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The potential violent gusts and wind direction shifts in squalls can be highly hazardous to kiteboarders.
Lots of stories out there about sessions in the School of Hard Knocks in minor to incredibly strong gusts
and the sad consequences for the kiteboarder in the slot.
Kiteboarding can be enjoyed in
much better safety, with all the extreme moves, in stable weather. Going out in the unstable variety including
squalls,is only asking for trouble. These stories are coming in from areas ALL OVER THE WORLD. Just be near
hard objects (within hundreds of yds. or meters?), add some violent wind and be ready for some potential grim
Some details about some of these experiences appear in the KSI at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kitesurf/ ... EFERENCES/
This article presents a sequence of photos, radar images and wind graphs before, during and after the squall.
These resources are readily available to riders in the USA and in many other countries. Shame on you if you
ignore these aids and have a severe avoidable go to with mother nature. Conditions can change so checking
out these resources is not enough. They are only an aid and
suggest conditions that can change while
you are out. So we all need to stay alert and observant while we are out for deteriorating conditions.
This event took place during the Islamorada Invitational kiteboarding competition on March 30, 2003 in
Florida, USA. A strong cold front was forecast to pass over the area on that day, Sunday. High winds were
predicted to accompany the front into the 30 to 40 mph range.
An early radar image appears below:
Sunday, March 30, 2003 at 12:19 pm
A substantial squall line is clearly evident in the image, moving north to northeast. Movement can be estimated
from radar loop functions and TV color radar images.
The event went along nicely from early morning on to late afternoon when things started to get interesting.
Here is a windgraph courtesy of ikitesurf.com from Molasses Lighthouse along the Florida Reef Tract just south
of Islamorada. Note the major 90 degree wind direction change and increase in speed that occurred between
4:30 and 5:00 pm.
An annotated Satellite Image of the area (from http://navisat.com/catalog.htm
The squall line is moving much closer to the event site in Islamorada.
Some dark is sliding in from the south, from the right of the image. Riders did not appear to react much in
advance to the squall before winds and conditions changed.
Coming a bit closer and some riders are actually coming in before the true fun starts.
How does it go? "Something dark this way comes."
The stragglers enjoy a major wind shift, soon to move to dead offshore and boosted gusts into the 30 and 40 mph
range. One kiter is being dragged at high speed and tossing out quite a bit of spray. Most of the competitors
weren' t using kite leashes. If things get out of hand, this is all you can do in such a situation. Keep your kite
very low, edge for all you are worth and HANG ON. Otherwise, you just let go andsend your kite running off
downwind for someone else to deal with. If you are lofted while trying to hang on to your kite that just goes
with choosing to ride without a kite
leash. I like Hamish's idea in using a leash and still doing incredible tricks. It protects bystande, his kite and
IF the weather goes bad before he makes
it to shore, it can PROTECT HIM AS WELL. Note the wind line that has
enveloped the first rider, this gust
hasn't hit the second rider yet on the yellow kite.
Starting to look downright evil out there ...
More gusts, rain and the mats go to sea ...
The sky's looking pretty strange in a short lull ...
Waverunners are trying to still get some of the kiters in that were blasted by the squall are being blown offshore.
Rain and gusts again ...
The squall line passes ... but is that all?
Competitors and organizers were concerned about the safety of resuming the competition. At one point it appeared
as though it might have been concluded in the interest of safety. A couple of influencial out of area individuals,
those with little apparent understanding of actual area weather patterns, argued to continue the competition.
One person was heard to say, "they are Pro riders, they can handle it." I had heard that Pro riders were
issued a "I am EXEMPT from the Laws of Physics" card. If so, there may be reason to believe that skill can
overcome shear incredible explosive force such as sent a pro kiteboarder in Cabarete flying over 800 ft. horizontally in only
a 51 kt. gust when he was rigged for 10 to 15 kts. Gusts like that and MORE are not so uncommon in
squalls in this area and most of these riders were rigged for light winds. Hmmmm...
Worry, concern and a bit of fear. Fear is a very good thing and has excellent survival value. All that was
needed was to checkout color radar on TV or on the Internet. This would have been seen. A large, clear area
behind or to the south of the narrow squall line. There was a substantial area of high pressure behind the squall
line along with the predicted strong offshore winds. So competitors
and organizers could have breathed a
bit easier if they had checked into available resources. It could have been different however and often is. There
could be a mass of yellow and red stacked up to the south which would have indicated that hazardous conditions
were going to continue to be present. It would be even better to monitor both visible conditions on the scene as
well as on color radar and the Internet. There is no need to go "blind" as was the case not so many years ago.
Something the NWS service weather stations don't show are the gusts but list more steady wind speeds. This is a depiction of
an ikitesurf station further north in the Miami area that does show gusts and some strong ones too from the same squall line.
NOTE the major, rapid changes in wind direction depicted by the yellow arrows at the top of the page between
4 and 7 pm. These rapid, direction shifts are all to common in squalls. So you assume that you are ok because
winds are sideshore? Don't be because the squall can do anything from turning the wind off entirely to spinning
the direction of the wind and speed all over the place. Lots of uncertainty in unstable weather including squalls.
Large image: http://gallery.kiteforum.com/albums/alb ... rada_VR3_s
So this was the back of the storm, but who knew? If you chose to guess you will set the table for interesting times.
Sometimes things can get too interesting, best to do your homework and save your extreme moves off the water
for the intentional variety.All these squall warnings to kiteboarders SHOULD be old news. The accidents
are mounting up as should the motivation to pay attentionto conditions and TRY TO AVOID this hazard. I guess
we just aren't quite there yet.
More ideas about weather and kiteboarding at:
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