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).


Stuart Tarzan Man said...

Excellent summary ! I do all these things, but have never thought to write them down.

Stuart Tarzan Man said...

If you want more weight to kite size ratios -
For 75kg weight, I use:
Wind 15-25 knots: 10m Switchblade- Cabrinha
Wind 25-40 knots: 7m Crossbow - Cabrinha

inMotion Kitesurfing said...

Peter, great advice on what to do if a gust or squall hits. I agree it is important not to take any chances, no matter how experienced you are...

Always be on the look out for changing weather patterns.

With 78kg body weight, I kite with the following these days:
Wind 15-30 knots: 10m F-One Bandit
Wind 28-40 knots: 7m F-One Bandit

observasionist said...

great knowledge and awesome advice, here is my quiver and what i use :)

i currently weigh 65kg and i use,

12m f-one bandit 3 - 12-20knots
9m wainman smoke - 20-27
7m wainman gypsy - 27+

Masha LUCKYKITES said...

Peter, great advice, and not only for Melbourne kiters - greetings from russian kite community;)
As for female stormrides...
I weight 53kg and use wainman hawaii kites mostly with 5'7 surfboard
10-18knots 9m Smoke
16-22knots 7,5 Mr. Green
20-50knots 5m Bunny