Test : self launching/landing methods

The art of solo kitesurfing, including launching and landing, is part of these good old riders' debates. As well as wearing a helmet (good idea according to us) or using a furling board leash (bad idea according to us), these passionate discussions regularly animate forums and kite spots. Everyone is convinced of his or her method, starting from the disastrous principle: "I've never had an accident yet, so it works". Everyone probably forgets the few episodes where it almost ended badly.
We tested each of these methods without bias, in light and strong winds, in different orientations, on different types of ground, with riders of different levels.
Each one was evaluated in detail and then, we looked at the risks/advantages/disadvantages.

Method N°1 : snatch Take-off / Landing

Snatch take off and landing

Probably the most used method because it is the simplest, no accessories are required. It consists in taking off the wing alone and without any fixed point. It is very well described in Philippe Ancelin's One Launch Kiteboarding tutorials, which clearly reminds us of the limits in terms of safety. 

Risks at takeoff

As it glides over the ground, the kite meets a shell or a slightly sharp rock. Light version, the leading edge dacron is just notched. Severe version, in addition to the dacron, the main latex strut pushes a huge Pchiiiiit of relief. Cost to repair the Dacron by a pro, between 50 and 120€. 
The rider makes a piloting mistake or the lines are tangled or get caught on an obstacle (a branch of a few cm stuck in the sand is enough), the kite takes off in the middle of the window. The rider gets ripped off.

Risks on landing

In order to ground the kite, the rider has to grab one of the front lines and walk a few meters towards the kite; one of the relaxed back lines takes advantage of this to make a turn behind the bar, the kite takes off again with a gust and goes kitelooping. The rider gets ripped off.
When landing or taking off, there are two perspectives for the rider being ripped off by his kite. Light version, he is gently lifted and dragged on the spot. Severe version, he ends up as a tomato crushed on the dike or the road to the port. The risks are obviously proportional to the wind strength. At 15 - 20 knots, they will essentially be limited to a damaged wing or a few bruises, above 25 knots, a serious accident is an option to be seriously considered. We approach the subject here in a relaxed manner, but we must not forget that this type of accident has sometimes resulted in the death of the rider. 

Method N°2 : existing still points

In view of the risks of the "snapshot formula", it is probably more reasonable to study still-point methods. If the point in question already exists, this is relatively simple and safe. The still point can be a tree, a pole, a buoy, a car coupling, etc. Two conditions have to be validated:

  • The still point must be sufficiently resistant to traction...
  • The area downwind of the point must be sufficiently large and unobstructed.

From there, the rider uses his kite leash to connect the still point to his chicken loop and starts the launching maneuver. On paper, this method is far preferable to the dog pole or Ikea bag. However, in practice it poses a number of problems, some of which are unacceptable:

  • Most kite leashes of major brands (Cabrinha, North, F-One, etc.) are equipped with a carabiner at one end and a release system at the other end which does not allow the still point to be connected to the chicken loop. These kite leashes are therefore simply not suitable.

  • Then, even if the leash has a carabiner at each end, using it for a solo takeoff / landing will take a lot of the stress out of it. The technique implies that when the rider stalls the leash to retrieve it, it will be the only link to the kite. If a problem occurs at this stage (if it happens from time to time in the takeoff / landing phases) and the rider has to release the leash, the kite is orphaned and goes directly towards the street lights or the harbour road .

Method N°3 : Dog or umbrella pole

The famous pole... Cheap, dog poles are available for a few euros in all good pet shops. A little more posh but not much more expensive, the umbrella pole will be found in all good hardware stores. The pole is not expensive, but dangerous. Its main problem is that its resistance depends on the nature of the ground. In a compact soil, no problem at first sight, in coarse sand, it loosens without warning. In short, in soils where it would hold well, it is difficult to sink and vice versa. And you can imagine a kite that goes around with, at the end, the pole flying in all directions... Not good for the rider, not good for the other users of the spot, not good for the negotiations with the mayors to keep the spot open. To be proscribed, because the solo takeoff / landing cannot rely on a system that usually holds and sometimes lets go.

For information, there are more elaborate systems of stakes, more important in size and diameter, they look like augers. We have not tested them because we couldn't find them on the market, but in any case, they suffer from two big disadvantages: firstly the manufacturing cost, secondly, even if your brother-in-law is an ironmonger, the size of the machine. Unless you have a commando formation, it is hard to imagine having to carry, in your bag, an auger 50cm or more long and ending with a helical spearhead .

Method N°4 : weighted bag

It's time to get out the old shopping bags, Ikea, Casto or Carrefour. You'll find some in the back of the garage next to the umbrella pole...
Even cheaper than the picket, this system is perhaps the least bad of the DIY methods.
2 major disadvantages however :

  • To be reliable in a sustained wind, count at least 60 to 100kg of load. Possible with a shovel, but you have to carry it in addition to everything else. Without a shovel, difficult to play with. Here, supporters of the method explain that even if the bag is not loaded enough, it will be "just dragged" on the spot... It's true, this is called the sack race.

  • The strength of the bag. Even rubble bags are not designed to take the power of a kite mistakenly taking off in the middle of a window. If it gives way (usually at the handles), your kite wins another free ride to the hawthorn bushes or the harbour road.

Method N°5 : buried Twin-Tip

We will not dwell too much on the method of the buried Twin-Tip, which remains the domain of hazardous experience. Burying a 140x41cm board correctly in compact sand is a challenge on the same level as burying a corpse with your bare hands. Then, once the kite is launched, unless you are a no-foot pro, you have to dig up the board with one hand. Finally on the way back for landing, you should always bury it with one hand...

Is that reasonable?

Method N°6 : buried base / KiteHook

The system of the buried base (KiteHook) is simple. It consists of a plate (the base) equipped with 2 ropes (leashes). The base is used to dig in the sand and serves as an anchor point at the bottom of the hole which is then plugged.
The main leash connects the base to the chicken loop, the secondary leash makes it easy to unbury and store the whole thing.

Tests quickly showed the superiority of this method in terms of reliability, i.e. its ability to withstand the pull of a kite during take-off and landing. This is explained by the fact that the principle of the KiteHook is based on the resistance to pull out (pole principle) and the resistance of the counterweight (bag principle) to which is added the anchoring phenomenon.

The KiteHook has also imposed itself by its other strong points to the use:

  • Easy to carry in a kite bag thanks to its limited weight and size,

  • Quick to set up thanks to the base serving as a shovel,

  • Versatile because it can be used in sand, pebbles or on an existing fixed point.

The disadvantages include:

  • The KiteHook being a product specially designed for kitesurfing, it is obviously more expensive than a dog pole or an Ikea bag.

  • It cannot be used on hard ground such as a lawn or a parking lot, but this remains a lesser problem because it is relatively easy to find an existing fixed point that can be used with the main leash.

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