Kitesurfers are likely to suffer back pain at one point or another throughout their life. Whether such back problems are due to kitesurfing itself or not, they can still greatly impact their abilities to keep riding, and sometimes, can keep them out of the water for long periods.
Some kitesurfers suffering long-term and acute chronic back issues have found that the sport can actually improve their condition, provided that they follow a focused core strengthening routine, regular stretching, use an appropriate kite harness, and avoid riding overpowered for an extended period.
Kitesurfing can be bad for your back or cause minor to serious back pain because of the use of the wrong harness, incorrect positioning when riding, and a lack of pre/post-session stretching. To find out more about this problem, the dangers of kitesurfing, and how to prevent them, read along.
It is important that you have the right kitesurfing equipment set up, especially when you are just starting. Having high-quality and well-maintained equipment will make learning much easier and enjoyable. If you’re a beginner, check out our guide to choosing kitesurfing equipment to know more about the gear that you need for the sport.
The Dangers of Kitesurfing
Just like any sport, kitesurfing can be dangerous. To help you avoid these situations, you have to familiarize yourself with them so that you’ll know what to do in case they happen.
Kitesurfers’ errors come from bad practices on their parts. These errors include:
- Losing Kite Control
This problem may be due to the kite being so large for the wind condition that it drags you out of control, out to sea, or into an obstacle without you being able to release quickly. Avoid this problem by researching or talking to pros about what kite size they are using for that kind of condition.
- Being Underpowered
Your kite may be too small for the current wind condition, which is why you are unable to ride upwind and end up in an unsafe area downwind. Avoid this problem by knowing the size of kite you need.
- Failed Launching or Landing
Your kite can go into the power zone when you are launching in strong wind, causing you to get dragged or lifted out of control in an unsafe zone. Avoid this problem by using a recent kite and bar with a good depower.
- Other kitesurfer errors include getting caught in the running kite lines, losing control while practicing, hurting yourself while jumping, getting wiped out in waves, getting hit by a kiteboard, and getting hurt by a kite line.
- Losing Kite Control
Nautical and Weather Hazards
The weather, especially at sea, will always be unpredictable which is why it’s important to be prepared in case it changes drastically.
- Sudden wind change
The wind can suddenly pick up strongly and drop or drag you, leaving you with no choice but to hit the release. To prevent this from happening, know the wind forecast, the spot, and avoid currents.
- Strong Currents
If you unknowingly reach a zone with a strong current, you can get caught in it and the kite can drop you where you can’t swim or paddle out. To avoid this, know your location, its tides, and currents.
- Big Waves
If you unwillingly get caught into a wave zone with large sets and unreliable wind conditions, you can get washed out and the kite might drop you. To avoid this, make sure you stay within the bay or lagoon, unless, of course, you know what to do.
- Other nautical and weather hazards include getting caught in very gusty wind, getting in trouble in offshore or cross wind, and hitting something at a high speed and at a lowering tide.
- Sudden wind change
- Kite lines snapping
When one of the lines breaks and you are far from the shore or in the wave zone, the kite can go into powerful death loops and drag you out of control, wherein you are unable to push the safety release due to the tangled lines. This can happen due to increased stress on the lines that will cause one or two to snap. To avoid this scenario, check your lines regularly and replace them when needed. You should also carry a line cutter at all times.
- Broken harness spreader bar
The harness spreader bar can also snap and the kite lines can pull you helplessly on the side, wherein you can lose control of your kite. This scenario can easily be avoided by using a decent harness from a reputable manufacturer.
- Quick-release goes off by itself
These systems can get triggered too easily, causing them to go off at the wrong time and send your kite and lines away. To avoid this, check the quick-release system so you can replace it if it triggers too easily.
- Other equipment failure hazards include losing air in your leading edge bladder and having a twin tip strap go loose while riding.
- Kite lines snapping
- Inland obstacles
You can get blown into an inland obstacle due to a strong onshore wind. These inland obstacles include buildings, trees, power lines, or the road. Avoid getting lifted and swept inland by not going out when the weather is not at its best.
- Water obstacles
You can get dragged into an obstacle in the water due to insufficient or excessive wind. These obstacles include rocks, reefs, a large buoy, or a peer and can damage your equipment or injure you. To avoid this scenario, do not go out in locations with downwind obstacles unless you know or have the skills to ride upwind.
- Other obstacles include colliding with other kitesurfers, boats, or jet skis and catching a bystander or swimmer with your lines.
- Inland obstacles
It takes everyone a different time to become a kitesurfer. As a beginner, you should know what you are up against and how fast you will be able to enjoy riding the wind. To help beginners like you, we made a helpful guide to learning how to kitesurf.
How to Prevent Back Pain When Kitesurfing
Although kitesurfing can cause back pain, there are some practices that you can do to prevent this from happening.
Choose a good harness
The best harnesses for back pain are those with the largest surface to provide the best support for your lumbar area. Another key aspect to look for is how the harness evolves with time. Some can go soft and lose their support over the years, whereas others will fit better after some time due to their ability to mold perfectly around your body.
Even before setting up your kite, it is important to stretch your hamstrings and lower back muscles. Setting up can put a lot of stress on your muscles, and if they are stiff and cold, you can strain them and make them vulnerable to injuries during your kitesurfing session. Remember that while you are pumping up your kite, you have to keep a slight bend in your knees. Bending your knees can help take the pressure off your lower back and make your hamstring muscles do more of the pumping.
Stretch before launching
You may think that this is hard to do, but your back will thank you for it. Stretch until you can feel tension in your muscles, but stop before it becomes painful. You can do yoga poses and hold each position for approximately 30 seconds.
Correct you stance
Once you are ready, make sure your stance is good. If you take a minute to notice the posture of other kitesurfers out on the water, you will notice that those who look strong have a straight body, with their chests in line with their hips and legs. As you ride, you should focus on pushing your hips forward so that it will not look like you are trying to sit in a chair.
Cool down after your session
Stretching after your session when all your muscles are tight and worn out may be the toughest thing to do. When you just came in from an intense session, your muscles can tighten up in response to the strain. You should take this as a sign to stretch, as doing so will improve your flexibility and muscle length, especially after an intense activity. Intense activities followed by sitting can actually functionally shorten your muscle fibers and increase your chances of contracting pain during your next kitesurf session. So, take a few minutes to do some basic stretches again. Surely, your back will thank you.
If you practice the above steps but start noticing that your hips are sinking back after a few hours and feeling more pressure into your back, then your core muscles may not be strong enough to support the load of your kite. The best way to strengthen those muscles is, believe it or not, to kite more. However, for a lot of us who have limited time, this is not an option. So, by doing simple core exercises at home, you can get your body strong and ready for an awesome four-hour kitesurf session.
Kiteboard bars or kiteboarding control bars are important pieces of equipment that you can use to steer foil or inflatable kites. Because of technological innovations, the market is filled with control bars from different manufacturers. The question is: Are kiteboard bars interchangeable? Read our article to learn more.
If you are using the wrong harness, have incorrect positioning when riding, or lack pre/post-session stretching, then kitesurfing can be bad for your back or cause minor to serious back pain. However, this can be avoided by learning about the right gear and how to properly kitesurf. You also have to know the obstacles you may face while riding and make sure you know what to do in every situation.
Kitesurfing is an enjoyable sport, but you have to do your research and learn from certified instructors to avoid any accidents that can cause back pain and other injuries.