and is an essential skill for any kiteboarder.

While you’re kitesurfing, it is highly likely that you will push your limits from time to time. As such, you will certainly need to be extremely good at this technique. Sometimes it is not up to us if something bad happens. The fault may be another persons error or equipment failure. Knowing how to do Self Rescue and perform it fast might save your life and your equipment.

The question you must ask yourself is; if you were kiting in overhead depth water and came into a tricky situation such as serious injury, equipment failure or collision would you know how to self rescue and get back to land?

If the answer is no; watch this video. If the answer is yes; watch it anyway, as a reminder never did any harm.

As a kitesurfer, you must know how to perform self rescue and water pack down and be confident in doing them when needed. It is an important, yet neglected, skill and you should practice this as much as possible. The excellent way to do it is once you already finished your session, it will take only an extra 30 min to practise it. Don’t forget that we need to be able to perform this when we are in danger and sometimes panic doesn’t help, so we should know this technique by heart.

How to do a deep water self rescue

If you need, take a little recap of your kites 3-step safety systems before you go through the steps to self rescue.

#1 Use your kite bars quick release so the kite can flag out and drop. Wait till the kite drops and rests downwind with tension only in the safety line. You will have 1 front line much shorter than the other 3 lines so that it is not possible for the kite to catch the wind and fly.
Float on your belly not resisting the current or wind. Note: that the harness leash should be still attached to the safety line at the bar.

#2 Using a hand-over-hand motion, pull yourself along the safety line to reach the bar. Make sure that the safety line is floating to the side of your body and doesn’t get wrapped around you.

Step 3 - wrap the safety line around the bar

#3 When you reach the bar, hold the safety line tightly with one hand. Use your other hand to reach out for the float bringing the bar float, bar grip and chicken loop together (it doesn’t matter on which side of the bar). Holding the bar with one hand and the safety line in the other, you can now wrap the floating safety line tightly around the bundle (float, bar, chicken loop). You will need to secure the safety line with a half hitch knot. To do this, twist the lines around themselves to create a hitch and pass it over the bar end.

#4 Once you have wrapped most of the safety line around the bar you will need to secure the line again. The last 1m of safety line should be used to secure the bundle. Use another half-hitch knot and pass this over the bar end to secure the line and prevent it from unravelling.

#5 Once you have secured the safety line , you can then move to gather the rest of the kite lines floating around. You will do this by using a Figure of Eight packing technique (the same technique used at the end of your session). Make sure that you take all lines in hand  as you wrap the bar in a Figure of Eight motion. Do not leave any lines out of the wrap. It is vital that the shortened line remains shorter than all others as you approach the kite.

A Figure of Eight technique is used so the lines get less tangled and more manageable to sort out when you get back from your self rescue.

#6 When you have finished wrapping the rest of the lines, use the leftover of your safety line to secure the lines with at least two more half-hitch knots. You should now have a wrapped bar and be next to the kite.

#7 Now, that you can reach the kite, follow the lines to either wing tip. At this stage, you will have to flip the kite around. The easiest way to do it in deep water is to put the kites leading edge on your shoulder, while you sink the wing tip. As you put pressure on the wing tip of the kite the wind will fill the kite and help you to tip it over.

#8 At this point, depending on the conditons, you will be able to return to shore by self rescue method or will need to wait for help.

Onshore wind self rescue

'Sailing' technique

In an onshore wind you can use your kite as a sail to return to shore. Start by resting on the leading edge of the kite. Grab either the self rescue handle or bridle of the shore side end of the kite and pull on it so that it can catch the wind. You will start to drift to shore. The closer your body is the opposite wingtip, the more the kite will pull downwind. If  your body is closer to the centre strut, the kite will pull slower and with a broader reach.  

Please note that this technique is only used in cross-shore/onshore winds and will move you towards the beach very very slowly; therefore it’s only really useful if you are not far away from the beach.

The below-highlighted technique, or what is also called off-shore or deepwater pack down, is the one that you will use the most.

Offshore wind - deep water pack dows

When the wind is offshore, and you got in trouble, this is the best technique to use. If the wind is relatively strong, every minute your kite stays, inflated you will be drifting away from the shore. 

However, if you require a safety boat or if you are not sure if anyone is coming to your rescue, you should stay floating inside your kite as you wait. The upside-down kite in the water and the rider floating means that you are in trouble, others will be able to see you better and get you help.

Only deflate your kite and pack it down when you are confident you can swim the distance or a boat/rescue is there to pick you up.

How to perform a deepwater pack down, once your lines are wrapped, and you reached your kite:

  1. Check that your strut clips are closed so that they stay inflated.
  2. Deflate the leading edge being careful to hold the valve above water. Squeeze the air out of the leading edge and close the valve again after to keep water out.
  3. Roll each wingtip into the centre strut and tuck your bar next to the strut. 
  4. Wrap your leash around the kite to create a bundle. 


If you are at the swimming distance to the beach, this “bundle’ will act as a float, and if you still have your board (or can swim to it) just put the kite on top of the board, lean over the pile like a surfer and paddle back to shore.

Remember; in order to rescue you, the other kitesurfer or the boat driver needs to stay away from your lines, so they don’t wrap around them or the boat propellor and don’t let them approach you until it is safe for both you and them. 

When your kite is completely packed you can be dragged to the beach by other kiteboarders (holding onto their harness) or is saved by boat, lift your kite with the leading edge first so the water can drain out.


Sorting your lines after self rescue

You’ve done your self rescue and maybe even a deep water packdown. Now you’ll need to undo it all when you get back to the beach. You’ll want to sort your lines as soon as possible and assess the kite and lines for any wear or damages. Take your time, and we cannot emphasise this enough; DO NOT disconnect your lines from the kite before unwrapping them.

1. Keep the lines attached with the kite until you complete all the steps.

2. Lay the kite down and open on the ground with the struts facing upwards, as if ready to pump it for your session.

3. Take the bar and reverse all your steps downwind. Start with the taking out the final half hitches. You will then unwrap the figures of eight removing each half hitch as you reach it.

4. Once all the lines are loose, walk the bar even more downwind and till the safety line feeds back through the bar and the lines are straight and tight.

5. The line may be slightly twisted, in this case just spin the bar around till they are straight again.

6. If the tangle is more severe, walk the lines from the bar to the kite (just like for the set up). Once you reach the kite disconnect the lines and move them to correct places.

7. Pack your lines and kite just like after a regular session.

We all have adventurous stories to tell about our attempts to do the self rescue. Leave your story in the comments below!

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