Do you really know how your kitesurf bar’s safety system works?
Author: Marica Moda
Kitesurf bars and safety systems, let's clarify.
Kiters at the beach often argue about which brand makes the best bar, what materials are used, and which safety systems work better than others.
But do you really know how your bar's safety system works? Did you simply rely on the shopkeeper, the owner of the kitesurf school that sold it to you, or the friend who recommended it?
How many kitesurf bar safety systems do you know?
Kite companies are always trying to innovate in equipment performance and safety. If you compare the performance and safety of kitesurf from its origins to today, we have made great progress.
We have moved from essential two-line bars with no depower capabilities and no quick releases to bars with depower systems, simple adjustments, and quick releases that can be used with one hand.
One of the most important features in the design of a kitesurf bar is the operation of the safety system.
Bar security systems: safe and unsafe.
First, it's necessary to clarify that no safety system can completely depower a kite, especially in high winds.
Some safety systems come very close to 100% depowering; that is why IKO recognizes and approves safety systems if they can release most of the kite's power in any wind condition (from very light to strong).
This occurs in bars with front re-ride or 5th-line safety systems and doesn’t occur with other safety systems on the market.
Approved by IKO: front re-ride security system.
It's one of the 4-line bar safety systems, most commonly used on LEI (Leading Edge Inflatable) kites, thus with the inflatable leading edge.
The safety line is one of the two front lines, and in order for the system to work, the bar must be able to slide along this line in the direction of the kite for a distance equal to at least one wingspan of the kite (in the graphic: d1 ≥ d2).
Once the chicken loop's quick release with the front re-ride system is activated, the bar will slide toward the kite on the front safety line, and the kite will instantly and safely lose most of its power.
Be careful not to have the front lines too tightly rolled together (related to jumps with rotation and kite loop), because this could still cause the security system to malfunction (in this case, use the swivel to keep them separated at all times).
The front re-ride system is the safest, which is why it’s IKO-approved, and fortunately, today, it's the most widely used by major kitesurf equipment manufacturers.
For the front re-ride system to function correctly and be approved by IKO:
d1 must be equal to or bigger than (≥) d2 (wingspan of the kite).
Approved by IKO: 5th line security system.
The safety line is a 5th line, connected to the center of the leading edge on LEI kites and the center of the trailing edge on foil kites.
For the safety system to work correctly, the bar must slide along the 5th line in the kite's direction for a distance equal to at least one kite string (in the graph: d1 ≥ d2).
It facilitates the relaunch from the water of a C-Kite, and some brands use it to ensure more excellent structural stability of the kite.
IKO approves it; however, the depowering is less than the front re-ride system, and the risk is that the 5th line wraps around the kite since it’s attached to the kite tow point (where the pump leash connects).
Activating the quick release of the chicken loop allows the kite to lose most of its power; still, you must be careful because, as mentioned before, the 5th line could wrap around the kite and damage it.
For the 5th line security system to function correctly and be approved by IKO:d1 must be equal to or bigger than (≥) d2 (kite chord).
NOT approved by IKO: OSR (Oh S**t Ring) safety system, asymmetric and mini 5th line.
Fortunately, few brands use these security systems, and IKO recommends that you never use them in any circumstances. If your bar has one of these security systems, we recommend that you change it to protect your safety and the safety of others.
The asymmetric safety system and the mini 5th line don’t totally depower the kite because once you activate the chicken loop’s quick release, they keep both front lines in tension, not allowing the kite to lose most of its power, risking also kite loops.
In the OSR system (fortunately, few are seen on beaches), the safety line is one of two directional lines (back lines). Even in this case, the system doesn’t allow total depowering of the kite, risking uncontrolled kite loops.
So, what is the best safety system for a kitesurf bar?
The best safety system is the FRONT RE-RIDE, and it’s 100% IKO-approved.
On bars with the front re-ride safety system, you can find the stopper ball; it will be on the safety line.
Not all brands use it, but it can be very useful and is recommended for:
bar recovery in the water to relaunch the kite;
Without it, upon activation of the chicken loop’s quick release, the bar will be free to slide up to the kite, and you will have to spend more time arranging the often tangled lines.
If you use a single bar with the stopper ball for different-sized kites, we recommend adjusting the stopper ball position before entering the water.
The stopper ball must allow the bar to slide a distance ≥ the wingspan of the kite you plan to use or make your life easier by fixing it according to the wingspan of your biggest kite.
Where to place the stopper ball on the safety line correctly?
To determine the correct stopper ball position, simply lay the safety front line next to the leading edge of your kite.
The stopper ball on the front safety line should be placed at least:
1 kite wingspan from trim, on bars with the front re-ride system (in LEI and 4-line kites);
1 kite rope from the trim, in kites with the 5th line.
What is the other stopper ball you have on the bar between the chicken loop and the trim?
Some bars may also have a stopper ball along the center line (between the chicken loop and the trim), which is used for some old-school freestyle tricks. It can be fixed or slid and limits the upward movement of the bar.
Be careful: this stopper ball may slide down without you noticing, not allowing you to depower the kite; check it periodically.
IKO doesn't recommend that beginners use this stopper ball because, without it, the kite can be easily and completely depowered by simply letting go of the bar.
How often do you test your kitesurf bar safety systems?
Remember that a broken or malfunctioning security system is dangerous, so it is essential to check its proper functioning; otherwise, when you need it, it will not work as it should.
Try the safety systems every time you go kitesurf, it will only take a second, but once you are on the water, you will be sure you have all the safety systems you might need.
Pre-flight check before connecting to the bar:
Activate the quick release of the leash and close it again
Connect the kite leash to the front safety line
Activate the quick release of the chicken loop and close it again
Aook the chicken loop to the harness and lock it with the chicken finger
Grab and bring up the floaters on your bar to make sure the lines are in order
In addition, we recommend that you periodically rinse your bar, kite leash, and line cutter with fresh water so that any grains of sand or salt encrustations dissolve, keeping your safety systems 100% efficient.
Do you know what your kitesurf bar is made of?
The kitesurf bar is composed of several elements, all made of materials that are generally very strong and suitable for high stresses.
The bridles and pigtails.
They are made of high-modulus polyethylene fiber with a unidirectional core and braided sleeve. The patent is from Spectra and Dyneema, from which the respective names are derived. This material has high abrasion resistance due to its low coefficient of friction and self-lubricating characteristics. Pulleys can be plastic or metal.
They are made of thermoplastic material cast and drawn into fibers. The high-density polyethylene is Dyneema or Spectra, braided at optimized angles to minimize the risk of stretching lines. Heat treatment and brushing optimize the material's inherent properties, while an additional coating protects the lines from UV rays and water absorption, making them buoyant.
The diameter of the lines varies between 1.5 and 2.5 mm, and the breaking strength varies between 180 kg and 300 kg (depending on the quality, diameter, and final seam).
When the kite is in the air, never touch the lines for any reason, even during launch or landing.
The bar is in aluminum with a non-slip coating.
You must consider the ratio of the size of your bar to the size of your kite. A large kite has a larger radius of curvature than a small kite. For this reason, the length of the bar, which acts as a lever, should be proportional to the kite's size:
use a short bar (45 cm or less) with kites smaller than 8 m²;
use a medium bar (45 to 55 cm) with kites measuring between 8 m² and 12 m²;
use a long bar (55 cm or more) with kites measuring more than 12 m².
Thanks to a system at the end, many bars can be adjustable and be lengthened or shortened depending on the kite you use and the responsiveness you prefer.
Generally, it's not possible to interchange 2, 4, and 5-line bars and use one bar on different types of kites.
The chicken finger.
It's a rigid rubber tube that ensures the chicken loop stays connected to the hook of your harness.
The chicken loop.
It's a rigid rubber ring that connects the bar to your harness. It's also connected to your kite's front lines. Its connection to the harness allows you to ride without supporting the kite's full traction with your arms.
The chicken loop’s quick release.
The chicken loop’s quick release system allows you to quickly release yourself from the kite's pull in an emergency.
In this regard, some brands have devised a quick and effective release and reattachment system: after operating the safety system and then opening the chicken loop of the bar, to reattach it, simply push the end of the chicken loop into the appropriate slot. No need to touch the release system; the chicken loop also closes with one hand.
The stopper ball.
It's a hard rubber or marine aluminum ball that stops your bar when, for safety reasons, you activate the chicken loop’s quick release, and it slides on the front safety line toward the kite.
The stopper ball position is dynamically settable. It must be calculated to allow the kite to foil and hold itself in an inverted position, minimizing aerodynamic drag.
It's a rotatable component of your bar that keeps the lines from rolling up in the event of a trick, allowing through its rotation to put the front lines back in order, leaving the bar free to slide on the front safety line.
They are made of floating foam and are located on the sides of the bar and make it float.
Simple golden rules.
Follow these simple IKO Standards for your safety on the water and the safety of others:
Use a bar with a chicken loop with quick release;
Use a bar with an IKO-approved safety system: front re-ride or 5th line;
Use a kite leash with the quick release connected to the front of your harness;
Always keep a line cutter in your harness (in case you need to get rid of lines it could become your first safety system).
These are a few simple rules to follow for safe fun.
Remember that all safety systems should be tested by turning them on and off before each use, so you can be sure they will work when you really need them, and always use a bar that allows your kite to lose all its power.