Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kitesurfing Storms

Wow, well we are at the tail end of this huge storm that's passing by and I will admit to having kitesurfed most of the storm.

Some of you may think its a stupid idea to kite in a storm, and I agree.
I am constantly reminded of the video that is famous on youtube of the kitesurfer in Florida who smashed himself into many little pieces while trying to kitesurf in a hurricane, and we all know the inherent risks of kiting even in stable conditions.
The winds in Auckland for the last week have averaged around 30 knots with gusts over 60 knots.  This makes kiting unpredictable and kite control virtually impossible at some points.
I decided to kite in these conditions, fully understanding the risks involved and minimising them as much as possible by:
1 - Flying the smallest kite possible (I ended up borrowing a 5m and a 7m kite which are smaller than what I would usually fly).
2 - Kiting far away from land and obstacles (the risk of lofting was high, so I tended to stay 1km away from land just in case I was picked up and dropped).
3 - Telling friends where I was and when to expect me off the water (that way, if I did get into trouble, hopefully there would be somebody out looking for me).

There were several accidents and some close calls during the storm riding, where many experienced and heavier riders were thrown around with the big gusts.

My advice is to always kite to the conditions and within your capabilities.  If you are new to kiting, then don't go out where the difference between the average wind speed and the gusts are large as this is when you are most likely to get into trouble.
If you are new to a beach, ask some local kiters about the hazards known around that beach, some of these may not be apparent.

Point Chevalier has hidden sand bars full of sharp oyster shells which you can't see at high tide, but you can easily cut yourself if you land on one as the tide is going out.
St Heliers is fun a low tide, but has a very small landing zone at high tide and a busy road close by, so make sure you know when the tide changes are and when its time to come in.
So I chose to ride the storm, and here is a photograph of me kiting at St Heliers last weekend.  You can see the changeable weather pattern and I can attest to the challenging conditions that day.

Storm kiting can be fun, but it can also be incredibly dangerous, make sure you know where your safety releases are and take out the appropriate kite for the conditions.

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