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Kiteboarding and Cold Fronts

Posted: Fri Jun 17, 2005 2:33 am
by RickI

A couple more comments about cold fronts and kiteboarding. Checkout the detailed ikitesurf windgraph shown above.

From forecasts, WE KNEW that heavy winds were coming with the arrival of a cold front 30 to 35 mph, gusting to gale force!). I had been looking at the forecast of strong winds for at least 4 days prior to their arrival. Kiters being the wind junkies they are, I am sure LOTs of others were staring at the same forecasts.

Do you see how strong winds were "turned on" very suddenly at around 5:30 am. Lets ignore for the moment that it is unlikely that anyone would be flying a kite at that hour, fronts can strike at anytime, 24 hours per day. After all it hit a 9:30 am about 135 miles south at the launch where the incident happened.

So you are riding in about 15 mph with minimal gusts say from about 13 to 17 mph, pretty steady stuff right. Lots of us might be out on 13 to 16 m kites, some perhaps rigged even bigger. Todays kites do have a WIDE wind range after all.

Let's say you don't see the clouds of the front coming, in this case black and nasty or at other times high altitude cumulous clouds and still other times ???. Altocumulous clouds really don't look all that threatening at all and still they can come with a strong boost in winds.

From: (a good site to look at)

Let's also say you didn't bother to checkout the forecast, realtime winds up the coast that are already getting hit by the front or radar. You miss it, totally.

So you are out on your 16 m riding 100 yards offshore and the frontal winds hit, suddenly. The wind boosts from 15 mph to 43 mph+. You are on a 16 m and unless you are unhooked and let go, chances are your butt is toast. The kite is now imparting at least 16 TIMES the power that it was just before everything hit the fan. You may be lofted, very high, dragged or both, perhaps repeatedly.

Weather planning and monitoring are JUST as important in kiteboarding as they are to airplane pilots. Your craft, kite, has reasonable operating limits just like an airplane. If you exceed that envelope, perhaps by a lot as in the case, you could be severely injured. If you drop your kite to leash successfully it is very likely that the leash attachment may be ripped away from you and off goes your kite. If your leash attachment doesn't rip free, your kite may have enough residual power even though you have dropped it to leash in such a gust (mid 40 mph+), to drag you anyway.

Some more info on fronts appears at: ... rxml&prv=1

Posted: Fri Jun 17, 2005 2:34 am
by RickI
How about that 20 to 25 mph gust range AFTER the front hits. What size kite are you going to rig for 18 to 43 mph+ winds? Good question, it can be done but your factor of safety and tolerence for the unexpected is VERY small.

What size kite do you rig to fly in 13 to 43 mph+ winds? Simple answer, you don't!

Fronts often but not always bring a sudden change in wind speed, gust range and direction. Frequently at the onset of the front, conditions may be particularly undstable and may have violent squalls as well. This WAS NOT the case shown above as I understand it.

Here are some ideas on how to try to manage these conditions during cold front season in the SE. Some of this may apply to other areas then again there is a whole world of variable weather out there. You still may get caught and slammed, as can always happen if you have a traction kite up, but it should reduce the odds of a predicted event getting the better of you. There are similar sites and resources in other parts of the world. Learn what is available and reliable in your area.

1. Check forecasts on for your area.

Are they going to change, is there a hazardous weather warning, be sure to check the marine forecast if you are in marine waters. What are temperatures likely to be? It may be fine now but do you need to be in a 4/3 mm wetsuit later on today? Read the weather analysis to better understand what is bringing the wind in the first place.

2. Checkout the Sat. imagery at:

Be sure to use the loop function to get a feeling for movement and obvious development. Click in on your area to get a better picture of local activity. Is there a line of clouds at the leading edge of the front or no?

3. Checkout color radar to look for CURRENT storm cells and direction of travel of clouds at:

Be sure to scope out your area and areas up stream through which the cold front is moving. See some bright colored stuff? Is it fairly narrow at the leading edge of the front or is it all over? Avoid the brightly colored stuff as it can represent violent storms. The green stuff can also punch out some gusts to, enough to loft you so don't get complacent about that color either. Relate what you are seeing to what appears on the Sat. image.

4. Checkout realtime winds at:

Look over your area and those areas that are under the front already. Look at the individual wind records for stations to see if there are some strong gust spikes and direction changes such as shown above. If there are also violent direction changes and gust spikes note that as well. Try to relate these unstable winds to what you saw in the Sat. and radar images. Are you dealing with a narrow strip of unstable weather with a wet front or is it more of a sudden boost in wind with a dry front?

NOTE: ikitesurf and the folks at Weatherflow have added a LOT of content to the websites. Some of it overlaps some of the other sites listed in this overview. Look through the resources on the site carefully as there are even more weather resources there than described here.

5. While you're at the beach, keep your eyes open for signs of the onset of frontal winds. ALWAYS be aware of the wind, clouds, white caps, direction, gusts, etc., regardless of season. It will help you to get the better rides and perhaps avoid a bad go to.

It is best to AVOID having a kite up during the onset of a front with associated change in winds. Of course not all fronts are kick butt, so what kind do you KNOW FOR A FACT you have moving in? Who knows for sure, it is best to err on the side of caution. If you see signs of a front coming, advancing white water, cloud masses, a ripple line, etc. It might be good to land and secure until it is past. Of course with ripple and white water lines, by the time you see them you may have less than few minutes before the winds spike. ALSO, you may need to RIG DOWN to be able to ride once and if the frontal winds spike up. You don't want to have too large a kite up as the four guys did at the start of this post when the wind jumps up.

Check this stuff before you ride, always. Learn to relate what you saw online vs. what developed at the beach.

If you want to get a better idea of things also checkout the weather maps at:

Sounds complicated? Not really, you can blast through the steps listed above fairly rapidly. Too complex, well most riders I know are wind junkies and knowing what brings the blow stuff is just another part of the obsession. So why not dive in and get a handle on what brings the joy and the dodgy bits that need to be avoided.

Get plugged into weather where you ride. You will be glad you did. There is a lot to know to kiteboard, some of the stuff listed above is just part of it.