Anyone who has kitesurfed North Norfolk’s beaches knows they are among the safest and most beautiful in the country.
Kitesurfing is a very environmentally friendly sport and those who pursue it generally have a deep understanding and respect for mother nature.
Please take time to read these club safety guidelines before heading to the beach.
Stop! Before you go anywhere near the beach are you properly insured? Every kitesurfer in this country should have 3rd party liability insurance from either the BKSA or from a recognised provider. The insurance is very cheap and covers you for damages to 3rd parties to the value of £5m. There is no excuse for not having adequate insurance.
Launching an oversize kite for the conditions can have serious consequences before you’ve even got near the water.
If you’re going to ask someone who’s already been out ‘what size are you on?’ – just bear in mind their weight, ability level and whether they are the sort of person who likes to ride ‘maxed out’. Best advice is to go with a smaller size and change up later if necessary.
Remember also – you’ve got a depower strap! The most dangerous time for a kitesurfer is the transition to and from the water. Make sure you’ve pulled in your depower strap while on land, then power back up once safely in the water.
Also check the forecast before going out – is the wind forecast to pick up or change direction later? Forewarned is forearmed.
Over the years – launching of the kite has often proved to be one of the most ‘high-risk’ procedures. Good habits to get into include:
- Think about your launch spot. Most of our beaches have agreed launch/land areas. Please use them. Ensure there is nothing downwind of you (rocks, groynes etc.). If a passer by is walking downwind of your kite please wait for them to pass. They will not understand the danger of their position so it is up TO YOU to avoid them.
- Use the agreed hand-signals to your assistant rather than shouting instructions – i.e. ‘thumbs-up’ for launch, ‘throat-cutting motion’ for cancel / do not launch.
- Always have one hand ready on your quick release mechanism during launch – and if anything seems wrong while launching – USE IT!!!
- Distance is your friend. Whether it’s hard-obstacles, fellow kiters or other beach users downwind of you – always allow plenty of room. 3 line-lengths is a good rule of thumb. The greater the distance, the greater the number of seconds you’ll have to react should things not go to plan.
- Make sure your launch assistant knows what they are doing. If a non-kitesurfing friend or relative is launching you make sure that you brief them thoroughly beforehand. They need to know the signals for launch (thumb up signal) and abort (cut throat signal); how to hold the kite correctly; where to stand and how and when to let go of the kite. When launching and landing kites make sure that your assistant knows not to grab the lines.
- Get to the water quickly. After launching don’t hang about on the beach. Get to the water as soon as you can. Specifically, don’t swing your kite around at the 12 o’clock position. You could easily be lofted by a gust of wind.
Everyone needs a kite buddy! Never kitesurf alone and when kiting with others always introduce yourself to a few people around you and ask them to look out for you. There may be plenty of people on the water but if no-one is specifically watching your back you could get into difficulty and find that you go unnoticed.
Know Your Kit
This is VERY important: Practice water relaunching your kite in shallow water and progress to practicing in deeper water so that when you have to relaunch 50m out to sea everything will be second nature. It’s amazing how many people do not know how to relaunch their kite properly.
Know your safety system. Again, try this out in the shallows. Practice using your first level safety release and re-assembly.
Please DO NOT launch or land between the groynes at Hunstanton beach (the concrete sea defenses with metal poles at the end). This can be extremely dangerous because in the event of a problem with your kite you could be dragged into the concrete. Please, for your own safety and the safety of others walk out further until you are clear of the groynes.
For various reasons – onshore winds appear to have accounted for more kitesurfing accidents than any other direction. The prime reason is that if things go wrong (line snag, equipment failure etc) – your chances of colliding with something hard are far higher. So take extra care in onshore winds.
Another potential issue is high tide at Old Hunstanton in onshore winds. In these conditions the cliffs can generate huge updrafts.
This is simple. DO NOT go out in offshore or cross-offshore wind conditions. If something goes wrong (equipment failure, unable to relaunch etc) you will be unable to get back to shore.
Even just slightly cross-off winds at Hunstanton can be very sketchy – mainly because the wind has travelled across the relatively high ground of the town and can be very gusty and unpredictable.
On the Water
- If you are heading for a windsurfer, kayaker or swimmer either bear off downwind or turn around. Do NOT just keep on going thinking that they will get out of the way for you. Windsurfers usually keep downwind of kitesurfers – please respect their space and don’t go ploughing through them.
- Be courtious and respectful at all times. If you mess up and give someone a scare then apologise. Likewise, if a windsurfer bears off downwind to give you some room it doesn’t hurt to give them a quick wave of thanks. These are simple things but not doing them can make you seem rude and give people the wrong impression about kitesurfing.
- When two kitesurfers are heading towards each other, the rider heading starboard (travelling towards their right hand side) has right of way and the other rider must give way by bearing off downwind.
- When two kites pass on the water the upwind kiter should keep their kite high whilst the downwind kiter should keep their kite low.
- If you are riding fast and catch up with a slower rider be aware that they might not know you are there and that they have the right of way.
- The kitesurfer on the beach has right of way over the kitesurfer on the water. If you see someone on the beach trying to get onto the water please let them in.
- If you are a beginner and cannot yet keep upwind please keep to the downwind stretch of the beach.
It’s never a good idea to venture further from shore than you’re able to swim. In the winter or abnormally cold weather this is even more vital. Also, keep your sessions shorter in winter and if you’ve got cold during a break, it’s best not to go back out. In winter the buddy system is more important than ever – make sure someone is watching over you (whatever your level of riding).
Whilst it’s tempting to give your friends and family a go on your kit it’s actually a really bad idea, especially when the water is busy. Instead, if they’re keen to get into the sport then point them in the direction of one of the many local BKSA instructors for some lessons. Through proper lessons they will be able to practice and learn essentials such as how to properly pack down in deepwater, how to relaunch and much more.
Tides and tidal currents can have a huge effect on kitesurfers – we’ve put together a basic introduction video – if you’d like to check it out go to www.vimeo.com/202022280
- WIND: Recommended in anything from SSW through W round to N.
TIDES: Best at low tide when the sandbar emerges on the outside and the water is butter-flat. As soon as the tide creeps up towards the groynes it’s time to pack up and head round to Old Hunstanton.
DIRECTIONS: Very easy to find as Hunstanton only has one beach and it runs alongside the town. Head to the green and you can’t miss it!
PARKING: There is a council operated car park next to the Sailing Club. Parking at the Sailing Cluib itself is restricted to HSC members only. Alternatives car parks are near the Oasis swimming pool and behind O’Quigleys. Non-members found parking in HSC spaces will receive a legally enforceable parking fine.
SETTING UP: Please avoid launching in-between the groynes for safety reasons.
SPECIAL COMMENTS: Kitesurf into the sunset on the east coast! Nice…
- WIND: Recommended in anything from SW round through W to N.
TIDES: Ridable at most states of the tide though very little beach at highwater on a big spring tide. Stay well away from the cliffs when the tide is high as they can generate huge updrafts.
DIRECTIONS: Take a left on the sharp bend as you exit Hunstanton on the A149 (pitch ‘n’ putt will be on your left).
PARKING: Clifftop car park or grass car park adjacent to Le Strange Hotel. PLEASE DO NOT PARK IN THE LE STRANGE HOTEL CAR PARK.
SETTING UP: Please do not set up or pack down near the main entrance to the beach as you may hinder a possible lifeboat launch.
SPECIAL COMMENTS: There are a few vertical stakes that appear from about mid-tide – ask a local!
- WIND: Ridable in anything from S through W round to N.
TIDES: Only really worth it around high tide (unless you like wading through mud!)
DIRECTIONS: Turn into Lamsey Lane, Heacham from the A149 and follow signs for South Beach.
PARKING: Follow the signs for ‘Heacham South Beach Car Park’.
SETTING UP: No designated setup area on this beach but as always, please use common sense.
SPECIAL COMMENTS: A popular choice for high tide in a southerly.
- WIND: Good in anything from W through N round to E.
TIDES: Big tidal range so check your tables! Flatwater heaven around 2/3 tide when the ‘lagoons’ start to fill. Can turn into a beach-break in a northerly near high-tide.
DIRECTIONS: Enter Brancaster on the A149 from Hunstanton & turn left at the shop. (Signposted to the Beach)
PARKING: Only one public car park. The road to the car park floods on big high tides.
SETTING UP: There is a designated launch/land zone to the west of the Golf Club House – please use it.
Kitesurfing is permitted at Brancaster subject to restrictions. There is a sign on the beach notifying kitesurfers about these restrictions (see below). Use the proper launch/land zone and when on the water stay to the west of an imaginary line running from the golf clubhouse to the shipwreck. In particular do not kitesurf near to the Ternery & the wreck.
A more simplistic sign is shown below:
Please note: KITESURF TUITION IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED ON BRANCASTER BEACH.
Kitesurfing is currently allowed at Brancaster but please note that there are guidelines in place which affect ALL kitesurfers. The whole area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and access is complicated, involving regular negotiations with the various authorities who have been broad minded enough to work with us. All kitesurfers are asked to take the time to read the signage at the beach - please use common sense and observe the rules.
EMS Good Practice Guide
The European Marine Site (Wash and North Norfolk Coast) have produced a good practice guide for beach users. It’s worth a read as many of the issues covered affect watersports. The guide also has a useful list of contacts.
EMS Good Practice Guide: http://www.esfjc.co.uk/ems/pages/gpg.htm.
Thanks for taking the time to read this guide. One final thing – if you see someone doing or about to do something dangerous (such as launch a kite which is too big for the conditions) please have the courage to approach them with a few friendly words of advice. You will be doing them and all of us a huge favour.