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Who's Afraid Of A Bit Of Weather ...?!

lots of valuable articles from Rick Iossi, FKA Inc.

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Who's Afraid Of A Bit Of Weather ...?!

Postby RickI » Thu Mar 18, 2004 2:32 pm

Last week a new rider DIED in Spain. Tonight I learned about a South Florida rider that was lofted in a squall gust across the beach into a tree. He fell, hit his head and has been in a COMA for for almost three weeks. Despite all this kiteboarders go out in and around squalls not uncommonly in my area of SE Florida and I suspect in many other areas around the world.

How many more NEEDLESS INJURIES AND DEATHS will it take to get kiteboarders attention about this hazard? I understand that some Florida riders are getting excited about forecast wind associated with Isidore, which is predicted to become a hurricane soon. Think twice about riding in tropical systems and do your homework. Checkout the wind archives at or other weather sites to see the dramatic gusts that can come with squalls.

Two years ago, yesterday I learned all about this and almost died myself. The updated story of this accident with new five color illustrations including historical wind graphs, satellite and radar images and launch layout appear at: ... EFERENCES/

It has also been reproduced below without illustrations.

We really have to start to take this sport seriously. Going at it half cocked and carelessly while just flying a "big toy kite" will only see more avoidable tragedies come about.

Rick Iossi

4. Incident # 9 00 1 "Discovering a New Term ... Lofting" Location: Boca Raton, FL
Date: September 17, 2000 Participant account included: Yes Number of independent accounts: 5 Updated: September 18, 2002
I had just launched my AR5 9.5 m and was still onshore when I was apparently hit by a very strong gust. I was wearing a helmet, impact vest, gloves and was using a kite leash. I remember the kite making it halfway up to the zenith after initial launch while near the water and almost nothing else. I ended up losing about a day and a half of memory to amnesia. I had hooked into the chicken loop just prior to launching. Up to that point winds had been stable at 15-20 mph side shore over two wind meter checks. I have no recollection of excessively squally weather or clouds in the area at the time of launch. Reconstructing things from Internet wind records and the launch area layout, a 50 to 60 mph onshore gust (see FIG 1 and 2) must have come up and lofted me or involuntarily lifted me about 30 ft high and blew me at speed 80 ft. inland into something hard like a tree or fence or both, just after I launched the kite (see FIG 3). The speed of impact would have likely been in excess of 30 mph to perhaps in excess of 40 mph. Unstable squally weather was present for much of the day to follow as depicted in the iwindsurf figures. I remembered only about a one second image of descending towards some trees near a house (FIG 3).


FIG.1) iwindsurf record for Pompano Beach on that date. Note the
approximate 50 to 60 mph gust at the time of launch.


FIG.2) iwindsurf record for Jupiter on that date. Note the approximate 70 mph gust at 6:15 pm.


FIG 3) A sectional view of the area of the lofting and the approximate flight path
and impact area in the trees near a house.

The deteriorating remnant of Hurricane Gordon was well to the north and west, north of Tampa Bay at the time of my launch. Feeder bands were swinging over the area from the west however based on the imagery in FIG 4 and 5. The weather was reasonably clear at the time of launch. The images suggest clearing conditions followed by storm cells swinging in from the west. Later on there were tornados sighted along with heavy squalls.


FIG 4) An IR image of Hurricane Gordon at 8:30 am local time. Note the weather in the area of Boca Raton appears to be clearing up at this early time.

After lofting, I remember trying to unhook but not being able to as the chicken loop had twisted tightly over the harness hook as I was flying through the air. After impact and probably losing consciousness for a while I wandered around the beach with a severe concussion and lacerated foot for about four to five hours, half delirious and occasionally passing out. A friend met me and started talking to me as I was laying in front of my building on the grass. He later said I was talking gibberish, making no sense. He saw my lacerated foot and figured out that I should go to the hospital.

After 5 days in the hospital with a brain hemorrhage, a subsequent week of around the clock, coma-like sleep and relapse followed by three weeks of real thick headedness and loss of short-term memory, I started getting back on my feet. My voice returned to normal about two months later.


FIG 5) Hurricane Gordon at 8:30 am local time. Note the weather in the area of Boca
Raton appears to be clearing up at this early time. The feeder band is swinging seaward from inland.
The doctor said that WITHOUT A HELMET ON, the impact probably would have been fatal. He had some doubt at the time about my making it through the first night in the hospital. It was pretty bad even with a helmet on. I was wearing a marginally padded skateboarding helmet. Since that time I have changed to a much better padded wakeboarding helmet. I recovered pretty much completely after three months and went back to kitesurfing having what the neurologist called a "miraculous recovery". I was also wearing an impact vest and gloves which I credit with saving me from other injury.

Lessons learned

1. AVOID UNSTABLE WEATHER. Kite depower systems may or may not work properly under such conditions. Alternatively, you may simply not have time to deploy them. A gust of as little as 10 mph can cause a serious lofting and injury if you set yourself up for it. Approaching 20 mph or much higher, anti-lofting technique may have less effect on keeping you safe.

2. Check forecasts, weather radar and real time wind reports for evidence of unstable weather. If it is in the area or moving in, don't go kiteboarding. Tropical systems such as depressions, waves, hurricanes can have powerful embedded squalls. These squalls can be in the central mass of the weather system as well as in feeder bands that can extend over many hundreds of miles away from the center of the weather mass. In effect weather can be relatively mild but change dramatically if a feeder band crosses over your area.
Checkout the weather references in the General References section of the KSR at: ... EFERENCES/
for additional ideas on this important subject to kiteboarders.

3. Keep your kite low as possible while on land or near hard objects. You will be dragged instead of lofted if a strong gust hits. In theory being dragged is better than being lofted, if you react properly and fast enough. Otherwise you can be very seriously injured by dragging. Checkout: 4. LOFTING AND HOW TO TRY TO AVOID IT in the KSR for more ideas on this subject.

3. Wear a helmet, impact pfd, gloves, whistle and a hook knife. A helmet was credited as saving my life.

4. Don't launch hooked or snap shackled in to your control bar. Someday this practice may cost you if not in the near term.

5. All riders should seriously consider using quick release chicken loops and fixed harness lines. Consider the pros and cons of using a snap shackle to secure your chicken loop. Using a reliable quick release loop may be superior to using a snap shackle. If you do use a snap shackle, rehearse very frequently what you will do if a strong gust hits and you need to release the snap shackle. If you hook in or shackle in near hard objects you should accept that you may be seriously lofted or dragged and will not be able to react correctly or fast enough to avoid this outcome. Launching unconnected to your control bar is the only reliable way to improve the odds of avoiding being dragged or lofted at launch should things go wrong.


In some ways, lofting or dragging in sudden gusts are one of the most dangerous conditions that kitesurfers face. Many riders have been seriously injured and some killed, around the world to date because of lofting. A new rider was killed in Spain last week and another lofted into a coma in Florida in the last few weeks by stormy conditions.

If you are offshore, such conditions may be more survivable. Of course this is allowing that you don't interact with lightening which isn't a good assumption near squalls. If you are on land or near hard objects you may be in for a good dragging and possible kite damage if your kite is low. If the gust is strong enough keeping your kite low may not keep you from being lofted. If you are hooked or snap shackled in, you may be badly injured or worse by the resulting, involuntary jump or lofting. Fortunately, these gusts are not necessarily commonplace in many launches but they do occur at most launches. Such high gusts are not uncommon in areas visited by tropical weather systems. Kitesurfers should avoid and come in well in advance of unstable weather as such conditions may have the potential for high, sudden gusts with little warning. Tropical systems and other sources of squally weather should be avoided. Kitesurfers may have dozens of great sessions in such conditions with the potential of one very hazardous or possibly terminal session. Reaction decisions made in seconds will likely determine the outcome of the incident. Rehearse dealing with unusual conditions and scenarios mentally and visualize your reactions frequently. It is important to remember that if you are lofted in a high wind gust, you will likely achieve a speed of travel and impact approaching that of the gust. So you could hit very hard and fast with serious, possibly terminal injuries.

The harsh reality is that kiteboarding safety gear is not fully reliable at this time. The best thing that kiteboarders can do is to use adequate knowledge and good judgment to NEVER place themselves into emergency situations. Beyond that wearing minimal protective safety gear and using a tested depowering leash is about all that you can do. Avoid squalls and unstable weather.

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