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Kiteboarding and Windsurfing Safety

At certain times of the year the North Flats can get very crowded. With windsurfers at one end of the beach and kiters at the other end, it's important that we all pay attention to a handful of safety rules that will keep the Flats enjoyable for all.

On the water right of way Pecking Order

The USCG has safety boating rules that define who has the right of way on the water. Here's the short version of those right of way rules.

  1. Human powered equipment such as kayaks and rowboats have the right of way over all others.
  2. The USCG says that sailing, windsurfing and now maybe kiteboarding have the right of way over powerboats and waverunners.

Laguna Madre Fishing

Laguna Madre is a world famous fishing destination and popular wave runner play ground. When the winds' up, fishermen in shallow water vessels prefer to get back to safe harbor as fast as they can. Unfortunately some of them do this by going as fast as the can while hugging the shoreline as close as the water depth will allow them. After a day in the sun fishing and enjoying their favorite adult beverage these boaters pay little attention to anything that might be in their way. So even though you have the right of way over powerboats, please don't think for a moment that a fishing boat going at full throttle through the sailing area is going to stop and let you pass. Please keep an eye open for these careless boaters and yield the right of way to them.

North Flats Safety Rules

Now that windsurfers and kiteboarders are using the same winds and waterways in close proximity, special attention needs to be taken to these different sports. Do to the large areas needed to launch a kite; it is best for the two sports, to have separate launch areas. Here are a few rules that will make the North Flats safer for all of us.

  1. Kiteboarders will always rig and launch downwind of windsurfers, the area will change according to wind direction. These rigging areas are marked plus there is a No Rigging area between the windsurfing and kiteboarding areas that creates a safe zone between the two sports. Do not use this No Rigging area.
  2. When a kiteboarder arrives at the beach he should quickly take notice of the wind and at what end of the beach he is going to rig and launch.
  3. Kiteboarders and windsurfers should not sail straight out from or in close proximity to the others launch area.
  4. Port Tack (left arm forward) windsurfers/kiteboarders Stay Clear of Starboard (right arm forward) sailors.
  5. Upwind windsurfer/kiteboarder Stay Clear of downwind sailors.
  6. Faster (overtaking) windsurfer/kiteboarder Stay Clear of slower sailors.
  7. Tacking, Jibing, Free styling (jumping) windsurfer/kiteboarder Stay Clear of all sailors.
  8. A windsurfer having trouble staying upwind when on the water should launch as far upwind from the kiteboarders as possible. Give yourself room.
  9. A windsurfer who drifts downwind from lack of board speed or experience into the kiteboarding area should be alert to his direction, right of ways, and hold his course. An experienced kiteboarder upwind of a windsurfer will fly his kite high over head when passing the windsurfer.
  10. A beginning kiteboarder upwind should be alert to all windsurfers and kiteboarders downwind of him.
  11. A windsurfer should be alerted to any kiteboarder upwind of him, but especially a beginning kiteboarder with lack of experience and control of his kite. Take precautions and stay clear before it's too late to escape.

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