This guide is to take with you as a reminder of some of the key points you learned during your Course.
Get A Forecast ! Before you even set off for the beach, checkout what’s happening with the wind. Clarifying wind strength, direction and consistency will inform you of whether or not conditions are suitable to ride at your chosen location, and could save you a wasted trip.
Where Do I Find A Forecast?
- In most forms of media (TV, Radio, Newspapers etc.)
- Locals, Fishermen etc.
- Internet Sites, but check several to gain an overall picture.
- Synoptic Charts
Site Assessment is always essential, to decide whether or not the site is suitable for Kite Surfing. If the area is tidal then it is important to check it out at both high and low spring tide as there may be hidden hazards, and/or there may be insufficient beach to safely land during high tide periods.
It is important to have enough downwind run off area, this means 3 times your line length, (100 metres), downwind , and 50 metres either side, clear of any hazards and third parties. When launching it is advisable for the pilot to be waist deep in the water. When using a 4 line kite that is hooked in, launch by bringing up the kite with one hand on the bar whilst using your other hand to cover your quick release.
- Any hard and stationary objects such as boats, rocks, trees and buildings in your launch area.
- Bear in mind what might be upwind of you, this is because it takes the wind at least 7 times the height of an object to become clean again, so be aware that at times you may find yourself in a ‘wind shadow’ which means that there feels like less wind! Also the wind will be gustier.
This includes any people and animals on or off the water. Be aware that dogs love to chase kites and horses can get spooked by kites, so always operate in a clear area.
Environment This means looking at the wind and weather in relation to the site.
- The ideal wind direction is cross shore (maybe slightly cross on).
- The most dangerous winds are onshore because even a small gust or mistake will take you straight up onto the beach.
- Offshore winds can be equally dangerous and are often gusty to because they come across land. Never go out in an offshore wind as you will be constantly taken away from land no matter what your level of kite surfing.
- Avoid storms and squalls and always be aware of changing conditions,
- A good average wind range is 10-15 knots.
- Wind temperature affects wind strength, the colder the wind the more dense and more power felt. A 10 knot Caribbean wind is lighter than a 10 knot wind in Northern Europe.
- Is the area on which you are setting up your kite suitable?
- If it’s a stony beach be careful not to damage your kite when weighing it down, consider using your kite bag for protection. Wearing wet shoes can be a good idea too!
Setup and Safety Checks
- Inflate kite, flip over and lay it down facing the wind.
- Weigh your kite down with plenty of sand, (not sharp objects), on either side of the middle strut.
- Unwind lines downwind.
- Place bar upside down (red/port on the right)
- Walk the lines checking for imperfections, if there are any knots or wear replace the lines.
- Check that the lines are equal in length.
- Check that the steering lines are to the trailing edge.
- Check that the de-power lines are to the leading edge.Check for tears in the kite.Check for wear on all the lines.
- Check the pigtails and chicken loop rope.
- Check that all safety systems are working. Kite leash, chicken loop, harness line and anything you are connected to must have a quick release.
- Make sure that the stopper ring length is the length of the wing span of the biggest kite in your quiver so that it is able to fully de-power on every size of kite you are using. (As shown in diagram 2)
- Make sure you have set up your bar with the red(port) on your left hand when flying.
- Connect the kite leash before launching.
- When the kite is in the launch position, always check you have slack in your back lines when you push the bar away from you, (port and starboard lines), otherwise you have your kite set up incorrectly and 'over sheeted'. To much slack can result in the kite being 'under sheeted'. Too little angle of attack will cause the kite to fly out of the window, (not to be confused with windy conditions).
- Over sheeted kite - too much angle of attack - full power when sheeted out. When bar is pulled towards you the kite stalls and fly's backwards into the wind window.
- Under sheeted kite - too little angle of attack - kite constantly falling out of the sky when at the edge of the window.
- Make sure that the person launching you knows what you are doing.
- When launching and landing kites only ever hold the kite by the leading edge - never the trailing edge.
- Always wear suitable foot wear, helmet and crash jacket/buoyancy aid when riding.
- Pull line towards the bar making sure not to wrap any line around yourself.
- Once at the bar, wrap up the leash a little around the back of the bar to get rid of any excess line.
- Begin to wrap up, ensuring you have all four lines (be careful not to include the leash line).
- Stop wrapping half a wingspan distance from the kite.
- Swim to the kite and put the tip under your arm. Holding the bar with the same arm, tie off with two half hitches to secure lines on the bar.
- Flip kite over so it is lying upside down, place bar in the middle and swim!
- Alternatively, deflate the leading edge a little so that the kite can fold. Then work your way in to both tips and use the kite to sail in. (Be aware you may travel downwind on your return).
- Finally – Only to be used in boat rescue – Deflate leading edge pulling tip towards you to get more air out. Replace bung to prevent water getting into the leading edge. Roll up one side and repeat the process on the other tip. Place bar and excess lines in the middle, undo leash and tie around kite so it is a tight bundle. Hand to captain with the leading edge first so water can flow out.
Apart from boat rescue, never deflate your kite because it is a form of buoyancy and also acts as a visual marker.
Rules of the Road
- When on a port tack, (riding with left hand forward), give way to oncoming riders.
- When crossing the upwind rider keeps their kite high and the downwind rider keeps their kite low.
- A rider on a wave has priority.
- Give way to riders coming out from the beach.
- Give way to other water users e.g. boats, swimmers etc.
- When jumping leave 100 metres downwind run off space and 50 metres either side of you.
- Always leave at least 100 metres clear space of hazards downwind at all times.
If you ride in a tidal area it is important to include tides as part of your site assessment. Tides are the effect of the moon and the suns gravitational pull have on the water.
- At low tide you can see hazards that may be hidden at high tide.
- At high tide you can see how much beach space is available to set up and land your kite.
- Check tidal times so you can time your riding sessions.
- Tides flow along the beach not directly in and out, this process is called flooding and ebbing.
- Tidal range is the height in metres between low tide and high tide. Spring tides have the most movement of water, wear as neap tides have smaller vertical movements.
- The flow affects the power felt when riding.
- When riding wind with the tide, there will be less power and it will be very hard to stay upwind. The water will look calmer in relation to the strength of wind. So if the wind is 15 knots and the tide is 5 knots the apparent wind is 10 knots.
- Wind against tide you will have more power and stay upwind easier, the sea state will look choppier as if it is windier. If the wind is 15 knots and the tidal flow is 5 knots the apparent wind is 20 knots.
- So take this into account when choosing your kite size!
- Get a forecast before heading out. Look for the strength, direction and how consistent the wind is.
- Avoid gusty winds, frontal systems (where conditions change rapidly), poor visibility conditions and thunderstorms (towering and darkening skies).
- Be aware of weather on its way! Look at the clouds to see what’s coming! Look upwind. Dark clouds mean more wind and rain means less wind.
- Don’t forget, that the wind direction is where it has come from, i.e. a north westerly means the wind is coming from the north west.
Synoptic Charts. – If you live in an area where weather pressure systems bring you your wind, one of the best ways is to be able to read synoptic charts. This way you can make your own forecast by understanding the high and low pressure systems.
- The closer the isobars the stronger the wind. (yellow lines in diagrams).
- High and low pressure turn in the opposite directions.
The numbers on the chart lines refer to the air pressure in mill bars.
How to tell direction and strength
As you can see from the arrows on the diagram, a low pressure rotates anti-clockwise and slightly pointing in, the isobars are close, indicating strong wind. High pressure is the opposite, spinning clockwise, slightly out and the isobars are spread more apart, indicating less wind. – if you live in the Southern Hemisphere the systems spin the opposite way, like water down a plug hole!
Disclaimer – No liability is accepted in respect of the content, or any omissions, of this guide.