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You stand on the beach watching the colorful arrays of kites skimming across the sky.
Poised on the boards below are smiling people, wind in their faces, flying across the water having the time of their lives.
You want in.
But what do you need to know about kitesurfing?
The first element you need to understand is the wind, the power behind the sport, and how much wind for kitesurfing is necessary.
How Much Wind for Kitesurfing?
How much wind needs to be present is dependent on several factors. It’s kind of like asking how big should be waves be for surfing.
Wind speeds change dramatically, just like the size of ocean waves.
Beginners in any water sport start with low winds, small waves, and work their up.
Another factor is the equipment. The size of your board and the size of your kite are going to play a factor in how much wind you will be able to handle.
You need to choose the right wind speed for your experience level and have the equipment to match your abilities.
In general, you won’t see anyone kitesurfing in less than 5 knots of breeze. There is simply not enough wind to keep the kite flying.
Even if the wind is 8 to 10 knots, if there are lots of gusts and lulls, those are not good conditions for kiteboarding.
A steady breeze, even if it’s only 8 knots, is great for beginners or even expert kiteboarders to go out and practice their techniques and experiment with new maneuvers.
Is there too much wind for kitesurfing?
You will find that before every big storm or hurricane, there are expert kiteboarders experiencing nirvana as the thrill of high wind kiteboarding only peaks its head out on special occasions.
While onlookers on the beach are worried about standing upright in wind speeds in the 30s, the hardcore kiteboarders are flying over 20 feet into the air and flipping and turning in delight.
Anything over 30 knots can be dangerous for kiteboarding. It takes a lot of experience and special equipment to even attempt kitesurfing in wind higher than 30 knots.
Best Wind Direction for Kitesurfing
The next factor after wind speed and steadiness is wind direction. You will most likely hear when just starting out kiteboarding, don’t sail in offshore wind.
What direction is offshore wind?
Here is the definition of offshore wind as well as the other wind directions you need to be familiar with when it comes to the wind direction.
- Offshore. Wind is blowing directly away from the shoreline.
- Cross offshore. When the wind is blowing away from shore at approximately a 45-degree angle.
- Cross onshore. This is wind coming toward the shoreline at approximately a 45-degree angle.
- Cross-shore. Wind is perpendicular to the shoreline.
- Onshore. The wind is blowing directly toward the shoreline.
Kitesurfing Handbook assesses each wind direction and lists the benefits and hazards of each.
Cross-shore is the best wind for everyone, especially beginners. Even if you crash or dunk your kite, it’s easy to sail back in the direction of the shore.
Onshore is good because you will always get blown back to shore if you dunk your kite.
The difficulty comes in being able to stay upwind and get away from the beach.
Onshore breezes are great for intermediate and experienced kitesurfers.
Cross-onshore winds can be good for beginners. You will get blown back to the beach if you crash and can’t relaunch.
You are able to go downwind for a good distance, go to shore, walk back upwind, and start again.
This is called ‘the walk of shame’ because you haven’t mastered the art of kiting upwind.
Once you master upwind sailing, cross-onshore is a good direction for kiteboarding.
Cross-offshore and cross-onshore are not good wind directions for beginners.
When kitesurfing offshore wind, you have the danger of being blown away from shore if anything goes wrong.
Offshore winds tend to be gusty and turbulent as they are passing over a landmass and the water can be chopppy.
It’s less dangerous to kitesurf in a lake in these conditions as you will have a shoreline to get to for safety in any wind direction.
Best Wind Speed for Kitesurfing
What’s important to know when it comes to kitesurfing and wind, anything above 10 knots is good for kitesurfing in general, but your ability and equipment will dictate how much wind is suitable for you to be safe and have fun.
How much you weigh, how much kite surface you have, and wind speed, will all be determining factors.
Your weight is an essential factor in determining how much minimum wind you need to kiteboard.
The heavier you are, the more kite surface or the higher the minimum wind you will need for riding.
Conversely, the less you weigh, the less wind is required to ride the same size kite.
Kitesurfist provides some general formulas for the best wind speeds for kitesurfing.
Taking into account the factors of weight, board and kite size, a person weighing 175 pounds will need a minimum of 12 knots of wind to ride a 140 to 145 cm board with an 11 to 12m2 kite.
Here are the factors you will need to calculate:
• The type and size of kite you have available
• What are your goals for the session
• What board sizes you have available
• Strength, direction, and steadiness of the wind
• Experience level
• Sea conditions
In steady winds coming in a favorable direction, a beginner kiteboarder weighing around 165 pounds, will want to fly an 11 or 12m2 kite in around 10 knots of steady wind.
If your kite is any smaller, you will need more wind to not only launch the kite but keep it in the air.
A general rule of thumb is that even though each brand of kite has a different wind range, you will need an additional 1.5 knots of wind for each m2 you drop in kite size.
You will need to have at least 13 knots of wind if you want to get air time on your kiteboard.
If you are trying to make progress upwind, you will need an 11 to 12m2 kite and at least 15 knots of wind.
Factors such as a board that is too large, or a light rider, can impact the ability to go upwind in 15 knots.
In the same vein as needing more wind as you drop in kite size, a general wind range for a 12 meter kite rule is that you will need an extra knot of wind for every 10 pounds over the suggested weight for the size board you are using.
How Does Your Kite Affect Performance?
Think about your kite in two respects. One is the size.
The smaller the kite, the more wind you will need to launch it and keep it in the air.
The second factor is the shape.
The shape of the kite will make it more or less suitable for certain wind ranges and ability levels.
Many kitesurfers use tube kites. Tube kites have inflatable tubes and struts that make them float if dropped in the water.
Within the tube kites, there are several variations like a bow, C, and hybrid.
These types can be used in all types of wind speeds, from light air to heavy winds, depending on the size of the kite.
- Bow kites come with bridles that make them easy to depower and relaunch. They are suitable for beginners and can cover most wind ranges with 2 sizes.
- C-kites are actually shaped like a C. They tend to have a narrow wind range, meaning they are only suitable in certain winds depending on their size. They are not good for beginners because the shape makes them difficult to launch.
- Hybrid kites are fairly new and combine the performance of the C-kite with the ease of the bow kite. They are still C-shaped but are flatter and equipped with a bridle.
How Does Wind Impact Safety in Kitesurfing?
There are many safety considerations when it comes to kitesurfing. It’s recommended to get a few lessons before attempting to learn to kitesurf on your own.
Your instructor will give you the basics of kiteboard safety when it comes to launching, flying, and depowering your kite.
Once you are on your own and you understand the basic safety precautions, wind speed and direction will have the biggest impact on kitesurfing safety.
Be sure to know the wind range for your kite and board.
Look at the weather forecast before kiteboarding so you know the wind direction and speed you will be encountering.
Choose the right size kite and board for the wind conditions and only go out in a favorable wind direction or if you have mastered tacking for an unfavorable direction.
Understanding how wind speed and direction affect every aspect of your kiteboarding will maximize the enjoyment you get out of kiteboarding.
It will help you develop your skills and let allow you to kiteboard in the safest conditions. Check out this quick video.
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