Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How High Can You Go?

What's that you say? A live2sail post with nary a single photo? Read it and weep folks....

In response to the Hatteras kitemare a few weeks ago,I've seen a lot of discussion on various forums and blogs, not to mention the press. Well today Ken and I had a pretty good discussion in regards to how high you’d have to be to be killed by just the impact of a jump gone bad.

Now after reading Peconic Jeff's report on a recent puffin post, we found interesting that the deceased kiter actually rigged for the conditions and was not "caught out". If you are going to try a kite loop 30 feet in the air and at that altitude, you gotta expect some dues are gonna be paid is something goes wrong.

Now with respect to how high you could go before simply the impact from a fall could be fatal, I guess one definition of the safety envelope would be heights and speeds at which you can bail out and hit the water in any random direction and survive. My guess would be about 20 feet for moderate forward speeds. Beyond that you must rely on your rig (as a parachute) or a diving reentry to help prevent disaster. No diving in 3 foot-deep sound water!

I know of the death of a Hawaii windsurfer that was stuck on the outside during a huge surf day. A helo pilot tried to help him by dipping down and letting the sailor grab the helo runner. The helo lifted him to 30 or 40 feet where the exhausted sailor fell. Impact on the water tore his aorta loose and he died immediately.

20 feet? Seriously? I mean I’ve hit the water off maybe a 10 foot jump, and it hurt pretty good-knocked all the wind outta me, but I can’t see doubling that and it being fatal. I guess if you where all contorted as you fell and landed right on your neck or something. The key is don’t let go off your stuff when looping. It’ll all work out juuuuuuuuuust fine

Well first of all, Ken and I have little to worry! We aren't reaching those altitudes too often but the future is wide open!

Ken applied his engineering mind, and tried to think of a height at which death coild be a reasonable expectation.

Yes, he was thinking 20 feet still going forward with some speed and hitting say sideways or on your back or belly. Not counting wind resistance which isn't too much at the speeds we are talking about a drop from 10feet has you hitting at 17MPH, 20 feet is 24 MPH and 30 feet is 30 MPH. So 20 feet should be pretty safe. However, stand at the top of a 20 foot dive and consider attempting a back smacker. I think you'll find the thought pretty terrifying.

Bottom line, generally holding onto your gear, especially over shallow water, sand bars, coral etc. is probably the best way to go and with any control should slow things down considerably. A low bail out is another option. Hold on for a while and then kick out.

Ken noted that his scariest jump crashes (and the only ones that have ever hurt) are the low fast ones where he didn't get the air he expected. High jumps generally give you the time to plan things out.I tend to agree, on the injury part.the only windsurfing injury I ever suffered that required surgery was and torn uo sprained ankle after hitting a sandbar in the sound, although I did tear my. Groin up once on a Lewes jump where one foot came outta the straps. Those are scary.

Now with respect to the conditions that are often blamed for many a kitemare: weather fronts hitting the beach with a dramatic shift/change in the direction speed; they are not abnormal.

In fact, that’s the typical symptom upon the arrival of a strong cold front. As a windsurfer, I look forward to those fronts slamming into the beach. Windsurfers may get flattened or get catapulted on the water, but a sport where a change in wind speed kills you seems pretty silly to me. I know what I would have done. Waited out the primary thrust of the front, sailed in, re-rigged, and re-launched with a big fat grin.

I wonder if the liability insurance at Real Kiteboarding goes up after each kitemare...
Bet it aint cheap.

Bottom line, as Peter Hart said in SAW1, “now you may very well fall from a great height….but no one said it was gonna be easy…”


PeconicPuffin said...

I've done the "one foot out of the footstrap" split landing a jump. Ouch!

I would like to get a 20 foot jump, not freak out at the top, and successfully land it. That's a goal.

scooper said...

I used to jump from about 40 to 100 ft from bridges over the Saco River and off cliffs into quarrys. It's all about the way you hit the water. We used sneakers, pointed our toes for entry, held the nose because water would be forced into your sinuses. The kids that died or got paralyzed usually did it diving wrong. It did feel like you were going thru a wall when you hit the water.

Too bad about the kiter.