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Weather and Kiteboarding

Forum with lots of safety info - a must for newbees

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Postby Admin » Thu Aug 08, 2002 3:56 pm

A recent article that appears in the Fall 2002 issue of "Kiting", the Journal of the AKA, has been reproduced below. It has some important weather information that ALL kiteboarders should be familar with. That is if they want to avoid repeating some of the avoidable loftings and other misadventures that some of us have already experienced.

This version doesn't include any of the photos for ease of posting. Please refer to the complete version with images in Kiteboarding Safety References (KSR) at: ... EFERENCES/

under: General References

or review it in your copy of "Kiting" when you receive it. If you are interested in joining the AKA and taking advantage of their unique liability insurance coverage for riders in the USA please visit their website at:

Rick Iossi
AKA Kiteboarding Committee

"Weather and Kiteboarding"
August 7, 2002
(As published the Fall 2002 issue of "Kiting", The Journal of the American Kitefliers Association (AKA))

Kiteboarding is a new extreme sport that is expanding rapidly across America and the World. The pure joy and excitement of this sport can be hard to shake off once it grabs a firm hold on you. If you want to take this sport up, go at it right by taking ADEQUATE lessons with a qualified professional instructor. You will advance in the sport much more rapidly and safely for your investment. Don't be deceived by the easy appearance of this sport. It takes adequate training, practice, knowledge, safety equipment and use of good judgment to kiteboard with reasonable safety. It has parallels to flying an aircraft in this regard. Developing weather knowledge is a key part of learning the sport.

Kiteboarders or riders often suffer from "windlust" particularly after an extended time off the water. Windlust is the semi-rational focus ... or obsession, with good wind and shredding over the water at speed and flashing skyward at will. So it pays when "jonesing" for your next wind fix, to know what weather patterns to look for and even more importantly, what to avoid. Don't let windlust force you into a set of weather conditions that you would have been wise to sit out onshore.

So what causes wind? Air is set in motion by the flow from high pressure to low pressure. It amounts to nature trying to balance energy in different areas to a level, "windless" playing field. Where do these pressure changes in the atmosphere come from? The main cause is from the warming and cooling of air masses. When a cold dense air mass develops near a warm, less dense air mass, wind results from nature trying to balance the pressure differences between the two air masses. This phenomena may be observed at different scales throughout the world. Globally temperature/pressure differences cause the jet stream; on a lesser scale these forces result in coastal sea breeze or thermal winds and on a local scale these forces create lake breezes. Unstable weather, i.e. squalls, take these motivating forces along with other more complex factors and throws everything into a "blender" of sorts creating turbulent air mass. It is best to stay out of the "blender" while kiteboarding as sudden violent wind changes are readily possible!

It is beyond the scope of this article to provide extensive information on weather phenomena, interpretation and prediction. Many excellent resources exist on the Internet including:

Introduction to Meteorology and Climatology

A Weather Spotters Guide

So what sort of conditions should kiteboarders be looking for? The following suggestions assume that the kiteboarder is using a kite of suitable area for the conditions and his level of experience.

Kiteboarders and particularly new riders may benefit from riding in stable weather with steady winds 10 to 18 kts., with minimal gusts, ideally 5 kts. or less, from a side shore or side onshore direction. Kiteboarders out for their first several sessions would be wise to target winds in the 10 to 14 kt. range max. Side shore winds blow parallel to land, side onshore winds blow diagonally towards the land, onshore winds blow perpendicular towards land and of course offshore winds blow away from land. More experienced riders can handle stronger winds and higher gust ranges by using good technique that largely comes with careful experience and good judgment. Of course the incidence of accidents appears to go up with stronger winds and gusts even among experienced kiteboarders, so have a care. If the winds are onshore, the accidents also increase and many prudent kiteboarders avoid these conditions. Offshore winds can frequently create special problems for kiteboarders such as not being able to easily come back to shore. Winds that blow offshore may be best for riders that like to go out but aren't real concerned about coming back in and should be avoided! Riders may choose to ignore these precautions but if you do, expect to eventually run into problems including possibly some serious ones.

This marvelous sport can reveal a startling dark side when a rider becomes exposed to strong, gusty unstable weather. Oh, and there is lightening as well. Kiteboarders may be the only people in the vicinity waving around a 100 ft. long lightening rod on a flat surface, hmmm. Strong gusts can come with squalls, storms, frontal systems, tropical depressions and other unstable weather phenomena. Kites are designed to pull and new designs appear to be doing this much better with each passing year, i.e. "the gas works great!" The current ability to depower kites or to "slam on the emergency brakes" may not always be that reliable in practice in an emergency. So the key is to avoid circumstances that might call for emergency kite depowering. "Lofting" or involuntary lifting and/or dragging at speed are two possible consequences of strong gusty winds along with possible injury if you hit hard objects. Another key is using distance, 200 ft. or more, to your advantage as a safety buffer zone from hard objects when connected to your kite control bar. Ample distance can potentially allow forgiveness for many errors in judgment and just plain bad luck. Remember, in kiteboarding "distance is your friend."

A variety of practical safety information has been assembled for the use and benefit of kiteboarders titled "KITEBOARDING SAFETY REFERENCES" or KSR. This information appears online at: ... EFERENCES/

So avoidance of unstable weather is key. Many riders have been lofted or dragged in sudden gusts, the Kiteboarding Safety Information resource in the KSR, under 1. KSI, relates many accounts about this.

The reality at present is that if you are connected to your kite control bar by being hooked or snap shackled into your "chicken loop" or fixed line, you will likely be lofted or possibly dragged if you are hit by a strong enough gust, particularly if your kite is in the WRONG position. The WRONG kite position would be much above 45 degrees from the ground or near the zenith. Kiteboarding traction kites are like guns, don't ever point them where you don't potentially want to shoot (or GO!). Some riders have failed to let go of their control bar when hit by a strong gust and have still been lofted. Ideally if you are hit by a gust, you pop your quick release loop or snap shackle, let go of your control bar and deploy your kite depowering leash. This should end the incident at this point with no injury. Unfortunately in some more extreme cases by the time you are aware of what has happened you may be flying at speed well off the ground or have already impacted the ground.

It is a good policy to never be hooked or snap shackled into your kite control bar while near, that is within 200 ft. and possibly further from hard objects. Serious lofting incidents have occurred with riders being ripped from the water and flown inland with wind gusts less than 9 kts. More spectacular loftings have occurred with wind gusts on the order of 50 kts. These more dramatic gusts may have been associated with multicell or even supercell thunderstorm phenomena. Supercells are often associated with tornado formation. Speaking from personal experience, supercell kiteboarding is not likely to develop a repeat following of healthy riders anytime soon. These severe weather phenomena are described in the Internet references cited above. The point is that current safety systems do not provide fully reliable, safe management of these gust conditions, i.e. instant and total depowering under most conditions. The key therefore is to never expose yourself to unstable gusty weather. Practicing anti-lofting techniques would have likely spared many or even most of these riders. Please see "4. LOFTING AND HOW TO TRY TO AVOID IT" in the KSR for some ideas on how to reduce the chance of lofting. Also all riders should perform the practical leash test described in the same collection of references under "5. Leash Test - July 19, 2002.htm " to improve the odds of proper functioning of this essential safety system.

Make a habit of checking the weather radar on television or preferably online before going out kiteboarding. In the USA, has good weather radar images and also real time wind reports for many areas. See Figure 1 for an example of unstable, squally weather that should be avoided. Such weather systems occur commonly in many areas of the world. It should be noted that this graphic presents an obvious, severe weather system. In reality far smaller and less colorful systems or "bands" have caused serious lofting incidents in the past. Also, the National Weather Service has excellent weather radar resources at:

(Image has been omitted in this version)

Figure 1: Weather Radar Image Depicting Unstable Weather

If there are storms or squalls in your area or heading your way as supported by visual observations or in strong, irregular real time wind reports, don't go kiteboarding. Look at
Figure 2 below, if you see unstable gust spikes like this in your area (even half this size), or multiple wind direction changes, don't go kiteboarding. The windgraph in Figure 2 represents conditions caused by the unstable weather shown in the weather radar in Figure 1. Two hours after the 20 kt. gust spike, the winds had stabilized and the storms had moved offshore. So if you see unstable weather coming in, take a break onshore and go out once things clear. Similar Internet resources exist in many other countries depicting radar and in some cases real time wind speeds.

(Image has been omitted in this version)

Figure 2: Wind graph Image Showing a Squall Related Gust Spike

Riders should make a habit of looking in on these sites before riding. If no such sites exist in your area or if you don't have Internet access, be very conservative in avoiding any visually apparent
unstable weather. Portable weather radios may offer additional information that may be of use. Despite checking these Internet and TV weather resources things can change rapidly once you are on the water, so be vigilant. Get into the habit of watching weather conditions, what clouds bring sudden gusts, wind reversals, etc.. Always practice anti-lofting techniques including techniques that are described in the KSR.

Kiteboarders should wear basic safety gear at all times. Such gear includes a good quality, well fitting and padded helmet, impact pfd, gloves (sailboat gloves including Kevlar panels are ideal), knife(s), a tested kite depowering leash and a whistle. Sounds like a lot of stuff, right? The reality is that you tend to not even notice it a few minutes after you are on the water. Safety gear can make all the difference on how you come out of an emergency situation, IF you have it with you! If not, take your chances of injury and possibly having your misadventures appear in the KSI someday.

Lastly, practice the Safe Kiteboarding Guidelines located at both in the KSR under 2. SAFE KITEBOARDING GUIDELINES and on the AKA website under kiteboarding. These guidelines have been derived in part from lessons learned from actual accidents and incidents.

So you are out kiteboarding and the weather appears to be deteriorating, what should you do?

a. If you see darker gray or black storm clouds moving into your area, beach, land your kite immediately and thoroughly anchor it and remove at least two lines from it,. You should be on the sand with your kite properly disabled before any change in wind speed or direction or air temperature drop occurs.

b. If you have waited too long to get to shore and properly disable your kite it would be best to unhook or unshackle your chicken loop and keep your kite low and move into shore at best safe, speed. If you are hit by a gust, release your bar to activate your kite depowering leash. If you can walk in the shallows it might be best to activate your kite depowering leash early rather than later onshore and near hard objects.

c. Finally if you hear thunder, come in and secure your equipment until clear weather returns. Some say if you can hear thunder you may be within striking distance of lightening. Lightening may strike a few miles to many miles in front of a thunderstorm so be conservative. Also, some kiteboarders have been treated to some shocks off of their control bars in the vicinity of cloud masses. If this happens you would be wise to land your kite immediately as lightening may start within minutes. It is important to note that most kiteboarding line is non-conductive. However when you coat it with moisture from the air and even better, salt vapor, this surface film conducts electricity very effectively along kite lines. Please avoid kiteboarding electricity experiments!

Here is another example of a storm, this time in South Florida. Included are a photo of dark gray to black clouds moving toward the coast from inland (Figure 3). Weather radar showing abundant embedded violent cells in the storm (Figure 4). Finally a windgraph showing very substantial gusts that are off the scale at 50 mph but appear to go up to 70 mph or higher (Figure 5)! Beware of dark clouds and properly react well in advance of their coming!

(Image has been omitted in this version)

Figure 3: An image of a strong incoming storm in South Florida

(Image has been omitted in this version)

Figure 4: Weather radar image of a strong storm system with number powerful embedded storm cells.

(Image has been omitted in this version)

Figure 5: A windgraph showing very substantial, i.e. possible hurricane force gusts associated with this storm.

So, kiteboarding can be a stimulating and very rewarding sport. Riders just need to use adequate training, practice, safety gear, good knowledge and judgment in working to maintain safety and to try to avoid obvious hazards. Be aware of your surroundings and changes in weather at all times. If weather conditions start to deteriorate come in early and secure your gear until clear stable conditions return. Remember, kiteboarding IS NOT as easy as it looks, so go at it responsibly and with appropriate caution.

Copyright 2002 Rick Iossi

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Lightning and Thunderstorms

Postby Toby » Sat May 31, 2003 7:45 am

Lightning and Thunderstorms

Its not just the gusts, squalls and lofting when a storm come through, its the big zap. I was just reading some lightning research and was kind of surprised. Like this, did you know that 10% of all lightning comes out of a clear sky with no clouds? I once handed my buddy my bar on a trainer kite, and a moment later he was dancing around yelling he was getting shocked. It was a clear blue sky. Maybe he was close to the big zap... Did you know that most lighning injuries occur before the rain even starts? Here's some of the gems:

All thunderstorms produce lightning and are dangerous. Lightning kills more people each year than tornadoes.
Lightning often strikes as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. Many deaths from lightning occur ahead of the storm because people try and wait to the last minute before seeking shelter.
You are in danger from lightning if you can hear thunder. If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough that it could strike your location at any moment.
Lightning injuries can lead to permanent disabilities or death. On average, 20% of strike victims die; 70% of survivors suffer serious long term effects.
Look for dark cloud bases and increasing wind. Every flash of lightning is dangerous, even the first. Head to safety before that first flash. If you hear thunder, head to safety!
Blue Skies and Lightning. Lightning can travel sideways for up to 10 miles. Even when the sky looks blue and clear, be cautious. If you hear thunder, take cover. At least 10% of lightning occurs without visible clouds in the sky.

I will sometimes wait until a storm is 4 or 5 miles away before dropping the kite. Not any more. I have no interest in trying to duplicate the experiments of Ben Franklin. Oh yea, I covered my helmet with metal foil tape for protection. It reduces those little voices in my head that keep telling me to get in a few big leaps beorfe the storm shuts me down..



strong and sudden storms

Postby Guest » Wed Jun 11, 2003 7:30 pm

I confirm that these dark clouds are really bad :( ... /index.htm

Pato :D

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