Kiteboarding Kitesurfing Right of way rules

The purpose of this Code is the improvement of safety standards and the standardization of the rules of the road for kitesurfing. The Rules of the Code are based on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (ColRegs), state regulations, yachting rules and generally accepted regulations operating in the kiteboarding and kitesurfing  world.

Kiteboarding Kitesurfing Right of way rules

Kiteboarding Kitesurfing Right of way rules susi may kite beach photo zanzibar

The Code applies to all persons practicing kitesurfing on any body of water. The Rules do not replace any special regulations concerning specific situations or kitesurfing spots such as reservoirs, rivers, overcrowded spots, or kitesurfing competitions.

If you are a visiting kiter or new to a launch site, ALWAYS introduce yourself to the locals, inquire about any hazards and local guidelines for the area.

Rule 1 – Responsibility
1.1.  All hazards and special circumstances shall be taken into account when applying these Rules, which may mean a departure from them if deemed necessary in order to avoid a collision.
1.2. Every rider shall be aware of kitesurfing dangers to him/her and others in his/her vicinity. The rider is liable for all damage caused by him/her and his/her equipment.
1.3. Every rider shall obey the local rules which may override these Rules.
1.4. Kiteboarders sometimes depend on each other on the water, and it is the duty of every rider to give all possible assistance to anyone in danger. Kiters have been known to perform many heroic rescues, however, if you are not experienced enough for an effective rescue, you may find yourself in danger as well.

Rule 2 – Definitions
2.1. Port tack – the wind blows from the left side in relation to the sailing direction, and the left hand is the front one, so-called “port”.
2.2. Starboard tack – the wind blows from the right in relation to the sailing direction, and the right hand is the front one, so-called “starboard”.
2.3. Windward rider – a rider sailing closer to the “source” of wind; sailing “above” in relation to another rider during the meeting, so-called “upwind rider”.
2.4. Leeward rider – a rider sailing further from the “source” of wind; sailing “below” in relation to another rider during the meeting, so-called “downwind rider”.
2.5. Give-way maneuver – an alternation of course or speed carried out to avoid a collision by a give-way rider.
2.6. Give-way rider – a rider obliged to give way during the meeting.
2.7. Stand-on rider – a rider who has right of way and is obliged to maintain his/her course during the meeting.
2.8. Maneuver – a jump, a trick, or a change of course or speed.
2.9. Meeting – a situation on the water when riders meet each other and one of them must give way in order to avoid a dangerous situation or collision.
2.10. Dangerous situation – a situation which endangers both users in the water and on the shore. A development of a dangerous situation leads to a collision.
2.11. Collision – a situation when riders, or their equipment, collide or they collide with other users on water or ashore.
2.12. Safe distance – a distance that shall be maintained in order to avoid a dangerous situation.
2.13. Kitesurfing on waves – surfing on breaking waves usually in a shore-break zone, so-called „wave”.

2.14. Good Kitesurfing Practice (GKP) – a set of generally accepted principles of safety, based on many years in kitesurfing community.
3.3. A rider who is in the water, holding a kite at zenith(12:00), swimming to a lost board, or re-launching a kite from the water has the right of way.

Rule 4-  On The Water
4.1. Head-on situation (opposite tacks) – a port tack rider gives way to a starboard tack rider.
4.2. Similar courses (same tacks) – a windward rider gives way to a leeward rider.
4.3. Overtaking – anyone overtaking (faster) keeps out of way of anyone being overtaken (slower).
4.4. Position of kites during the meeting – a windward rider raises his/her kite above 45 degrees and a leeward rider lowers his/her kite below 30 degrees.

Rule 5 – Multiperson meeting (Rule 4 is not applicable)
5.1. The most upwind rider raises his/her kite to the highest point and the most downwind rider lowers his/her kite to the lowest point. Other riders passing between the riders at the extremes set their kites in intermediate positions in order to avoid kite tangling.
5.2. It is recommended that meetings involving more than two riders be avoided whenever possible.

Rule 6 – Jumping
6.1. Before performing any maneuver, ensure that such an action will not endanger anyone.
6.2. The downwind area for a landing place shall be checked before commencing a jump.
6.3. In particular it is recommended to double check the area “behind” before performing a manoeuvre.

Rule 7 – Surfing on waves – Wave (Rules 4 & 5 are not applicable)
7.1. A rider surfing on waves has right of way irrespective of tack.
7.2. If there are two or more riders on the same wave, right of way has a rider surfing closer to the breaking part of the wave or a rider who got first on the wave.

Rule 8 – Action by a give-way rider
8.1. A safe distance shall be maintained during a give-way manoeuvre.
8.2. Any action taken to avoid a collision shall be positive, readily visible to others and made in ample time and with due regard to the rules applicable on the water.

Rule 9 – Action by a stand-on rider
9.1. A stand-on rider shall maintain his/her course until collision is unavoidable without his/her own manoeuvre.
9.2. The same rider shall fly his/her kite in a position specified by Rule 4.4.
9.3. This Rule does not relieve a give-way rider of his/her obligation of giving way.

Rule 10 – Meeting with other water users (not being kitesurfers or windsurfers)
Every kitesurfer gives way to all other water users except the power-driven crafts under 7 metres. It is recommended that passing and overtaking of such water users should take place on their leeside and at a safe distance.

On the Beach


kiteboarding rules on the beach Adlow and len ten

kiteboarding rules on the beach Aaron Hadlow and Ruben lenten rigging kite on beach south africa

Please do not fly your kite on crowded beaches. There are many uncrowded places around here to ride, give us a shout and we’ll help you find a good spot!

  • If you are a newer kiter, a visiting kiter, or just new to the launch site, please introduce yourself to the local kiters and inquire about local conditions, hazards and regulations. This is common courtesy on any beach, and goes a long way with the locals.
  • Always wind up your lines when your kite is on the beach.
  • Do not hang around the launch area with your kite in the air- “Keep it Low and Go!”
  • Observe the “flow” of traffic before you launch your kite. You will notice “lanes” of upwind and downwind riders sharing the same areas. There’s also usually a freestyle area and lesson area, so get familiar with what’s going on in the water before you launch.
  • Give immediate assistance to kiters launching and landing. If someone is coming in towards the beach and tapping their head, they need to land their kite ASAP. If you are able, please assist them and stay with the kite until it is secured with sand or a board.
  • Before launching do a preflight check of all safety releases. An improperly rigged safety can kill you. You should have a minimum of 2 quick releases on your system- 1 for releasing the kite from you to the leash, and 1 for releasing the entire rig.
  • Do not use a kite without a leash or lacking a proper safety system.
  • Launch kite towards the water whenever possible.
  • Do not fly your kite over beach goers, swimmers, or surfers.
  • Do not launch or land UPWIND of anything that can hurt you or sue you.
  • Do not use an inexperienced person to launch or land your kite.
  • If you take on the responsibility of catching someone’s kite, make sure to stay with it until they weight it down with a board or something. Do not leave the kite unattended as it may take off unexpectedly.


On the Water

kiteboarding rules on the water

kiteboarding rules on the water girl kiteboarding



  • Always stay 300 ft. or 3 line lengths away from shore, especially in onshore winds.
  • Always stay out of swim areas. New kiters should body drag out past the swim area to start, especially in onshore winds.
  • Please give extra room to instructors with students and new kiters.
  • Kiters launching and entering the water have right of way over kiters already on the water.
  • Kiter on Starboard tack (RIGHT hand forward) has the right of way.
  • Upwind rider- Kite HIGH
  • Downwind rider- Kite LOW
  • Slapping hands with another kiter is not fun when someone loses their edge and crashes into you. Save the hand slapping for the beach!

When Jumping

Kiteboarding Kitesurfing Right of way rules jumping

Kiteboarding Kitesurfing Right of way rules jumping

  • Look all around you before you jump, make sure you have a clear area downwind of you and make sure that you will not land on, or near anyone, or in their path. Now send it!
  • Jumps and Transitions should be done a safe distance from shore and NEVER near swimmers, surfers, windsurfers, boats, fishermen, etc. This is the single biggest problem in this sport and many areas are being banned for the actions of a few. Please stay out of the swim areas everywhere you ride, and do not jump or transition near shore.

Kiteboarding self Rescue

Kiteboarding self Rescue photo kite kiteboarder

Kiteboarding self Rescue photo kite kiteboarder

In kiting, there WILL become a time when you run into a bad situation. Gear failure or sudden weather changes are two examples where knowing what to do in an emergency can save your life!

Be sure to practice this with each kite you own, as all kites have slight differences and require different hand positioning for an effective rescue.

Safety Tips


Here’s 3 Methods of Self Rescue:

Standard Self Rescue

Activate safety system to flag the kite out on one line

Pull yourself up the line to the bar

Wrap (the line you just pulled yourself to the bar with) at least one kite length (20-30’)on the bar to prevent relaunch, then wrap the rest of the lines until you reach the kite.

If able, detach the lines from the kite and stow the bar.

Grab what will be your UPPER wingtip or bridle, (depending on direction of travel) and work your way to other wingtip by sliding leading edge under your arm with the other hand. (hold bridle and push L.E. away from you)

Fill the sail with wind to pull yourself back to shore.

Practice this on the beach, or in shallow water to find correct hand positioning-BEFORE YOU NEED IT!

Offshore/Upwind Method

This technique works very well if caught in offshore winds, or for going upwind to retrieve your board.

Remember: NEVER deflate your kite unless absolutely necessary!

This technique also keeps you more visible to rescue personnel.

Here’s how you do it: lay on leading edge of kite (wingtips in the air), with legs extended down center strut. At this point, your upper body will be hanging over the leading edge, so you can easily overhand swim or “dog paddle” to your board.

From there you can swim to shore or use traditional self rescue technique.

Both methods should be known and practiced before you need them.

Raft Method

Use this method if your leading edge deflates.

This will happen if the leading edge bladder pops or the deflate valve opens, so make sure to lock down those velcro tabs around the valves! If you remembered to lock down your one pump strut clips, there will still be air in the struts.

Roll the kite ends to middle and secure it into a “raft” with your leash, harness, lines, or whatever you have.

If you didn’t lock off your struts, you will have a nice long swim with a giant sea anchor, or be kissing your kite goodbye.LOCK DOWN YOUR STRUTS!

The author of these rules ,Marek Rowinski, hopes that the work presented above will be widely accepted and will improve safety in kitesurfing.content :