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Posted: Tue Jun 15, 2004 1:41 pm
by RickI
Shannon Best went out off Delray Beach, FL, USA on Wedesday, June 9, 2004 at 5 pm in light 11 kts., side onshore, conditions with a Best Nemesis 18 m LEI kite with a chicken loop bar and leash. He was just powered up at 194 lbs. He didn't see any threatening clouds at time of launch.

A view to the NE from about 7 miles to the south towards the area of and around the time of the lofting. Clouds are present but don't look particularly threatening in this livecam photo.

Rain clouds moving to the NW on color weather radar.

He had noticed a slight buildup in wind speed but assumed it would last for about five minutes and drop off. At this point he was the only rider left on the water although there were about ten to fifteen guys onshore in the launch area. Eyewitnesses on shore saw a cloud with a rain line approaching fast from the SE.

Above two images from:

At around 5:30 pm, a squall or storm came in fast and heavy from the Southeast, suddenly increasing wind up to around 30 kts. plus as he was riding north, looking away from the squall. The duration of the squall was about ten minutes.

The wind record for the squall at around 5:30 pm at a location about 7 miles to the South.

Shannon was about 750 ft. offshore when the wind built up. He was immediately dragged downwind, so he boosted a couple of “whopping big” jumps approaching 10 second hang times and about a 300 ft. glide distance to try to dissapate the kite load.

By then he realized that he couldn't tack back to the launch area and he wanted to avoid swim areas. So he came into an uncrowded section of the beach where he thought it would be safe to land. Given the late hour, most people had already left the beach. The squall gusts were still building as he was being dragged on his feet over the sand. So he decided to just unhook in case it picked up any more so he could release the kite. As he pulled down the bar to unhook standing by the edge of the water, he was lofted off the ground into the air. The next thing he knew he was about 30 ft. off the ground and about 80 ft. downwind flying to the NW on a diagonal up the beach and towards a line of wooden beach lounge chairs.


Shannon estimated his speed over ground to be about 20 mph. At this point he decided to drop his control bar and free fall to the sand beach before he came any closer to the trees bordering the beach to the west. He fell to the sand about 35 ft. short of a large wooden lifeguard stand while his kite draped over some trees beyond stand. He had traveled over an approximate 100 ft. lateral distance from lofting to free fall to earth.

Full size: ... iagram.jpg
An annotated photograph of the lofting scene taken several days AFTER the incident.

He then just sat on the ground and waited for his friends to run up while he did a body check. He impacted one leg, bruising it heavily. Fortunately, X-Rays didn't show any fractures to be present.

(RE: recent edit, kiteforum's database is corrupted for some older posts. Good think I have an intact copy to restore this post)

Posted: Tue Jun 15, 2004 2:03 pm
by RickI
I asked Shannon what he took away from this experience. He said to never underestimate the power of the wind (and WEATHER). Shannon knows what it is like to be injured and to be forced to take time off the water. For that reason, if he had an indication of events to come, he would have depowered his kite while still in the water and away from shore. He thought that he could unhook and still be standing on the ground. He felt that it is possible that an even higher gust hit when he pulled down the bar to unhook, powering up the kite just as the stronger wind hit. Shannon generally tries to be a bit underpowered when he chooses a kite as the improved efficiency and control makes it possible to do tricks more effectively than when overpowered. He estimated that he would normally pick the 18 m Nemesis for max winds up to around 15 kts. sustained for optimal control and trick performance. Shannon ended up trying to cope with winds double that speed and possibly more.

Squalls are hazardous and have resulted in some fatalities and many serious injuries among kiteboarders. Once winds gust beyond a certain level, our ability to continue to stay on the surface and cope dissappears. In the lofting in Cabarete, a kiteboarding instructor was lofted by a 51 kt. gust with his kite relatively low and almost in the hands of an assistant when the squall hit. As a result the rider was lofted over 800 ft. horizontally and 100 ft. high. In such overpowered conditions it is probably easy to have a low kite rocket higher off the ground due to uneven bar pressure before you even realize it. This kiteboarder steered his 11.9 m RRD kite lightly toward a pine tree, hitting at a high rate of speed presumably and suffered limited injuries miraculously. More in the KSI under: 32. Incident# 3 3 02 in the 2002 volume. Such strong gusts and sometimes more occur with some frequency during the summer months in South Florida in squalls. Above a certain windspeed, skill becomes almost irrelavent as physics takes over, IF you still have a kite up in the air and are not in a position to instantly depower your kite. It is hard to edge to compensate for an overpowered kite if you are airborne.

Some ideas on how to try to avoid something like this follow:

1. Check weather radar, forecast and hazardous weather (wx) warnings before going out, such as at: and for unstable winds (excessively gusty or changing in direction) at:

2. Checkout the sky in all directions for signs of unstable weather before you launch and regularly while you are riding. It is easy to forget to do this but in squall season it is an important step.

3. If you see a squall moving in, often marked by black clouds BUT not always in all areas, get into shore quickly, bring down and fully secure your kite BEFORE any change in temperature, windspeed, direction, etc.. KNOW what unstable weather can look like in YOUR area. A lot may ride on this basic but highly important knowledge.

4. If you are too late to land your kite, depower your kite immediately using your kite leash, even if you have to swim a ways into shore. DO NOT GO TO SHORE AND STAND AROUND WAITING FOR SOMEONE TO CATCH YOUR KITE. People have been killed for making this mistake. When in doubt, COMPLETELY depower your kite by pulling your Quick Release and dropping your bar, while you still have the option.

5. Use the most reliable and well maintained quick release that you can find. Relying upon being able to manually unhook has not be possible in many loftings in the past. You need a quick release mechanism but it needs to be easily found and WORK. This has not always been the case.
Frequently physically and mentally rehearse activating your Quick Release, an emergency is no time to figure out how to activate this device. Your reactions need to be immediate and spot on. Finding and releasing your QR should be second nature to improve the odds of coming through a bad go to.

6. Use a good helmet and impact vest, they might help if something like this grabs you. If you don't have them on, the benefit is obvious, NONE. Trouble can catch up with the BEST of us, have a care out there.

More ideas on how to try to avoid being lofted appear at:


Moral: This could happen to anyone once exposed to unstable weather. Squalls are bad news, avoid them.

Thanks to Shannon for sharing his experience with us.

It would be good if other promenient riders passed along some of their hard won lessons to the rest of us. You folks paid the price, often in pain, why not try to create something positive out of a bad experience? Feel free to email me at < or PM me at ricki to pass along what you have learned. Thanks!

Posted: Wed Jun 16, 2004 2:20 pm
by RickI

Posted: Wed Jun 16, 2004 3:51 pm
by RickI
A related post was put up at:


to try to avoid loading up slower computer connections unduly.

Posted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 7:07 pm
by RickI