Water Safety Signals Every Kiter Must Know


I was recently asked to present to the Emergency Responders (lifeguards, Coast Guard, and firemen) at the local beach on how to identify and rescue kiters in distress. We had a very productive discussion as well as learned a few things that I believe every kiter should know. Simple communication signs will help to let the first responders know whether we need help or not and can make a difference between a giant resource drenching operation and just someone on the beach keeping an eye on you.

This is the signal for “I need help!”

One of your hands is out of the water, raised in the same manner you would do if you were waving to a friend in a busy crowd.

Water Safety Tips

Please note:  if you’re giving someone a “thumbs up” from the water, thumb maybe hard to see and it could be mistaken for “I need help” signal. So, if you are not in danger and do not need assistance, do NOT give a thumbs up or first responders will think you need help.

These are the signals for “I am fine.”

If you are able, put both hands together above your head. However, if you need one hand to hold onto your gear or are not able to use both hands for any reason, the one hand touching the top your head signal should be clear enough to identify for first responders on the beach.

Water Safety Signals Water Safety Signals

If you need a rescue, give the “I need help” signal until you are seen and then begin to pack up your kite. It is the kiter’s responsibility (and is safer for you and the first responders) to pack up your own equipment.

If you need to release the kite and you’re not in immediate danger (death loops, etc) , make sure you do it AFTER first responders reach you. Your kite is your emergency floatation device and will help you to be seen in the water.

And lastly, make sure you are polite to first responders. Be as helpful and cooperative as possible. It is their job to help you, but a little bit of gratitude goes a long way.

We hope that you will never need any of the information above; but, it’s still good to know and relay to all of your kiter friends.


Vadim is the founder of Green Hat Kiteboarding. An avid kite hydrofoil racer, he is obsessed with testing gear and tuning it for maximum performance.