2039Re: [ksurfschool] Kitesurfing danger in strong wind!
- Sep 27, 2001Hung,
Good points about going with shorter lines. The three local kitesurfer
lofting cases that I am familiar with involved kitesurfers being hurled about
100' plus or minus inland. Two of these cases occurred in onshore wind
conditions and the third went very suddenly to onshore from sideshore
conditions. For relatively new kitesurfers and perhaps even for experienced
kitesurfers, avoiding onshore wind conditions makes good sense.
Two of the three cases involved kitesurfers with relatively large kites
around 15 m plus or minus, however the most serious incident of the three
involved a 9.5 m kite. As far as I know, all three were using 30 m line
One of them occurred in 15 to 20 mph sideshoe winds that suddenly bumped up
into 40 mph plus onshore. I am very familiar with this incident. Another
involved unstable winds, gusting generally in the high 20 mph to low 30 mph,
but it took about a sudden unexpected 40 mph gust to pop the kitesurfer into
shore from off the water, actually into a parked car. The last kitesurfer,
whose incident I observed from close up, was picked up by a gust no more than
30 mph and also hit a parked car. The weather forecast in two of the three
of these cases indicated the potential of strong gusts and/or squalls. If
the kitesurfers checked wind plots and looked for sharp spikes, weather radar
for violent storm cells, they would have seen them and would have been wise
to have done something other than kitesurfing.
In all three of the cases the kitesurfers were in the air in a jump when hit
by the gusts. This last point is crucial as I think that it is much easier
to redirect or extend the flight of an object once has been accelerated into
the air than one that is still on the surface. In other words, kitesurfers
that jump in the face of sudden gusts are much more likely to have radically
longer flights, into shore if the wind is in that direction. The timing
seems to be tricky which is why I suspect these lofting incidents aren't even
more common, fortunately.
As a general precaution, with onshore winds, I would go immeditely to 300
feet or more offshore and stay there until time to come in.
It has been mentioned more than once, that if it is possible to keep the kite
stationary, do so with it near the edge of the wind window and preferably
relatively close to the ground. This wouldn't apply, necessarily while the
kitesurfer is underway of course.
So to summarize current thoughts on how to avoid being lofted:
1. Pick your weather carefully. If the weather radar, wind plots imply
squalls or unduly gusty weather or if obvious storm clouds are moving in, it
would be a very good idea not to go kitesurfing.
2. If you are stationary, try to keep your kite at the edge of the wind
window and near the ground.
3. If you are near hard objects or if pronounced gusty conditions are
developing, stay unhooked and/or use a snapshackle to secure your chicken
loop. If you do use a snapshackle, rehearse mentally, frequently, if ...
happens, pull the snapshackle release cord.
4. Avoid onshore winds. If you go out in them, kitesurf more than 300 ft.
5. Try to use shorter line sets if you are expecting stronger winds.
6. Always wear a helmet!
7. Do not come within 100' of substantial vertical surfaces or walls with
onshore winds to avoid potentially being lifted.
Of course, kitesurfers can break all of the above guidelines and perhaps be
perfectly OK for hundreds of hours on the water. Unfortunately, sad
experience has shown that given enough time, bad things have a way of
catching up with the best of us if we go a little too extreme too often.
Be careful out there,
<< It has been brought to my attention that another kitesurfer died in
Spain. My condolence to his friend and family.
It seems like the accident happened in strong disturbance of air (spin)
in relatively strong wind 18+ knots.
The only kitemares or near kitemares I had in kitesurfing was when the
wind was 20+ knots.
Remember that kite velocity is often 2-3 times wind speed and power is
square of kite velocity.
Since then, I have started to use shorter lines in stronger wind and
have yet encountered any kitemare in strong wind.
When the lines are shorter, kite velocity is limited to 1-2 times wind
speed (the kite does not have enough wind window to accelerate to 2-3
times wind speed).
Also, when the lines are shorter, regardless of how disturbed the air
is, the wind velocity at the kite should be somewhat similar to the wind
feel by the rider and he/she can re-act appropriately sooner before it's
It's seem like shorter lines is one of the answer to safe kitesurfing in
strong disturbed wind, let's try to use it.
P.S., I frequently kiteskiied in disturbed winter storms and felt much
safer kiteskiing in 30 - 45 knots with my Wipika Classic 3.5 and 0m
lines than with a 1.5 m2 foil with 30m lines.
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