This is an area in which I have virtually no personal experience, kiteboarding in truly low air and water temperatures. I have a fair amount of time in cold conditions above (frozen) water but that doesn't count. Of course, often it comes down to time and exposure and you can even succumb to hypothermia in South Florida, still you have to work at it a bit.
Considering some of the cold related comments about the two recent accidents in Holland and the fact that there is a large quantity of kiteboarders that ride in temperate and even colder latitudes, it would be good to focus in on things to do and not do at colder launches. I would think that there would be a core set of precautions that would apply to ANY potentially hypothermic kiteboarding conditions and then a second set that would be applicable to the sessions in the lower air and water temperatures.
So, over to you folks. What have you learned about having a good session, i.e. exposure clothing, emergency gear, rules of thumb, etc. at colder launches? I would like to update the Safe Kiteboarding Guidelines and Ten Ideas documents with what we come up with here.
I have learned that I don't have the feeling in my hands (even with gloves) to feel the releases. So it can be very dangerous in bad situations.
Als some releases are hard to release with thick gloves on your hands.
Also you loose power real quick. A long swim can be your death. So never kite out more than 300m in cold condidtions. Kite in a shallow area if you loose your board and make sure you have a very good wetsuit.
Cold temperatures (below 50, and especially below 40) ratchet up the kiting danger factor by several orders of magnitude. The colder the water/air, the more dangerous it becomes. Already slim margins of error become slimmer. A normally dangerous sport becomes even more dangerous. When is simply cold too cold? For me, the answer is mostly in the hands.
Numb hands in windsurfing is a bummer, but do-able. Many times have I returned to shore on a windsurfer with my hands too cold to move, or feel. (After they thaw out, the THROBBING is intense and painful.) In kiting cold hands are, for me, with my safety system, potentially life threatening. My hand(s) must FEEL the quick release ball in order to GRASP it and pull it. This is, critical, a threshold safety issue. Cold legs or feet or arms are a nuissance. Cold, numb hands are a serious liability.
Also, the presence of all that extra equip -- hoods, gloves, booties, etc. -- is generally more restrictive, to the body, the hands, etc., thus narrowing the safety factor yet further. Less visibility. Less manoueverabilty. Less dexterity = Less room for error = Less chance of getting out safely if something should go wrong (god forbid!).
Obviously, the experience of cold and "coldness" will vary from person to person, so everybody will need to make these judgments for themselves. Just be aware and vigilant to the fact that the cold air/water will place extra demands on you and your equipment.
My experience includes kiting in water with chunks of ice, and kiting in a large hole in the ice. Lots of late season and early season stuff.
Don't kite in temps below freezing. Lines, releases, and everything becomes ice covered. My body was covered with ice glaze one time when I tried 28 degrees F.
Assume you are going to breakdown and make a plan to live through it. For example, stay close to shore, and sail only in onshore or side onshore.
Up to 40% of your heat loss is out of your head. Cover the vents on your helmet or throw a neoprene skin under it.
Wear palmless mits. They work pretty well and can be peeled back to free your hands for dealing with lines and etc.
Warm your hands before going out. I have been known to bring a small coolerchest of hot water to dunk my hands after all may gear is setup.
Duct tape the seam between your boots and drysuit. Flushing water will numb your feet and make it tough to feel the board.
Keep your body core hot. As soon as your core drops, your hands and feet get cold. Once your hands are numb, your are done. Helmet and warm impact vest can help greatly.
Keep out of the water as much as possible. The water sucks your heat away like crazy. Body dragging for your board is pretty much out of the question. I use a real leash for cold temps, and have the helmet on in case.
Watch out for ice chunks. Lost some fins last year.
Avoid extreme wind conditions. Take it a little easier. Emergency conditions get compounded by dangerous cold.
Really check your lines, releases, foot strap screws, harness webbing, trim loop line and etc. Avoid the swim.
Chuckle at the folks sitting on their couches, and waiting for warmer weather. You are getting a session now.
I always put my wetsuit on at home before I go to the beach.......that safes one time changing at the beach. So when I arrive at the beach I am already warm..... Instead of getting cold from changing at the spot.
I wear a Neopreen facemask, surfingshoes (wetsuit worn over the shoes!! not in, otherwise you get extreem wet and thus cold feed), a floatingvest for extra wamth and safety, a helmet for extra warmth (because i wear a boardleash when its cold, I dont want to be dragging in the cold wather for my board all the time, i wear the helmet for safety too!!!!). I wear a shorty over my wetsuite.....experienced that wearing under it, is less warm (dont ask me why.......). Than we have gloves (no fingers. dont know what these are called in english) (neopreen) with an open palm, to stay in contact with the bar.... If real cold you can put dishwashing/housekeeping gloves under these for extra warmth.
When I a done kiting, I put my gear on the beach and change first....start up my car engine and put on the heating... Than we put on the radio and have a nice cup of hot coffee.....
Chilled out! than we clean up our gear and go home to have a nice warm shower.
And best tip...... when you feel COLD loose sence in your feeth/hands......get of the water. Never go alone..... (nothing to do with cold.....but still)
Here in Holland we kite with 5 degrees celcius...... Even kite on new years day when it was lightly snowing. Only for a little hour though...
Most painful kiting experience: bar being ripped out of my hands by a gust in freezing conditions. The pain in my fingers was excruciating when my hands were `thawing`.
I still think that the wind is the most important factor in kiting accidents in the Benelux. Toby asked the question on this forum why november was such a bad month for accidents. Just by accident, I noticed the wind statistics for the Benelux (Belgium and The Netherlands) in the German `Surf magazin` (windsurfing magazine). I was always assuming that from september on (with storm fronts and SW winds moving in) wind started picking up in the Benelux. It seems not to be the case if you read the statistics carefully. It`s only in November that it really starts blowing (well winds that the `wave warrior` types among the windsurfers really prefer, so that`s > 5 Bft) and it the good news is that it goes on during most of the spring time (that was also later then I expected). More and more experienced kitesurfers also are going out in these conditions, and probably there is less room for error. I found SW winds also to become gusty when they get >5-6 Bft???
Q. to Benelux kiters: what`s your experience with SW winds in winter-spring????
There are many rules of thumb when you go out on near zero temperatures. Most of them are covered above but I did not see this one which is my favourite and very important.
Your body needs fuel to heat it up during the excersice in cold conditions. So there has to be "fuel" in your stomach. If you are starting to feel hungry it is "too late". Stop immediately because you are already crossed the line.
So eat well before going out and refuel during the session.
BUT Going in cold water with major wind chill is always very risky. Please, don't be stupid! Do not trust your gears, they will break anyway. So always have plan B, C and D. And remember that hypothermia is not a matter of physical strength, it is more matter of mental strength. I have lost friends on winter sea and many times the weakest person in a boat accident has survived, not physically strongest ones. Life is strange.
PS: See the release systems of winter kites. E.g. Ozone release is copycat from paragliders and they have to work also below zero temperatures. If yours are designed for Hawaii, then replace them. Peace!
most point have been covered already, don't go alone, pay attention to how your body feels - numb hands, headache, etc. can really become dangerous so be smart and safe and know when to end the session. also, my feet, even when in booties and bindings, are usually the first to lose feeling. this makes my board control quite bad. this is usually my first signal to call it a day.
don't go out as far off-shore as in warmer conditions in case you have a long swim. you may think that it's ok to have to swim when the air is colder than the water and you'll be generating heat inside a drysuit while swimming - but don't believe it! drysuits make swimming slower and if you get caught in a current you could wind up in frigid water for a long time.
realize that winter winds in most areas are stronger, more turbulent/violent/gusty, and more unpredictable.
...and when you have cold hands with sometimes slippery bulky gloves on, your reactions will be much much slower and less accurate.
these last two points combine to raise the danger level quite a bit. be aware and prepared. use good sense and you can have a LOT of fun in cold conditions.
Like you say Jupke...........
They arent really 5bft..........one moment they are 6bft, the other moment (a second) later 7 or 8.........and than when the sun comes through..... it falls back to a steady/gusty 5/6........ And this is just almost everytime......
Could be your 12 is to small, so you go out with your 16.......But seconds later you are hoovering over the water like a parasailer (figur of speech, never happend to me!)......... So you take up the 12 again, wich comes falling out of the sky.....
Really unpredictable winds....
I kite at Oostvoorne and Slufter (place where my friend Ronald died... in a november wind)