Risk management for Rider rescue


Risk management for Rider rescue

by David Dorn

Saturday, June 16, 2012


To Instructors,

Your duty of care requires you to ensure that your student can receive assistance in case of an accident. You have the responsibility to keep your student safe, and manage the risks. and you have the responsibility to seek help in case of emergency, provide first aid, an get your student to the next level of care.


Providing care and rescue in the kiteboarding environment:

Providing emergency assistance in the outdoor environment is challenging.

providing first aid /cpr on the water, and performing rescues from the water are difficult and haves its own unique challenges.

there are several major risk factors to consider, and some specialized skills and techniques that can be employed in these situations.


Accident prevention:

The best form of management is avoiding accidents in the first place. The instructor should manage every session, anticipate risks, and prevent accidents. Thinks like avoiding crowded areas, staying a safe distance from objects and hazards, avoid shallow water. and riding within the limits of the riders, equipment, and conditions. are ways to help prevent accidents. When an instructor sees a high risk behavior, they must quickly correct the inappropriate actions to prevent accidents.


Risk factors for outdoor rescue:

Risk factors include the extremity of the conditions;


  • Extreme Weather; cold, extreme high wind, extreme surf.
  • Proximity to rescue; how far or long it takes to get to a victim.
  • Ability to summon assistance;
  • and the Knowledge experience of the instructor.


Common Risks:

Kiteboarders take risks everyday. So much so that they are seldom aware of the risks and problems that they could have. However at any moment an accident could occur, and then the risks of being in a water environment are exacerbated. Simple problems become more severe on the water. A common problem like getting tired becomes critical if the person cannot retrieve their board or swim against a current or make it back to shore. Avoid getting too tired, or getting too cold, and in some cases getting hungry and low on energy, (especially with diabetics). Instructors should help students to manage these common risk factors. When a person is tired they cannot cope with the additional exertion of rescuing themselves or a long swim. When they are cold they are losing energy and the ability to react normally, or even think rationally. Low energy and hunger can cause a drop in responsiveness and/or endurance, which may be necessary to deal with an emergency, or survival situation. The instructor should manage these common risks for themselves too because they may need to do a rescue and swim for two people.

Other Risks are losing control of the kite equipment, or other technical emergency.


Assumption of safety:

People often assume that if they can swim then they will be safe in the water.

however this is not the case when they lose the ability to swim for any reason.

PEOPLE SAY “DONT SAIL OUT FURTHER THAN YOU CAN SWIM. What they should consider is how far can I swim if I am injured or unconscious.


Injury Risk:

The common injuries can occur at any time, and they include. Impact with the water or equipment. Entanglement chocking or strangulation. Either from their own gear or another rider. Impact with hitting an object or the sea floor. In the ocean there is also a risk of being bitten, stung, or envenomated by a sea creature.


Types of Injuries:

types of injuries include, lacerations (deep bleeding cuts), Broken bones, Sprains, Dislocations, torn tendons, broken ribs; Head/neck injuries; Chocking, drowning, inhalation of water.


Illness on the water:

Many people have medical conditions that are easily managed on land, but these conditions can become a major problem in the water. Fits and seizures are deadly on the water. For example: Loss of consciousness from a diabetic condition is potentially fatal too. Some people will have to take extra care to manage their medical conditions when entering the water. and take extra precautions. People with these types of medical conditions may need to wear better buoyancy aids, and always be supervised by another capable person. Or they may be limited to near shore activity, have a rescue craft attending them at all times, or simply not kiteboard.


Illness on the water (risks):

in addition to a person with a known medical condition, increasing their risk of death on the water. they also increase the risks to would be rescuers.

Any person coming to the aid of another puts themselves at risk of injury themselves.

people with high risk medical conditions should be careful when participating in group activities like group lessons, or advanced sessions, because the risk to the group is greater. and the safety of the group may be diminished as a result.


Manageable Risk factors:

The instructor has to manage the risks that they can control. The two biggest ones is their ability to summon help, and their ability to provide help.

Distance from Shore; the obvious factor is the distance from shore that you are riding. longer distances make summoning help difficult, and makes the response time for help to arrive longer. Remote locations; some areas are close to rescue services, and some are more remote. Accessibility factors; Instructor should always consider the accessibility of the practice area to emergency rescue. Rocky coasts, swampy muddy shorelines, shorebreaks or other limitations to access, are a barrier to the access of rescue services.

Instructors responsibility to ensure that every area that he takes his student has reasonable access to emergency services.

Altering behavior in response to the conditions: When the instructor has an awareness of the risk factor increasing, they should manage the activity on the lesson to reduce the risks. In cold water they should run shorter sessions, and stay closer to the boat. If they are in a remote location they should not attempt high risk techniques.


The Big Questions;

Before every session the instructor has to ask himself;

  1. Where can I get help?
  2. How do i get (summon) help?
  3. How do I get my (sick/injured/unconscious) student to shore?


What help is available?

before a session the instructor should have already evaluated the area, and know the location of the nearest hospital, nearest emergency access point (road). nearest lifeguard, nearest rescue boat. other emergency services. In addition to these services, the instructor should evaluate his safety assets in a given situation;

Lifeguard rescue training with jetski


Safety Assets:

A safety asset is any thing or person that can be used to increase safety in an emergency situation. Safety assets include; other kiters, other watercraft in the area, docks, pontoons, buoys, any floating objects, local fishermen, Etc. Safety assets can be called upon and utilized in an emergency, but they should not always be relied upon.


Safety Equipment:

the best safety assets are the ones that you carry with you, and that you use every day.

Kite knives, buoyancy aids, but also a whistle, and maybe a radio or waterproof phone. these are among the most useful safety items for an instructor. Communication equipment cuts down rescue time by half.


Communication Equipment:

if an instructor is in the water with an unconscious student, how can they summon help without leaving the student. they cannot. they have to rely on attracting the attention of a passerby (this is what the whistle is for). if they can get the attention of a passer by then they can ask them to go for help. this person may not be able to summon help, if they do not have communication equipment, another kiter for example, will have to ride to shore and get help. meanwhile the instructor is on the water trying to provide care to the unconscious student.

Casio G-zone Waterproof Phone


Samsung Marine B2100


Buoyancy Aids;

any additional bouncy will help the instructor and the student to float. A good buoyancy jacket will help a conscious victim stay afloat, but will not help the unconscious victim stay face up on the surface. The instructor (rescuer) will have to assist the unconscious (or semi-conscious victim) to float face up.


Supporting an unconscious victim:

In the water an unconscious victim will need assistance to stay floating face up. In fresh water buoyancy is reduced. the instructor (rescuer) will need to tread water to support their own weight, and provide enough lift to raise the victim’s face above water.

this can be very difficult if neither the instructor or student are wearing any type of buoyancy. Also this can be more difficult in rough water (especially breaking waves).

Supporting the head and neck of the unconscious victim. Extreme care should be taken when moving an unconscious victim. The head and neck are not supported by the muscles, and if there is any damage to the spine it could be made worse.

If a victim is unconscious after an accident like a hard wipeout, it could be from head/neck trauma. so the rescuer should assume the possibility of spinal injury and treat the victim accordingly.

if the victim is wearing a buoyancy jacket the shoulder sections can rise up and support the victim’s head.

If possible reach under the victim’s shoulder, and support the shoulder and neck together. If you just support the head and the body keeps moving because of wave action, then further injury to the spinal cord can occur.

Rescue with a surfboard:

If you have a surfboard you can place the victim on top of it and tow the board.

If your board is large enough you can get on the back of the board and paddle it.

Victim floating face down:

It may be necessary to turn over an unconscious victim. They cannot breathe or survive in the face down position. (After disconnecting their kite), If you can use their arms to support their neck it can better protect their spine as they roll over. grasping their wrists and bringing their arms up parallel to their spine then cross the wrists and roll them onto their back.


Underwater Victim:

Many times drowning victims are found underwater.

People cannot survive underwater. They must be quickly  located, raised to the surface, and allowed to breathe air. When you are looking for a submerged victim you will have to open your eyes underwater, and make a search pattern. Diving periodically to look underwater. When you locate the victim signal to other searchers that you have located the victim, and then start trying to recover them.


Open Airway:

realistically the best and most valuable support a rescuer in the water can give the unconscious victim, is an open and clear airway, keeping them face up and on the surface until rescue arrives. if the victim is not breathing, it is more difficult to give rescue breaths. And it is not possible to give chest compressions (without a boat or platform of some kind).

If a victim is not breathing, their heart will stop soon afterward. Supporting the breathing is essential to prolong the victims survival.


Search and rescue for a kiteboarder:

Searching for a kiteboarder is usually made easier by the fact that they are holding onto a large kite. The kite will be flying or floating near to the pilot. The kite can be deflated and still be visible floating on the surface. The kiter can even be submerged but remain attached to the kite by the lines and bar. because the pilot acts as  n anchor for the kite they are usually upwind of the kite. However if the kite gets completely loose then the kite will usually blow away downwind and the pilot will be somewhere upwind. If you see a loose kite, then look immediately upwind to locate the pilot. they could be unconscious, underwater, or struggling to swim. Always go to the person first not the kite. You might also see a board floating along without a rider. generally the board will be upwind of the rider but not always, boards float on the surface and will tend to blow downwind. Riders that have detached from their kites will usually try to swim after them (which is not a good idea), while some other riders will start swimming to shore. So the anticipated position of the rider is not always directly upwind of the kite.’

Currents will also play a part in how the kite moves, and where the pilot will end up. the instructor should always keep his students in sight. and they should always know the local conditions so that they know where the kite board and student are likely to end up.


Relocation of people and Gear:

Kiters and their equipment can be taken out of position by other would-be rescuers.;

Often well intentioned kiters will “rescue” boards and kites, or even offer to tow a rider to shore. This can take them out of their expected location. If you are searching for a missing person, or lost equipment, keep in mind that there might have been some human intervention. And the gear will not be in the expected location.


Rescuer safety:

Sometimes people attempting to do a rescue will become a victim themselves.

Do not attempt to do a rescue unless you are likely to succeed, and stay safe. If you get into trouble there will be two victims.


Deep Murky Water:

Water visibility in a muddy river is worst conditions for rescues. If a victim submerges there is little likelihood of recovering them. This is where having adequate buoyancy and increasing visibility by wearing bright colors plays a crucial role.


Snagging and Entanglements:

Victims can get stuck in nets lines logs, snags, when part of their body, clothing or equipment gets stuck on something. For example; of a kite line goes under a rock or branch or boat, the kite can pull the rider closer to the object and possibly pull the rider underwater.

The rider can be forced under water and get snagged and not be able to free themselves.

Rescuers need to carry safety cutters or serrated knives capable of cutting a victim free.

A hook knife is good for cutting lines that are wrapped around limbs. the blade is protected and cannot cut the victim. Instructors should get in the habit of always carrying a hook knife (or two).

This is a safety cutter hook knife (twin blade).

















Medic First Aid

American Red cross Lifeguard training Manual.



Kiteboard Instructor Training Education Session (kites)

Action Sports Maui – This is for the exclusive use of Action Sports Maui Instructors, in conjunction with live training from David Dorn. this information is for the exclusive benefit of ASM. and may not be reproduced or reused in any way without written permission. This information is private and Confidential. Copyright © 2012 David Dorn, all rights reserved.