We have had a number of tragic accidents since October worldwide including a recent one in Miami. There were individual factors involved in each circumstance as is usually the case. I was delaying posting the accounts until after the holidays out of respect. They will be uploaded soon.
A common factor to several of them was experienced riders launching in excessively gusty conditions, perhaps without realizing it. More accurately perhaps without realizing how small their factor of safety was in riding in such conditions. If it seems too gusty, it probably is.
In several of these severe accidents, other kiteboarders thought about going out BUT DIDN'T because they felt uneasy about the conditions.
Listen to your gut, if it doesn't feel right, don't do it. Even if your gut is OK with it, if the winds are excessively gusty or squalls are moving in, DON'T go kiteboarding.
What is excessively gusty? Well, in some of the cases squalls hit with very strong winds. You always know what gust range comes with a squall, right? NO, generally not at all. So, you are gambling that it won't be that bad if you choose to ride in it. In other cases squalls weren't present but winds were still highly variable, in some instances due to land shadowing effects.
I have been trying for sometime to recover actual windgraph records for some of these severe accidents with little success. So, it is hard to give specific wind speeds at this point for some of the accidents. Still, if the gust range is much above 10 to 15 kts. your hazard level has gone up and your factor of safety has gone down. Does this mean you will be killed or even have a serious problem? No, not at all, it just means the odds have changed. The higher the gust range and more erratic the winds, the lower factor of safety you have. Many of us know it is certainly more work and less fun that more even winds.
Another factor in some of the cases in addition to riding in excessively gusty winds was rigging too big. In some cases just a BIT too big. Again, accidents are related to factors of safety and time of exposure. The longer you ride with a low factor of safety, the higher the odds of a bad session. TRY to pick reasonable winds and particularly TRY to pick a kite size and type that will be slightly underpowered or right in the middle or "sweet spot" for that kite. AVOID intentionally rigging to be overpowered, PARTICULARLY in excessively gusty weather. AVOID squalls and stormy weather.
Wind direction, AVOID ONSHORE WINDS. That old tune again, jeez. Will it nail you, no not necessarily. Still the odds of an accident go way up IF you ride in onshore winds. It has happened over and over again.
Another serious consideration is to CAREFULLY PICK YOUR LAUNCH AND RIDING AREA. Back to factor of safety again, can you launch and ride 25 ft. from a seawall or building downwind and not have problems? Sure you can but if you ride long enough and in variable conditions someday you may really miss the lack of an adequate DOWNWIND BUFFER ZONE. Bad luck can strike on your first launch or your 200th, so there really isn't much predicting this. The best thing to do is to select the BEST launch you can, even if it means driving or walking further. Hint: STAY AWAY FROM THE HARD STUFF, it can really hurt. Launch, get offshore and stay offshore until time to come in. Riding too close to shore, you can be lofted/dragged and bashed with no time to react.
Now, lets combine ...
Excessively gusty winds,
Rigging too big a kite,
Insufficient downwind buffer,
Other riders choosing not to
go out because of conditions,
Many and even all of these conditions are common to some serious accidents AND each one drops your factor of safety. Analyze your conditions and choose well.
To be continued.
In the meantime, read over the following document. It has been derived from the analysis of a lot of accidents. It won't necessarily save you from having an accident but in hindsight over many accidents in the past, it certainly might have helped.
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