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Riding in a Crowd

Sept 11, 2006

Author: Trip Forman

Riding in a crowd can be a challenge for emerging intermediate riders. Here are some tips and “rules of the road” that will make riding in a crowd easier and more fun.

Riding in a crowd is normally preceded by rigging at a crowded launch site. When you’re rigging at a crowded site, do so quickly and efficiently while taking up a minimal amount of space. This saves space for other riggers and clears the beach for incoming and outgoing riders. It’s a good idea to double check your lines to make sure they are attached properly.

Launching and landing
Too often I’ve seen a crowded beach and water scene with nobody offering to launch or land kites. There is no excuse for turning your head to incoming riders. Have an open eye and ear for people who need assistance launching and landing. It could be you on the other end of the lines.

On and off the beach
Riders launching and leaving the beach have the right of way over riders already on the water and coming into the beach to land. This is a simple rule to understand when you consider that the launching rider is now flying his kite on land and is more exposed to danger since land is harder than water. If you’re riding toward the beach for a landing and see someone launch his kite and head toward the water, give him the right of way and let him enter the water before you attempt to land your kite.

Right foot forward
Once on the water, if you find yourself in the path of an oncoming rider, the rider with his right foot forward has the right of way. This comes from the starboard-tack rule in sailing. The right-foot-forward rider should hold his course, allowing the left-foot-forward rider to alter his course to avoid the right-foot-forward rider. The left-foot-forward rider can avoid the right-foot rider by riding downwind, upwind, or simply changing directions and riding away.

Downwind riders

The downwind rider always has the right of way. This is easy to understand because this rider usually has his back turned to the upwind rider and cannot see him. If you’re riding in the same direction, the upwind rider must avoid the downwind rider at all costs.

Kite high, kite low
In all passing situations, the upwind rider should keep his kite high, while the downwind rider keeps his kite low. This holds true for both kiting in the same or converging directions. This avoids kite tangles and potentially dangerous situations.

Slower riders
While passing a rider going in the same direction, the rider being passed has the right of way because he is looking forward and cannot see the rider coming up on him. If you are the rider doing the passing, give way to the slower rider by either riding well upwind with your kite higher, downwind with your kite lower, or simply changing directions and riding away.

Cock block
“Cock block” is slang for not obeying the above rules, getting in people’s way, and in general being a nuisance to other riders. When riding in a crowd, follow the rules of the road as well as the vibe on the water. Give way to others whenever you can, whether you need to or not. This is the equivalent of giving other surfers waves in a crowded lineup. Nobody likes to ride with a rider who cock blocks everyone.

I’m a buoy!

If you find yourself confused by who has the right of way, or on a converging course with a rider who obviously doesn’t know who has the right of way either, then slow down, come to a stop and put the kite directly above your head. I call this “being a buoy.” By stopping and standing still, you put the onus on the other rider to give way to you. It can be a slow, frustrating manoeuvre but will prevent a collision or kite tangle.

Crowd circuits
The final stage to riding in a crowd involves riding in tight quarters while focusing on one manoeuvre zone. This type of riding scenario can be found in areas that have a focused trick zone like Kite Beach in Maui or Kite Point in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The manoeuvre zone is normally a sheltered flatwater area where riders throw their tricks in optimal conditions. In this scenario, you’ll see a crowd circuit or NASCAR lap setup in which riders ride in a giant oval formation to keep a clean path for the manoeuvre zone.
Before entering this circuit, study the path and where you should be riding. Normally, tricks are thrown on the upwind side of the oval; riders transition away riding well downwind of incoming riders and then transition on the outside and return to the manoeuvre zone. Following this path is crucial to maintaining the circuit’s smooth flow. If you can’t keep in the line of the circuit due to an inability to control your rig, you don’t understand the circuit path. If you keep falling and getting in the way, it is your obligation to stay clear of this circuit and let the other riders enjoy their session. Stay outside the circuit, practise your riding, manoeuvres, control and relaunches until you have sufficient ability to enter this rotation.

Riding in a crowd is inevitable. Quality riding spots are getting increasingly popular, naturally driving the crowds and the associated riding tension to these areas. Adhering to the above rules of the road, having common sense and giving way when possible will go a long way to making a crowded session a fun and rewarding one both on and off the water.

Trip Forman is cofounder of Real Kiteboarding in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. For more tips and videos on these topics, check out Real’s Joyride instructional DVD at your local kite shop or

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