Site Assessment is the key to your kitesurfing success
Ok, so first things first, here is your crash course. After you have had your first lessons before we even get a kite out of a bag or put on a wet suit we purchase kitesurfing insurance,
If you are in the UK go to www.britishkitesports.org if you are elsewhere in the world then visit www.ikointl.com/
We are then ready to look cool in our kitesurfing hoodies and do a site assessment to check out our location. We do this if its our first visit or our home beach and any kitesurfer who is any good will do this as through many years of experience you will save time, effort and most importantly injury to yourself and others.
So what is the most important aspect of kitesurfing?
The wind. With out it, Kitesurfing simply wouldn’t exist. What do we want to know about the wind? Its speed, direction and the forecast for what its going to do. Why do we need to know this? Kitesurfiung today is no longer an extreme sport, it is now been downgraded to an adventure sport so if you follow a few basic rules its as safe as houses. However in strong winds for experienced kitesurfers it becomes a different sport again and is super extreme. The flip side is not enough wind and you wont be able to kitesurf, too much wind and you could easily injure yourself and others as a learner and could be put off easily. The wrong direction and you will be blown out to sea, the wrong forecast and you could be stuck out to sea.
Its better to be on the beach wishing you were out to sea than out to sea wishing you were on the beach.
Trust me on that one.
Imagine the scene, you are super excited, you have bought crispy new kites, you rock up at a beach and you rush to pump up your gear with out doing a five minute site assessment, the results can be anything from expensive, unbelievably frustrating and ultimately horrific.
Lets keep this simple, here’s what you do.
- Get a forecast. check http://www.xcweather.comor http://www.windfinder.com you need to know if a storm is coming or the wind is dropping or lightning is coming. If in doubt don’t go out.
- Always kitesurf in ONSHORE winds, that means the wind is coming from the sea to the land. If you turn your back to the wind, you should be looking at land. Cross shore is best. Directly onshore and cross shore have risks like pulling you straight to land or not blowing you back to shore if you are in trouble. Cross shore is ideal. If in doubt don’t go out.
- Wind strength. 10 – 20 MPH for learning. its highly important you learn how to judge the wind speed. If you don’t feel confident with this, buy a wind meter, your iPhone has a basic app that will help but there are many tell tale signs to look out for. White horses or white caps on the sea are good news, large waves breaking out to sea are not, sand being picked up and blown generally means its too windy. The easiest option here is to keep the spirit of kitesurfing alive, speak to someone who is already kitesurfing or setting up as 99.99% of kitesurfers are awesome and will be more than happy to advise you on what kite to put up, if there is no one on the beach look to the skies and see the size of their kites printed on the kite. these days anything around a 12 meter is light wind, anything under a 9 meter is too windy for learners (this is a very general rule and will be covered later). If in doubt don’t go out.
- The beach. Have you got enough space? 3 kite line lengths downwind of obstacles minimum. What is down wind of you? Meaning what obsticles are infront of you if your back is to the wind? Is there groins, sea defenses, rocks, fences, cars, people etc etc etc I could go on. When you are learning you will be doing the “walk of shame”a lot, get used to it, enjoy it. You will not be coming back to the same place you started from as this is the holy grail in learning to kitesurf and will take months to master so if you have rocks a few hundred meters down wind move to another beach which is clear unless you want to do a rocky kind of snake dance or get dragged across them, its so dangerous. Not to mention getting your crispy new kite ripped up and your little toes cut open. Stick to wide open sandy beaches. If in doubt don’t go out.
- The public and other kitesurfers. This is a biggie. before you attempt your first session with out the aid of an instructor, be brave go and speak to other kitesurfers, team up with other learners, we were all learners. Keep well away from the public, always be polite and courteous as we need the public on our side and it is so much cooler that way. Give them the most space, talk to them, communicate, explain that it can be dangerous, move out of their way, wait for them to pass, be patient. Other kitesurfers are relatively easy to deal with, there are rules of the road which will be covered later as well as lots of kite launching etiquette and safety but for today’s tip just go down wind of everyone. Simple. Your going to have to do the walk of shame, so you don’t want to get in everyone’s way and you don’t want people busting out their new wake-style tricks in front of you while you master your first board starts. It all come down to making sure you pick the right beach. If in doubt don’t go out.
When you are learning you want light, consistent winds and big slow kites in shallow water. Anything other and your enjoyment will be lessened and your progression will be painfully slow.
Get it right though and you will experience a deep sense of euphoria 🙂
Read: Kitesurfing Fitness