Check the conditions are good for kitesurfing
In this lesson we fast forward a little bit and have a look at winds that are good for kitesurfing (and those that are not), We do this now as many of you will be flying your trainer kite at the beach and so you can start to notice the effects we’re talking about now when you’re out flying your kite, so when you’re ready to start kitesurfing it’s become a little more automatic.
Before you even put one little toe in the water there are a number of checks and risk assessments you need to do. 90% of the time when something goes seriously wrong in a kitesurfing session it’s not due a mistake made on the water but a bad decision on the beach before you even start to set up your kite. Start noticing these effects now and you’ll save yourself a lot of time when you actually go kitesurfing.
Before You Even Think About Hoisting A Kite…
Ensure You check the forecast and the tide times. The forecast is fairly simple and you should be able to tell yourself by now if it’s any good for you to go kitesurfing, once again if in doubt about the particular kite you are using in any given wind speed, check the manufacturers guidelines.
The tide is a slightly more slippery beast and you’ll need to check with someone who knows what they’re talking about to determine the best phase of the tide to go in. In some places it doesn’t matter in other places it is of vital importance, check with another kitesurfer before you go.
Once at the beach (and ready to fly your kite) you can run through the following checks:
The first rule is one I was first taught as a dinghy sailor:
“If In Doubt, Don’t Go Out”
This is especially true as a beginner. If the waves just look a little bit meaner than you’d like or the wind is a little bit gustier than you’re used to…forget it, go to the pub instead. One of the great frustrations of learning to kitesurf is that as a beginner you do need almost perfect conditions to get out there and practice (so you can build up the confidence to go and take on more challenging conditions). Expect to spend a lot of time waiting around and many wasted trips to the beach in these initial stages. Fear not…it does get better as you do!
Risk Assesment…Sounds Dull Doesn’t It
Every time you arrive at the beach perform a risk assessment. The most important thing to determine is which way the wind is blowing.
Now we’re on the beach, wind is no longer defined as Southerly or Westerly, but can now be described (more usefully) in relation to the beach or shore. Thus when the wind is blowing off the sea onto the shore it is known as on shore, when the wind is blowing off the shore on to the sea it is known as off shore. When the wind is blowing along the line of the beach or shore line (in either direction) it is known as cross or side shore.
The Wind To Watch Out For…And It’s Not The One You Think
Statistically for a kitesurfer the most dangerous of these winds is an on shore wind. This wind brings waves and in general will feel stronger than in fact it is. This is the wind in which most broken bones, broken kites and broken pride happen as the waves and the wind are both doing their best to keep you on (and pile drive you into) the beach. Thus it is very easy to be catapulted back up the hard beach and do yourself, your kite or others damage. Even advanced riders can struggle to get out in a dead on shore wind. Our advise to start with would be to avoid these conditions and search for somewhere a little more forgiving.
Off shore winds will give a very flat looking ocean and will generally feel less strong than they actually are. The main reason that on shore winds are statistically the most accident prone winds is for the simple reason that no one goes out in an off shore wind. Off shore winds are lethal, make the slightest mistake or suffer a kit failure, which means you can’t get your kite back up in the air and you’ll quickly find yourself a long way out to sea before you know it, with a long swim back against the wind. Do not think that because you’re with someone else or there are other kitesurfers around that it’s alright for you to go out in an off shore. In reality it is very difficult for other kitesurfers to do anything to help you if you have a problem without endangering themselves. At best they can give the rescue services an idea of which way you were heading when you crossed the horizon!
“DO NOT DO IT!”
Cross shore winds can be great, the sea will be fairly flat and it’s fairly safe in that you’ll be returned in the general direction of the shore. If the bay curves round to meet the wind thus ensuring it is absolutely safe, this can be the best wind you can find, smooth and great for wave riding.
As a beginner I would suggest you look for cross onshore winds (that is somewhere in between on and cross so about 45 degrees to the beach) this will offer you ample opportunities to actually get out and practice, is perfectly safe and the waves shouldn’t be too big.
The simple rule to follow when assessing the wind is to draw a line between the source of the wind, yourself and the last bit of land you could cling onto if everything went wrong…then do not go past, or preferably anywhere near to crossing this line. Always assume the worst will happen and remember no matter how good or fit you are, a line can always snap or a kite break.
Next have a look for potential hazards both in the launch/landing area and the sea itself. You’re looking for rocks, pylons and anything else that doesn’t mix well with kites, lines and human bodies propelled at force!
Finally have a look at the sea, you’re best to have a chat with a local at this point as you need to know things like rips, and any other local effects that can impact upon your kitesurfing.
Once you’re happy with all this (yes, it is a lot but as you gain more experience you will assess all of this in a matter of minutes) you’re finally ready to get your little pinkies wet!