If you have ever wondered if you should wear a helmet when kiteboarding read this. Wearing a helmet when kiteboarding could save your life. Dozens of people have related their stories to us over the years, and they have been certain but for the helmet they would have been seriously injured or even died. The role of the helmet in any extreme sports is to protect the brain. Catastrophic brain injury occurs when a person gets a skull fracture exposing the brain or where bone fragments or other objects penetrate vulnerable brain tissue. The human skull is generally quite resilient and does a great job protecting our brains in normal everyday life. But any athlete or extreme sport enthusiast will push their bodies to higher limits. Whenever you add speed, you multiply the force exponentially. So if you double your speed you increase the force by the square, four times the force, if you triple your speed you have 9 times the force produced. That means that if you fall and hit you r head while jogging at 5mph, your skull can probably handle it, but what if you triple your speed to 15 mph, and now your skull has to deal with 9x that force. What about at 30 mph? At 30mph you are traveling at 6 times the speed of the jogger, and now if you fall on your head, your skull will be subjected to 36 times the force. It is just physics.
What situations can lead to head injury?
In any sport falling over is bad, if you fall backward and hit the back of your head, there is a thin layer of skull protecting it, it you fall on your face your nose and facial bones tend to absorb the impact, you may not be pretty, but your brain will not sustain the direct force. That is a simple fall, now in kiteboarding not all falls are simple.
Falling From a height:
When you fall from a height gravity accelerates your body earthward, and the farther you fall, the greater your speed at impact, so falling from a height increases the force of the fall. If you land on your head from a height you will be glad that you were wearing a helmet. You might ask how can I fall from a height whilst kiteboarding, well it is easy a launch gone wrong a jump too close to shore, or similar type event can launch you several meters up and then drop you like a stone. Getting lifted accidentally is so common in kiteboarding that is has it own name for it. It is called “lofting”. And accidental lofting is a major cause of serious injuries, and deaths. Of course you do not always fall on your head when you are lofted, sometimes you land feet first or on some other body part. The point is that you are out of control and most likely have little control of how you land.
Dragged into an object:
Getting dragged into an object is one potential danger that faces all kite-sports-men; snowkiters, landkiters, and kiteboarders. The kite can easily pull the rider along the ground or over any surface, the rider doesn’t have to be conscious, they can get dragged along indefinitely until they or the kite hit something. This situation has resulted in fatalities. Fatalities that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet. Many people have been dragged along the beach, along the parking lot, overland, or even in the water at some time or another. When this happens you usually travel head first and out of control. Most people only survive these situations out of good luck. If there is an obstacle in your path you can hit it head first at full force. This is where a helmet can be the only protection.
Even if you are a safe kiter and you do everything correctly, you still cannot account for the control the other kiters. Your safety depends on them because someone out of control upwind of you can easily get dragged into you. Even just standing on a kite launch spot minding your own business you could get taken out by someone else having a kitemare. You could get hit by their; kite, body, bar, lines, or board. You can get hit by the bar of a loose kite, or your kite could get suddenly tangled with another kite and you suddenly get dragged along out of control. Things like this happen all the time in kiteboarding.
And these situations are often beyond your control and happen faster than you can react.
Obviously good training helps in some situations, use of quick releases, safety margins, keeping away from sketchy riders, and keeping away from all obstacles. But these only reduce risk so much, there is still risk.
Known Risk factors:
If you know anyone who learned with a kiteboard leash, they will have several kitemares, and some near death stories of the board recoiling at their heads. Board leashes for kiteboarding have been banned and are not recommended for any form of recreational kiting. There were way to many head injuries and also a few fatalities attributed to the kiteboard leash and the board recoiling and causing fatal head injuries.
Even of you do not use a board leash the helmet, has many advantages, and has proven itself time and again.
Beginners and helmets:
Kiteboarding helmets are recommended for all kiters but especially for beginner kiters, beginners have very little kite control and can find themselves at high risk of accidents and injuries. All professional certified kiteboard instructors recommend using a kiteboard helmet when learning. In fact all kiteboard certification organizations require helmets to be used, and their school insurance requires it also, as on of the fundamental risk management practices of the school.
The right helmet:
Getting a good helmet is important. You need to have a helmet that you are comfortable with and has the correct fit. Purpose built kite helmets watersports (wakeboard) helmets are designed for water use. O to a kite store and try on all of the different helmets and find one that you will actually wear. Get used to wearing it and you will have an added margin of safety, and a longer life expectancy. Having a helmet doesn’t allow you to go crazy and take more risks but it should instill a sense of confidence for yourself and your loved ones.