He came out largely unhurt. I interviewed all the eyewitnesses, all kiters that I could contact.
Staying calm helped a great deal and flying the kite. IF the wind hadn't shifted to the south in the squall, Dale likely would have been killed by hitting land at around 30 mph or faster. ALSO, this was just after high tide, much lower and he would have struck bottom very hard, even dry land. He was extremely fortunate unlike so many others. But, not as fortunate as the many more riders that routinely ignore squalls and get away with it, up to now anyway.
The kiting community, Industry, instruction and media need to change how we look at weather hazards. It is by far the most hazardous aspect of kiting, closely seconded by launch selection. Too many avoidable losses. Very glad Dale came through and shared his story with us.
Squalls are real bad news, believe it. We think we can handle it but in reality, often enough we don't and things get trashed.
There are some many often repeated lessons from this incident and an important, fairly new one.
His properly functioning flat kite reportedly failed to depower during the initial portion of the lofting. That is when most of his movement was up. Reducing the angle of attack works with primary forward motion but perhaps to a lesser degree when a major component is up. I am working on a writeup from an uplift lofting incident in OBX when the the kite failed to depower again during the "up portion" of the flight. Normal kite operation, SHOULDN'T include dealing with uplift lofting in my opinion. I believe the solution involves avoiding the Operator Error that leads to the problem in the first place.
The other thing is, his best time to react was BEFORE the wind arrived. Once it was upon him, he was already lofted. Solution, anticipate hazardous weather through proper weather planning and monitoring ... avoid the squall.
Anyone know what weather conditions create the potential for a Squall? Some areas seem to be quite prone to Squalls while other places never get them at all. When traveling it would be good to know what kind of visual and / or temperature weather conditions precede a Squall. When out on the water are there changes in wind direction right before a Squall, or are there any other indicators in weather that would serve as a warning to kiters to get off the water and land the kite NOW!
The thing about Lifting air vs wind is a subject Paragliders are dependent on. The same principals can be used for kiting.
Kiting we have much longer lines thus even on the ground we can be picked up in the core of passing thermals. This puts us in a danger zone especially when in Zenith. Depower won't do much as it will only force us to stay in the thermal if its moving slowly. As you feel being picked up your natrual reaction may to be power up to stop the kite to overfly this only will accelerate you back into the core of the thermal lifting you higher and higher once you hit the edge of the core and fall out that is when the magic carpet ride is left with us fearing for our lives as we accelerate to the ground due to the canopy size similar to a speed wing. A controlled sprial as you may see some of the pro's do on big flights will actually act as a brake keeping the kite in safe areas for us to land. Its a scary situation that we can't practice for and some of the lucky few were just that putting the kite in safe spots as the decent accelerated.
Now aside from thermals then there is mechanical lift which can be amplified in the right conditions to simulate the exact thing that a thermal would do. As air hits an object the air will move straight up then just a ways back from the object is where Rotor will begin. Rotor is completely uncontrollable and has cost many pilots their lives at least in paragliding.
The bottomline to all of this is none of us are equiped to handle these situations and as Rick has said and all others these conditions should be avoided at all costs. squalls storms buildings mountains combined with high high winds can be fatal on a kite that if hooked up to say a paragliding harness would let you down like a sack of rocks tied to your ankles.
I can say that my experience with paragliding has taught me so much about kiteboarding if you don't understand the weather you're on borrowed time for a disaster.
Thankfully this guy made it out of a not potentially life threatning disaster IT WAS A LIFE THREATNING disaster. He choose the right inputs at the right time to make it back down to the ground successfully. Many could call this skill its not someone up there was looking out for this man.
really great and useful report and analysis!
in my place we have pretty much well experienced core of riders who know well symptoms of the squalls. and they always give prior advice and when the things going tough they make warnings on the beach to the others by whistling and waving hands.
do you have any information about possibilities of preventing of fatal accidents caused by rather horizontal lofting (eg kevin of florida case) by driving the kite intentionally in the ground/water immediately after the sudden squall?
is it better to drive your kite (while you can) in the ground risking heavy contusions or better try stay aloft as long as possible?
One other thing to add about squalls is the the sudden cooling due to the moisture its about to dump is its a swirling mass of turbulent air. causing absolute chaos while trying to manuever controlled flight. As you may read in another post of the Paragliding comp pilot EWA and an unfortunate chinese pilot were fighting an oncoming storm but thought they could complete the task on hand instead got caught by the distructive forces of cloud suck by an oncoming cumulo-nimbus or storm cloud. They had reached a never before height without any oxygen nearly froze to death and one of them lost their life cause of the lack of judgement on a oncoming storm/squall. These people were PRO pilots trying to finish off the flight task in a competition.
As my instructor always said its better to be on the ground wishin/wanting to fly then to be flying wishing/wanting to be on the ground.
Live to fly another day.
I've been caught up in the moment and just recently realized how lucky I am. Flying in montana in the summer usually requires chasing storms. Needless to say the squall and the wind came in but the lightning that followed it made me shit my pants. boats where coming off the water so fast I was enjoying it until the flashes were so close to comfort I finally told my self not to become Ben Franklin and put it down.
Has anyone had any lightning related problems with kiting??
RickI wrote:His properly functioning flat kite reportedly failed to depower during the initial portion of the lofting. That is when most of his movement was up. Reducing the angle of attack works with primary forward motion but perhaps to a lesser degree when a major component is up. I am working on a writeup from an uplift lofting incident in OBX when the the kite failed to depower again during the "up portion" of the flight. Normal kite operation, SHOULDN'T include dealing with uplift lofting in my opinion. I believe the solution involves avoiding the Operator Error that leads to the problem in the first place.
Yes, squalls must be avoided.
Nevertheless, riders must be prepared to act accordingly when their kite is hit by an upward draft (or any bizarre gust on any direction). That's why any kite must have a means to be FLAGGED by the rider through the emergency system.
Rick, please be a bit more specific. When you say the kite failed to depower you mean through just pushing the bar up? Of course that won't work with an upward draft. Or you mean the kite has an emergency system that is supposed to "flag" the kite through two front lines, like the ones used by delta shapes and specific bridles like the IDS. Because I'm really curious as to whether this type of emergency system is really entitled to be called a flagging system when the S hits the fan.