Beat any unsafe weather to the punch: Get out before it gets you...
Weather can be unpredictable, but if we want to ride as much as we like, we have to learn to deal with it. There are several unsafe or difficult weather conditions that sometimes need to be managed. Some unsafe conditions (although not all) are:
Trying to identify these conditions before they fully develop is one of the best ways to keep safe on the water.
Offshore winds are created when wind blows directly out to sea. They create the type of weather condition that needs serious assessment before riding. They can be tempting because conditions might be just perfect, but be very careful - you can get blown out to sea.
Since offshore winds can blow you out to sea, you should never ride in them (especially if you aren’t good at riding upwind). Even if you can ride upwind, you can still get into trouble if your gear fails. The only times you should ever ride in offshore conditions is if:
You ride on a lake and the wind will blow you into the other side.
If you have a boat or jet-ski ready to come to your rescue.
You have a different, 100% guaranteed way to get home.
As a rule of thumb, don’t ride in these conditions.
Seek an Alternative…
If you live on the mainland, unfortunately there is no alternative when the wind is offshore. If you live on an island however, you are in luck! If there are offshore winds then there are onshore and side shore winds too. Check out the picture below to see what I mean.
If you are lucky enough to live on an island, you should never be foolish enough to ride in offshore winds. Find a better location!
Thunder clouds (AKA Cumulonimbus clouds) are usually associated with very powerful weather systems. As defined by Wikipedia thunder clouds are…
[Cumulonimbus (Cb) is] …a type of cloud that is tall, dense, and involved in thunderstorms and other intense weather. It is a result of atmospheric instability. These clouds can form alone, in clusters, or along a cold front in a squall line.
This definition sums up why thunder clouds should catch your attention; words like intense weather, atmospheric instability, and cold front in a squall line all indicate strong, unpredictable, and unsafe weather (which is not ideal for kiteboarding).
These clouds should be avoided because they produce powerful downdrafts and they travel quickly. These two things produce gusty, erratic winds that constantly change direction, and the cloud brings rain, hail and lightning. The next two pictures show exactly how dramatically a thunderhead can change the wind.
Thunder clouds can be hazardous and do not create good conditions for kiteboarding. Use your good judgment and steer clear of them.
Mother Nature, she’s one moody lady; she can switch from nice to nasty in an instant, and can get you into trouble just as quick. The best way to deal with her mood swings is to be informed!
Always check the weather and wind forecast before you ride. Look for any indications of storms, erratic winds, or any other unfavorable conditions (like those above).
When you are riding always be on the constant lookout for incoming bad weather. Watch for black clouds on the horizon, approaching thunder clouds, sudden changes in wind direction or strength, or anything else that is noticeable.
The above unsafe weather examples can cause you a lot of trouble. Make sure you know the forecasted conditions, and constantly assess them as you ride. If you are aware of any sign of trouble as it pops up on the horizon and you will be much safer!