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Right of way “Che se magná?!” “Do you eat it?” As we would say in Italian, as a joke of course, when you don’t know what something is.

Reading time: 7min

To my disbelief and sad eyes, the right of way is a mysterious world that is still unknown to most kiters. Or at least to most kitesurfers that come to El Médano… please imagine 60-100 kiters in a small bay- if you don’t know the navigation rules the sport becomes dangerous.

I’m usually very easygoing in the water, I try to stay away from crowded places while kiting, I stay out of the students’ zone, I look for no trouble and I respect the famous Right of Way…unfortunately I cannot say that everybody does the same and it pisses me off terribly. So, WARNING this is going to be a very direct and sarcastic blog about the right of way, I’ll spare no one.

It should be the job of your instructor to explain the existence of these rules but it should also be your job to remember them or check them out if you don’t remember them. It’s like you going to drive and you don’t know how to behave in the streets… it would be very dangerous no? Well … HEELLOOO?!?! IT’S THE SAME THING IN THE WATER!

So I’m am so tired to see Kiters not respecting the starboard priority; I’m tired of Kiteboarders that just kite 15 meters behind you and won’t leave till you cross the entire ocean without being able to change direction because there is this kiter behind you that won’t get out of the way and doesn’t recognize even the international sign of “mooooove away”; I’m tired of kiters jumping at 10 meters from the shore break when you are entering the water and they land the jump 1 mt from you and tell you “WATCH OUT YOU’RE IN MY WAY”; kiters who go kiting in a wave spot and they don’t know about the surfing rules and put in danger other kitesurfers; kiters jumping between students. Shall I continue?!

Every day, while teaching kitesurfing I witness so many accidents in the water, most of them (let’s say 99% of them) could all be avoided if people knew or respected the right of way.


The IKO (International Kiteboarding Organization) has listed a number of right of way rules that will help everybody to kite in a safer way soooo let’s start from the basics:

Rule #1: The golden rule

The golden rule

This is very easy: when you are riding and you are about to cross path with another kiter who’s coming from the opposite direction – but you are NOT on collision course – the kiter upwind need to bring the kite up (towards the sky) and the kiter downwind needs to bring the kite down (towards the sea). In this way, you kiters can continue your navigation without getting tangled.

Do you know what upwind and downwind mean?

  1. Upwind is when an object, a person, or a point of reference is more towards the wind than you.

2. Downwind is when an object, a person, or a point of reference is farther away from the wind direction than you.

Rule #2: The starboard kiter has priority

Starboard VS Portboard

Let’s go on with the second rule that will save your life so many times :)

If you are on collision course with another kiter (meaning that you kiters are riding one against each other in the same line), the kiter that is riding starboard has priority and the portboard kiter must let the starboard kiter pass by going downwind or change direction 

Do you know what starboard and port board means?

  1. Starboard when the kite is on the right side of the wind window when riding

2. Portboard when the kite is on the left side of the wind window when riding

Very good, now that you know the most 2 basic rules you already know more than the 50% of the kiters out there!

Let’s continue! 

Rule #3: Kiter entering the water has priority

Rider entering the water

A kiter who is entering the water has priority on the kiter who exits the water. 

Why? The kiter on land or closest to the shoreline is more exposed to hard obstacles and wind turbulences. The kiter in deep water can always change direction and attempt a second approach to land as he is already riding in a safer area.

Rule #4: No priority on land

No priorities on land

Yes, that’s right..on land there is no clear priority “EH BUT GIO WHAT IF?” – “Just use common sense”

TEST: If you and another kiter are both walking towards the water and you are the one behind and upwind… who must be more careful?
YOU. Because the kiter downwind don’t even know about your existence!

Now, you know more than 65% of the kiters. Why stop here?!?! Let’s go on!

Rule #5: The slowest rider has priority.

Slower rider has priority

Yes, I know you have a Formula 1 Mercedes and you are riding like Lewis Hamilton and you ALWAYS stumble upon the dude or the lady with a Fiat 500 from the 80s going at 3km/h… sooooo frustrating isn’t it?


  1. If you are coming from behind the slower kiter they cannot see you (we still don’t have eyes on the back of our heads)
  2. They definitely cannot go faster …. They are with a Fiat 500 from the 80s…
  3. You can’t pretend they move out of your way because most probably > read point 1

What do you do? You avoid them by changing your direction or overtaking them downwind where they can see you.


Check behind you before doing a transition

This is going to be breaking news I know, but this rule about checking the surroundings applies ALSO when you change the riding direction. Look before you do a transition! 


Very good, now you know more than 80% of the kiters out there! Do you want to continue to level up to Right of Way Super Sayan?

Let’s go!

Rule #6: JUMPS

Jump safety area

Wait, what?!?! There are rules for the jumps as well? Of course, my dear!

  1. First of all, please avoid jumping right on the shore break. That’s dangerous. Mainly for you as you can hurt yourself if you don’t land the trick (yes, the sand is very hard) but it is also extremely annoying and impolite for the kiters who need to enter the water (and as you can remember from one of the rules above… they have priority!)
  2. Avoid jumping in the students’ area… they are already not 100% comfy and don’t have full control so don’t scare them out!!!
  3. Find your space! Before jumping check the surrounding area around you, make sure you have enough space to land the jump without landing it on top of another kiter. “BUT GIO THEY ARE ALWAYS IN MY WAY” Nope, it’s not the duty of the other kiter to avoid you, it’s your duty to calculate properly the space that you need for the jump and to make sure there are no obstacles in that space (including others kiters). They say: keeping a 50m safety area downwind and a 30m safety area upwind will reduce many unexpected risks. I know this is almost impossible but at least check that you won’t land in the head of somebody else. 
  4. Never jump upwind from another kiter if there is not enough safety area between both riders. I wrote it twice, to make sure it’s clear.
  5. Never jump among other beach users such as swimmers.

Rule #7: SURF SPOT

Surfers have priority

If you go to a spot where the kiters are catching waves and surfing them there are defined rules there as well “NOOOO GIO WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!?” “I know… I know…you’ll buy me a beer later”

  1. The kiter who’s in the wave has priority. YES, that kiter has priority even if you are starboard. Why? Because the rider in the wave has less maneuverability than you.
  2. If there are two kiters in the wave – the kiter closer to the peak has priority – this rule comes from surfing … no questions here, please.
  3. If there is no peak the kiter who’s more upwind has priority as the upwind/peak kiter is exposed to the critical area of the wave while the other rider becomes a dangerous obstacle within the wave.
  4. Surf your wave till the end and then go back upwind respecting the circuit and waiting for your next wave. There are waves for everyone, catch your wave and let the others do the same. Snaking or jumping waves is definitely not polite, and can be very dangerous. 
  5. LAST BUT NOT LEAST: avoid jumping in the middle of the surfing spot while kiters are surfing the waves. IT’S REALLY DANGEROUS!

Thanks to Red Shark Fuerteventura for these nice images that explain more than well all of the above!

OMG! Congratulations you made it so far! You gain so many points! And guess I have something for you… another gift!


Please just stay away from students, you can easily recognize them because they are usually wearing a helmet and they don’t know what’s going on. So, please stay away from them… and don’t get pissed if a student crashed the kite on top of you
1) they didn’t do it on purpose – don’t get mad at them
2) you were inside of their drop zone
3) as a more experienced kite you could have stayed out of their drop zone.

Well, if you arrived to read till here I am pretty proud of you! I hope you’ll treasure all this knowledge and use it in the water the next time. Please remember that NOPE… the sea is no place for anarchy. So spread the word and send this article to all your kiter friends!

Ciao Ciao


If you are not doing it already follow me on Instagram too :P  and if you come to Tenerife come to El Médano to say “hello” in the windy days I´ll be at the beach working as kite instructor with the PKS Tenerife School!

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