Body Armour – why bother
Having just recently had my first session at Kite ATB, and having recently witnessed several kiting accidents on snow as well as land, I think it is important to review the importance of body armor. In any of the land based kiting sports, the boundaries are being pushed all the time, new maneuvers are being practiced as well as equipment improvements and pilot skill levels increasing the speed limits in kite buggying, kite ATB and snow kiting. But this is not to say that only top-level pilots and those attempting aerial tricks should be taking safety measures seriously. In fact, the time when you really need the protection the most is when you are going through the beginner period and pushing through the steep learning curve of an intermediate. The top level pilots should not need to be told that no matter how skilled you are, things can go wrong, and when they do it all happens so fast – this is when you really appreciate having the maximum protection from the often abrasive surfaces, which are our playground.
A helmet is the most fundamental piece of kit and everybody should be wearing one - your fragile head been subject to a real battering in most crashes. Avoid the temptation of replacing good solid footwear and adequate ankle protection with sandals, it might feel pleasant but too many people have been inflicted with limping characteristics as a result. Sunglasses, though often overlooked as essential protection, not only make you look cool, but protect your eyes from flying dirt, sand and snow as well as keeping your extremely sensitive eyes out of the wind and protecting you from retina burn from too much UV light. It also helps you to see where you are going and see where you kite is without squinting.
Then we can move onto elbow and kneepads, I am really glad I was wearing these for my session with an ATB, as they saved me from some nasty skin burns, so definitely a must for beginners, as well as experts who really pick up severe speed on fast surfaces. It is often the case that the more you progress in a sport the less you screw up, but when you do it comes at greater pain. This is definitely the case with ATB, buggy and snow kite.
The experts and people pushing the limits, should be wearing full body protection, as shown in this picture with Laurent Bennamon wearing a full Dianese set of protection. This protects your spine, shoulders and arms and complimented with crash shorts, your often prone to bruising, hip bones.
In this crash sequence with Thierry Guibal, you can plainly see he was only wearing his helmet, and perhaps would have been spared some of his pain by wearing all the professional protection; luckily Thierry has recovered from this injury and was riding and launching his buggy again until recently when a tractor fell on his leg – fast recovery to him!
Mark Archer inspired and helped me to write this article, as he was already booked on an Ozone team trip to La Franqui but unfortunately broke his collar bone shortly before coming out. By his own admission, the right protection should have prevented his injury from being as bad as it was, however, Mark warns that having the full body protection can give the impression of being immortal and un-injurable, not so the case!!
Have fun and go BIG, but be as safe as you can by wearing the best protection you can.
For protection try http://www.daineseclothing.com/ where the prices are discounted for UK internet purchases or the main Dainese site (English available) http://www.dainese.com/
Text and Photos by Gus Hurst