Life Saving Advice for Kitebording in Winter Weather

With winter seasons kicking off around Australia, it’s time to break out the wetsuits and the small kites, but before you do, lets revisit a great post by one of Australia’s leading kiteboarding instructors from Perth, about how to tackle winter weather.

Frontal conditions make for spectacular kiteboarding, and if you’re an experienced rider, winter is a time of year that many look forward to. Summer rarely sees the smallest kite in a quiver get pumped up, but commonly these sizes are the ONLY ones used in winter! That brings us to our instructors first piece of advice.

“One of the things that differentiates a Noob from an experienced rider is the knowledge of weather conditions and personal ability. And the wise evaluation of both. Knowing when to ride and when to watch is the key to survival in these conditions. The decision to not ride will often hold you in higher regard in the eyes of experienced riders, compared to getting out there with your 12m kite and showing us you can ‘handle it’.”

Without getting too deep into aerodymanics and meteorology, have you ever noticed that your kite flies differently in winter?

“Winter (cold) winds are more dense than warm wind; so for a given wind speed, your kite will produce more power in cold winds than it will in the same windspeed during summer. The difference can be quite noticeable. In addition to the extra power, non-convectional winds (ie: not seabreezes) or frontal winds, are not smooth. They are usually very gusty and can vary significantly in force and direction. You can expect gusts to be up to 50% stronger than the average windspeed.”

Average windspeed. Now there’s a term we use a lot here at So does the BOM if you are that way inclined. The excuse of ‘But said it was only blow 30 knots’ does not bode well with mother nature. An average of 30 knots might mean up to 45 knots, maybe more, and besides – it’s called a weather forecast for a reason!

“Watch for squalls and rain fronts. These are easily identified by dark rain clouds at low altitude approaching rapidly from the direction of the wind. Often a curtain of rain will smudge out the horizon. These fronts or squalls can radically change direction of the wind for short periods of time (5 min to 1/2 hour or longer). It can be safe and fun between the squalls, but it is best to land and wait out the squalls if not 100% confident, even then, head away from land.”

That’s right. AWAY from land if you see a front approaching too fast for you to get to shore safely. Land is where the sharp pointy bits are.

“Use a flagging safety leash and dependable safety system, suicide leash setups are inappropriate for winter conditions when approaching the beach or launching. Accidents happen quickly on land, so be ready to hit your quick release at all times on terra firma.”

A good quick release, or at least a plan on how you intend to use your quick release, might save your life in the event of a strong gust, or equipment failure.

“Carry out a close inspection on your bar and lines and any pulleys and bridle lines on your kite BEFORE you launch. People have been badly injured by lines or parts failing in close proximity to land. Imagine you are about to water start 5m from the beach in 30 knots of cold wind when your starboard steering line snaps and your kite loops towards the beach.”

And finally, lets finish off with some advice that applies to every sport.

“Make sure ambition does not over ride ability. You'll get to ride again sooner if you aren't recovering from injury.”.

Stay safe this winter and enjoy those extreme conditions, but only if you’re ready for it!