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2039Re: [ksurfschool] Kitesurfing danger in strong wind!

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  • kitesrfer@aol.com
    Sep 27, 2001

      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
      too late.

      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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