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Kitesurfing storm fronts

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Information about minimising the risks of kitesurfing in storm front conditions, which should generally be avoided.  Level: advanced
Caution

CAUTION: Kitesurfing storm fronts is for strong intermediate or advanced riders only.  It is definitely not for beginners.

Kitesurfing storm fronts can provide you with some good sessions in the off-season, but great caution is needed.  Storm are usually accompanied by rain, cold temperatures and very variable wind conditions.  Very strong gusts can come with little or no warning.

Strong gusts can overpower you and send you airborne with very serious consequences. You can wreck your gear, get seriously injured, or even lose your life.  If in doubt, don't go out.

Here is a guide for watching the weather and choosing when to head out.

1. Check local Internet sites for a good forecast

You may also be able to set email alerts for good wind conditions.  

Example sites (Australia): Predictwind  and/or Seabreeze 

Predictwind forecast

2. Check Internet sites for for current conditions

Example sites (Melbourne, Australia): Baywinds

Bay Winds Melbourne

Bay Wind

3. Check upwind locations to see what is coming

There is a reasonable expectation that conditions upwind will reach your location. 

Bay WInds South Channel

4. Check Internet weather radar for squalls, thunderstorms and rainfall

Example site (Melbourne, Australia): 128 km Melbourne Radar Loop

BOM Weather radar Melbourne

5. Choose your location based on wind direction

Aim for sideshore or cross onshore wind.  Avoid offshore wind.

6. Choose the right kite size 

Select the right kite size for the wind and your body weight. Go smaller rather than larger so you can more safely handle strong gusts.

Note: We don't recommend going out in wind greater than 40 knots.  

7. Watch for any thunderstorms and squall when on the water and come in if some arrive.

Note that a squall can miss you but the gust front can still blast you from the side of the storm cell.

If you are starting to get static shocks - typically in the elbows or knees - keep your kite low and land your kite.  The higher the kite (especially true during jumps) the greater the shocks.   Avoid being this guy !

8. Have fun.  

The cold water chills hands and feets even with booties and gloves on, so don't stay out too long.

What to do if you get caught in a strong gust or squall

So you have 12 months experience, have taken all the necessary precautions, but the mother of all gusts comes in and hammers you and things are rapidly going pear shaped.  What do you do? 

The following suggestions have been provided by other kiters:
  • If you can't get in to shore in time to beat the squall, head out to sea so you have a better safety margin away from hard objects.  On the shore with your kite up is the worst possible position to be in, and landing it there can be very dangerous.  
  • You should keep your kite low if a squall hits. Worst case you get dragged sideways, but this is much better than being picked up in the air and thrown into buildings, cars, boats, piers or a rockwall. 
  • Ride with one hand on your safety so you can release the kite to the safety line quickly if you need to.
  • If you are getting dragged and there is danger, release your bar and deploy your safety #1.  
  • If you are still getting dragged too fast or risk being lofted, release your leash and the kite with it (safety #2)
  • If you do get lofted, (despite all of the above step), you don't have much choice other than flying the kite until you come down, hopefully not to hard.  Avoid looping the kite.
  • If you are on the beach and other kiters are in trouble in gusts, render what assistance you can, but keep clear of kite lines.  Note that if you hang on to another kiter's harness you might both be lofted.  If in doubt, make sure safety releases are deployed, then secure the kite(s).

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