Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chasing two rainbows at Hampton at the edge of a storm

Session 137, Tuesday 24 May 2011

Kite: Switchblade 10
Wind: 20 knots, S
Location: Hampton
Time: 4:15pm to 5:30pm
Board: Naish Haize twin tip

A strong southerly was blowing most of the day.  I got down to Hampton late in the afternoon after attending to some domestic chores.  There was about 23 knots when I rigged up and headed out on my 10m kite, and 2 other kiters on the water.

It was a magical experience.  Kiting out I saw one prominent rainbow, and coming back in I saw another one.  Unfortunately my camera was mounted the wrong way in my kitecam rig, so no pictures, which was a bit disappointing.

It was nice to fly the 10m kite again.  I popped a few small jumps, but was mainly enjoying the brisk air, good wind and the great atmospherics.  The wind dropped after a few runs however, so I came in to shore near the groyne with a kiteloop for more power.

I then did a kiteloop the wrong way and stuffed it right up, crashing the kite next to the groyne.  I didn't have time to relaunch it then the kite got swamped.  I swam in and secured it.  I had to get the lines off the rocks.  I will check them tomorrow for any wear and tear, hopefully they will be OK.

A decent squall then arrived and it got dark rapidly.  It was great to get out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Better wind at Brighton, a nice speed day

Session 136, Sunday 22 May 2011

Kite: Noise 12
Wind: 20-25 knots, N
Location: Brighton Beach
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Board: Naish Haize twin tip

GPS data
  • Max speed: 42.6 km/h
  • Trip: 27.1 km
  • Average speed: 21.1 km/h
  • Time: 1:17

Another winter northerly was on today, so I headed to Brighton for another session.  There were about 5 kites on the beach when I arrived at about 2pm, the wind had just dropped.  It soon picked up again and I got on the water with haste.

The wind was better than yesterday and not too gusty.  I was well powered on the 12m Noise, eventually depowering it to compensate for the strength.  It got up to 25 knots, but I was able to cope well enough using the depower.  

I did a few fast tacks and jumps, crashing once at speed and loosing my board.  I body-dragged upwind to get it.   I then headed upwind to the Brighton Marina.  There were a few other kiters in the vicinity. I could see several kites inside the marina too.  On the way upwind I spotted a small dinghy yacht capsized with an inflatable in attendance.  I cruised past, a fair way offshore, but all was OK.

Zoom zoom zoom

I eventually entered the marina, and immediately regretted it.  The wind speed was lower and it was gustier. I couldn't make it out again, so I headed into the flat water, but it was basically a waste of time.  The kite shot ahead of the wind in a strong gust then fell out of the sky into the water.  I relaunched it, walked across the sand bar, then headed back out past the rock wall, only just making it.

I then headed back to Brighton, well powered and zooming along.  I did more jumps to go downwind, but I was reluctant to try anything too ambitious as crashing and tangling the kite in this crossshore/offshore would mean a lengthy an tiring self rescue.

I felt much better today after yesterday's refresher.  Regular kitesuring certainly contributes to improved safety.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Brighton Beach, great to be on the water again.

Session 135, Saturday 21 May 2011

Kite: Noise 12
Wind: 15-20 knots, N
Location: Brighton Beach
Time: 2:30pm to 4pm
Board: Naish Haize twin tip

The reasonable northerly forecast came in, so I headed to Brighton.  It was surprisingly warm, but I still wore my NPX 3/2 suit and vest.  Booties stop the water jetting up the wetsuit leg too.

I felt surprisingly rusty after a couple of weeks off the water so I eased back into it.  The prospect of crashing the kite and a lengthy self rescue it daunting at Brighton in a northerly too.

It was very refreshing to get on the water again.  Life seems to slip into the slow zone with no kitesurfing.

Its nice in the winter sun with a warm wind and the water not too cold too.

A face shot of powder

Passing to starboard (keep right)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kitesurfing the winter storm fronts in Melbourne

Winter arrived with a vengeance in mid May in Melbourne.  Storms, rain, cold temperatures and some wind.

However, the wind is very variable, so great caution is needed when choosing to go kitesurfing.  It is definitely not the season for beginners.    Very strong gusts can come with little or no warning.

A word of warning: strong gusts can overpower you and send you airborne with very serious consequences. You can wreck your gear, get seriously injured, or even lose your life.  If in doubt, don't go out.

Here is a drill for watching the weather and choosing when to head out.

1. Check out Predictwind  and/or Seabreeze for a good forecast
  • You can also set email alerts for good wind conditions.  
  • The Bureau of Metereology also provides forecasts, but its not so easy to find out their wind predictions.

 2. Check Baywinds and/or Seabreeze for current conditions

3. Check South Channel to see what is coming through down south
  • There is a reasonable expectation that conditions down there will reach Melbourne in about 40 minutes
  • The wind intensity and gusts may drop a bit by the time they reach Melbourne's bayside suburbs
  • Note the scale change due to high winds in the graph below!

4. Check Fawkner Beacon for bayside wind conditions

5. Check the BOM weather radar for squalls, thunderstorms and rainfall

5. Choose your beach based on wind direction

6. Choose the right kite size 

Go smaller rather than larger so you can more safely handle strong gusts.

As a guide, for my 85kg weight I use:
  • Wind 12-20 knots: 12m Noise kite - Benwilsonsurf
  • Wind 20-30 knots: 10m Switchblade - Cabrinha
  • Wind 30-40 knots: 7m Crossbow - Cabrinha
Stuart, who weighs 75kg, uses the following:
  • Wind 15-25 knots: 10m Switchblade- Cabrinha
  • Wind 25-40 knots: 7m Crossbow - Cabrinha 
  • I don't recommend going out in wind greater than 40 knots.  
  • The above wind range is for riders with over 1 years experience and at least 30 sessions logged.
7. Watch for any thunderstorms and squall when on the water and come in if some arrive.
Note that a squall can miss you but the gust front can still blast you from the side of the storm cell.

8. Have fun.  The cold water chills hands and feets even with booties and gloves on, so don't stay out too long.

What to do if you get caught in a strong gust or squall
So you have 12 months experience, have taken all the necessary precautions, but the mother of all gusts comes in and hammers you and things are rapidly going pear shaped.  What do you do?

The following suggestions have been provided by other kiters on via Seabreeze:
  • If you can't get in to shore in time to beat the squall, head out to sea so you have a better safety margin away from hard objects.  On the shore with your kite up is the worst possible position to be in, and landing it there can be very dangerous.  
  • You should keep your kite low if a squall hits. Worst case you get dragged sideways, but this is much better than being picked up in the air and thrown into buildings, cars, boats, piers or a rockwall. 
  • Ride with one hand on your safety so you can ditch the kite quickly if you need to.
  • If you are getting dragged and there is danger, release your bar and deploy your safety #1.  
  • If you are still getting dragged too fast or being lofted, release your leash and the kite with it (safety #2)
If you are on the beach and other kiters are in trouble in gusts, render what assistance you can, but keep clear of kite lines.  Note that if you hang on to another kiter's harness you might both be lofted.  If in doubt, make sure safety releases are deployed, then secure the kite(s).