How to handle gusty conditions
Definition of a gust: A gust is a sudden burst of wind.
Kiteboarding in gusty conditions can be challenging and dangerous without taking the right precautions. Gusts can be extremely strong and violent at times – if you are unprepared a gust can easily pull you over your board and send you flying through the air.
You get all kinds of different gusts and winds. Wind conditions for a day can range from being constant with a few stronger gusts, to being inconsistent where a strong gust is typically followed by a lull – in conditions like these the wind speed is inconsistent and can range from strong to weak to moderate in just a few seconds.
Here are a couple of pointers:
Avoid gusty conditions:
Gusty conditions can be caused by a variety of different factors, but are most often caused by wind coming over a hill or moving through buildings. This means that you can often avoid gusty conditions by looking for a different spot to kiteboard at.
Avoid dangerous conditions, and know your limits
If you are unsure of the conditions take a wind meter reading and measure the difference between the lowest and the highest wind meter reading over a period of 2 minutes. Ask the local riders about the conditions and if it is manageable. 15 knots gusting to 20 knots is acceptable, but 15 knots gusting to 27 knots is not.
It is also safer to rig for the maximum wind speed rather than for the minimum wind speed measured.
Keep off the land in gusty conditions
More than 90% of serious kiteboarding accidents happen on land, and not on the water. It is always recommended to get into the water as soon as you have launched your kite. During gusty conditions it is even more important to get away from the land and in the water. Never walk around on land with your kite unnecessarily. If you come out of the water, have someone put your kite down as soon as possible. A gust can easily pick you up a few meters in the air and drop you like a stone. Rather let this happen to you in the water than on land.
Keep your kite low
When sailing it is best to keep your kite at an angle of 45 to 60 degrees off the water. If you keep the kite too high, a gust can lift you off the water. By keeping the kite lower you have more leverage against the kite, and you are able to stay in control during a gust rather than being lifted off the water.
If a gust hits you it is best to edge against the kite and force the kite towards the edge of the window by leaning against the kite. There is less power at the edge of the window, so the quicker you get your kite to the edge of the window the better. To do this step hard on your back foot and push the rail of your board in by leaning against the kite.
What to do if you get lifted off the ground by a gust on land
If you get lifted off the ground by a gust on land, it is best to stay calm and try to keep the kite in the neutral zone while you are in the air. Letting go of the kite while you are a few meters in the air will cause you to drop like a stone to the ground.
As soon as you come down you should either let go of your kite and let your safety leash effectively depower the kite, or you should keep the kite to the edge of the window and let someone put down your kite for you.
Handling gusty conditions is a skill that comes almost naturally if you spend enough time on the water. Learning to handle gusty conditions is similar to jogging on a bumpy road. You don’t approach a bump with a stiff leg – you bend your leg slightly to allow your knees to absorb the shock. Handling gusts is something you will eventually do naturally.