Put this together a while back. It is worth reading over and using something similar where you ride before each session. It can reduce wind waiting and improve the odds for better, ideally safer sessions. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ has lots of local stations/pages throughout the USA. Some other countries have similar resources. Learn what exists where you ride and use it. Don't expect these services to warn of ALL hazards to kiters, as they haven't at times in the past. A small cloud can wreck our day and may not even show up on their threat board. This was an extreme and obvious threat, others are more subtle fairly often. A sudden gust from a squall topping out at 35 kts. or less has injured kiters when they failed anticipate it and react properly in advance. We need to use these resources, others, pay attention to weather at the launch and act responsibly ourselves.
Kiteboarding Weather Planning And Monitoring
Here are some ideas to consider while planning your kiting sessions, where to go, expecting what winds and when, what weather hazards if any are anticipated and things to look for. It isn't perfect and there are still surprises but less than going out without much of an idea what to expect that day. Knowledge is power and should improve the odds for more fun and less grief, use it.
1. Marine/Water & Hazard Forecasts
Check reliable forecasts (predicted winds, direction, HAZARD FORECASTS, temperatures, anticipated changes, cold fronts, tropical or strong systems). Anticipate changes don’t fall into them. Not all private weather sites are reliable, use what works well in your area. Will your kite size work for the day or will you need to increase or decrease size at some point. How about exposure clothing, is there a sudden temperature drop inbound? Hazard forecast are often a guess, one that may be exaggerated or understated, every once in a while spot on. We need to use them as a guide tempering the forecast with our own good judgment. Predictions of 30 kt. gusts with storms can readily change to 50 kts.+ when they actually come through. We need to do some thinking for ourselves in short and on the conservative side too.
2. Radar and Satellite Maps
Is stormy weather (often bright colored masses), squall lines, isolated storm clouds or feeder bands inbound? Looping weather images can show CURRENT trends and speed. Does it look they will arrive during your session? Cold front squall lines can be very narrow and pass by within a hour or so at times making it easier to avoid the wind hazards. Temper this with LOCAL knowledge as conditions can change radically in only an hour sometimes, systems can accelerate or stall, etc.. Thermal squalls, the ones that often bring thermal winds can pop up very fast on radar, use your eyes at the beach and storm signs at the beach too.
3. Synoptic/Frontal Weather Maps
Are there significant weather systems inbound, cold fronts, tropical systems, strong high/low pressure, got tight pressure isobars for strong wind? You can see fronts on these maps routinely five days out, there is usually no good reason to be caught by surprise with frontal wind spikes, squalls, direction shifts, temperature drops. You can often watch things move in over time and perhaps even time them to the half hour at your launch. Look at these maps on loop again to learn about CURRENT trends and speed.
4. Real time winds
How are winds upweather or the direction of the prevailing system, spikes/gusty and shifting winds inbound, is there a 90 degree or so windshift coming with a front? Frequently you can see a preview of what the front will bring to your area, hundreds of miles upweather in advance. It’s a free look at what may be the future, why not take it? If unstable weather is coming avoid it until it passes. Did the winds pop up later in the morning or afternoon, are they thermal or convection winds? If so, they will likely turn off and you should know when to anticipate this happening. The regional wind pattern may resume once they turn off, be it dead calm or changing to blowing directly offshore. Learn what to look for and act in advance of the change.
5. Wind Useable or NOT?
If you decide to go, STAY AWARE, at all times of the weather. Things like cloud lines, funnel clouds, microbursts, wind direction and velocity, white caps, mist, temperature changes. KNOW what systems/clouds look like in your area that bring hazardous weather. Typical weather patterns can be recognized within given seasons. Learn what to look for and when to react. Good chance you are a wind junkie already so play the complete roll and tune into wx. Measure wind speed at the launch along with other visual indicators such as white caps, tree and flag movement and ask how other kiters are doing on their respective kite sizes before selecting yours. If you expect a weather change to occur, don't be on the water if something violent comes through. Sometimes the hazardous period can be short so just wait it out assess to verify stable conditions have resumed and rig for actual conditions.
6. At the beach & riding
Checkout wind speed, direction, sky and water conditions at the launch and during your session. Is the wind useable, are sky conditions stable or threatening? What do threatening sky conditions look like in your area? You should know. Are there dark clouds and/or a wind/whitewater inbound? What about funnel clouds or waterspouts, are there small points showing up at the bottom of clouds? Can you see whitewater approaching, new wind lines, how about dust from microbursts? Always be aware of your surroundings, weather changes, ANTICIPATE & REACT early.
7. Squall is almost here!
Land, thoroughly secure gear early, before significant wind, temperature changes or threatening weather arrives. Systems can move 50 mph + hitting with minimal warning. If you screw up and are caught on the water, consider totally or emergency depowering your kite early, waiting too long has taken riders. Be ready to release your kite leash if your kite powers up again. Riding out far from shore may work for ships. Ships don’t get ripped 50’+ from the water and blown at high speed downwind. DON'T WAIT, act early to kill the power of the kite even if it means swimming in after. Your strong swimming skills and impact vest should make that a manageable process in normal temperatures. If it is cooler use a lot of extra care and again act correctly EARLY.
Here is a spotter photo guide prepared by the NWS. It identifies some of the more obvious, in some cases "straight out of hell" appearing storms. Riders are still getting caught in these obvious systems, badly scared, injured or killed. So, the following is to provide more information on these more obvious threats that can be a part of our weather reality.
A gust front moves in. From: http://www.stormeffects.com/ 2003_chase_images.htm
I've been going over records of kiting losses this week. It is amazing how many happened in obvious, severe weather, supercells complete with powerful wind gusts. Some of the lost kiters were described as cautious, safety oriented people. Some were coming in to land but too late. Others were ripped off the water and lofted as far as 500 m away and a 100 m high (over 1650 ft. away and 300 ft. high!). Riding storms out to sea may work for ships but they don't get lofted unlike us. The smart folks are on shore and secured before any change in wind speed, direction or temperature. It is good to remember that there are sometimes lulls before all hell breaks loose but not always, the "calm before the storm."
They waited until the storm was too close, they can move a mile a minute after all. Being late can cause you to miss an appointment, a plane or in this case the rest of your life. When it comes to storms, anticipate and completely avoid them weather planning and monitoring, if you screw up and are late coming in, Emergency Depower EARLY even if it means swimming. You have good swimming skills and an impact vest on right to reduce the odds of problems?
I will always remember the story of a boy in France, 18 yrs. in 2002, standing on the beach looking for someone to grab his kite a 1/4 mile away from other kiters. He was still standing there when a severe squall swarmed ashore and lofted him a couple hundred meters at high speed into a pole. Never acted to Emergency Depower (kill all the power by flagging his kite) while he still had the chance.
Far lesser storms can mess you up too so there is more that we need to know than the following, Still, there is no excuse to have a kite up when the extremely obvious severe variety are inbound. This accidents have happened in most parts of the world including several in Europe. Here is a spotter guide for severe weather, thunderstorms prepared by NWS. Read over it and act early, don't blow this stuff off.
more at: http://spotterguides.us/advanced/advanced02.htm
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