Winter Weather Warning for new Kitesurfers
Kitehard (IKO instructor) contributed an excellent article on the hazards of Winter Kiting. When you're new to the sport, it's hard to stay on the beach when the wind is up, but in winter you need to be extra careful as the choice could cost you your life....
A PM to me from a frothing young grom tonight asking whether I think he should go out in tomorrows winds, got me to thinking after I had replied, and it urged me to make this post.
To anyone who is new (less than 12 months experience = NOOB ) to this sport and who is amping to get out for a ride, maybe have a read on and take in a few words from someone who's been around a bit and lived to ride again.
Please kindly note, The term "Noob" or "Noobie" is not a derogatory term, but a fun/humourous colloquialism used to describe people new and inexperienced at any chosen endeavour.
I love riding big storms and heavy conditions and sometimes you may see guys out riding that make it look really easy and heaps of fun, it probably is .... if you have the experience and skills. I urge you to think seriously before heading out. Consider these points.
1. Winter (cold) winds are more dense than warm winds so for a given wind speed, your kite will produce more power in cold winds than in the same windspeed in warm winds. The difference can be quite noticeable.
2. Non convectional winds (not seabreezes) or frontal winds, are not smooth. They are usually very gusty and can vary significantly in force and direction. You can expect gusts to be up to 50% stronger than the average windspeed.
3. Seabreeze and BOM give forecasts of expected AVERAGE wind speeds, not the maximum gust strength, so anticipate the potential 50% stronger spikes in wind speed, especially in squalls.
4. Watch for squalls and rain fronts. These are easily identified by dark rain clouds at low altitude approaching rapidly from the direction of the wind. Often a curtain of rain will smudge out the horizon. These fronts or squalls can radically change direction of the wind for short periods of time (5 min to 1/2 hour or longer). It can be safe and fun between the squalls, but it is best to land and wait out the squalls if not 100% confident, even then, head away from land.
5. Squalls can increase wind strength by 100% ie 20 knots becomes 40 knots in a matter of less than a minute. Keep your eyes on the approaching weather, it comes on quickly at times! I've seen total grey out conditions and horizontal torrential rain stinging your face so hard it hurts and reducing visibility to 50m. Bring your kite down low and release to safety on the beach. If on the water, keep kite low and drop it into the water on the edge of the wind window and keep a little tension on the back lines to prevent inversion.
6. Be very careful of lofting accidents when near high sloped banks along the waters edge etc. Strong gusts in onshore conditions can be deadly <insert Miami Kevin video here> . If necessary, release the kite to safety, forget self landing.
7. Use a flagging safety leash and dependable safety system, suicide leash setups are inappropriate for winter conditions when approaching the beach or launching. Accidents happen quickly on land so be ready to dump to flagging safety at all times on terra firma.
8. Make sure ambition does not over ride ability. You'll get to ride again sooner if you aren't recovering from injury.
9. Carry out a close inspection on your bar and lines and any pulleys and bridle lines on your kite BEFORE you launch. People have been badly injured by lines or parts failing in close proximity to land. Imagine you are about to water start 5m from the beach in 30 knots of cold wind when your starboard steering line snaps and your kite loops towards the beach. This has happened more than you think
One of the things that differentiates a Noob from an experienced rider is the knowledge of weather conditions and personal ability and the wise evaluation of both. Knowing when to ride and when to watch is key to survival in these conditions. The decision to not ride will often hold you in higher regard in the eyes of experienced riders than getting out there with your 12m bow and showing us you can handle it.
At the end of the day, the decision is yours. Assess the conditions and listen to your intuition, if you don't feel 110% right, sit and watch. Remember someone loves you and wants you to come home in one piece.
Good winds and safe riding to anyone riding in the BIG winds of winter.
"It's after my third summer and I've only just gone out in winter."
I'd add that if you're finding it hard to stay upwind, four things make it even harder in winter:
1. The stronger currents (normally down wind) along the beach,
2. Having to go downwind more (to get out past the larger break, when you lose your board, etc),
3. The irregular wind and waves (harder to point and edge upwind), and
4. The wind is coming from a different direction (generally NW or onshore) to what you're used to and may also be changeable.
In the NWesterly: Can you also set up your kite and lines the 'wrong' way up the (generally smaller) beach
I try to go with a friend and tell someone where I am.
Deserted car parks = higher risk of car break ins
...oh, and keep an eye out for lightning
The main things you need to go out in35kts +winter gusts 57kts is,
Third party insurance, property and health
Spare cash to replase shreaded kites and lost boards if it all goes to $hit.
A flight recorder to prove you boosted 60ft high
Video footage with wind meter for proof and youtube fame.
About 4 spare kiters to hold you and your kite while on the beach and for rescue when it goes wrong. Call an Ambulance, Take your car home. etc
Big ass balls.
but could be a lot of fun
How to ride toeside
An important skill to get sorted as soon as you've got the basics of kitesurfing mastered.
How's your board control?
Are you being slack while you're kitesurfing and not focusing as much as you could?