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Kitesurfing in Heavy Air (Strong Wind)


Hung in 35+ knots (chest-deep water)
Photo by Steve Slaby

If  you don't think jumping, tricks or light air kitesurfing is serious enough, try kitesurfing or kiteskiing in heavy air (strong wind more than 30 knots).  Kitesurfing/kiteskiing in strong wind is very dangerous but generates tremendous amount of satisfaction (the feeling of conquering such a hash condition). Even the Hawaiian was somewhat shy of heavy air kitesurfing in the early days (when I was in Maui in April 1999, the wind was howling 25 - 35 knots every day and I rarely saw any kitesurfer going out).

Personally, I had a number of  chances of kitesurfing in 35+ knots weather and had many occasions kiteskiing very fast in 35+ knots (sweet winter wind!)

Kitesurfing in very strong wind is very dangerous (there were fatal accidents) and before doing it you must follow some golden rules of very high wind kitesurfing:

Heavy Air Kitesurfing Golden Rules

  1. Use kite size appropriated for the condition, when in doubt, try your smallest kite first
  2. Use shorter line to restrict the power zone and the time the kite stay in the power zone. Start from 20m and go down or up as appropriated.
  3. Launch and land unhooked (unless you use the flat LEI kite or bow kite)
  4. Ride unhooked when you are near hard objects (unless you use the flat LEI kite or bow kite).
  5. Wear a helmet


Nathan in 35+ knots

Heavy Air Tips

  • Use a smaller board (use the smallest board you have) for heavy air as you want more control of the board due to the extreme wind and wave condition.  This is one of the reasons why the Hawaiians and the "Gorgians" use boards 2 sizes smaller than the rest of us.  
  • Use shorter lines (down to 15 meters for kitesurfing and 5 meter for kiteskiing).   The shorter the lines, the more control you have over your kite in heavy air.   Use the shortest line possible to get you on the board during water start (normally around 15 meters for kitesurfing) and jumping.  The only problem with shorter lines is that shorter lines make jumping much more technical (read much more difficult) so you need to time your timing just right.
  • Use a slower kite.  In heavy air, the kite is moving very fast so a fast kite is simply too dangerous (remember that kite power is proportional to the square of kite velocity).  However, don't use a kite that is too slow such that you can't generate enough lift to jump.
  • A more stable kite (inflatable or any sled type kites are best in heavy wind).  A nervous kite is simply to uncontrollable in strong wind.
  • Use a shorter control bar to have minimum control input errors.
  • Helmet (a must in heavy air)
  • Try to keep the kite as stable as possible.  Rely on minimum movement of the kite to generate power.
  • Try to keep the board as stable as possible.  In high wind, the chops are bad; a stable board will cut through the chops; an unstable board will get bounced-around.
  • Use a bidirectional board in heavy air so you don't need to jibe as all.  If you use directional board, jibe as quickly and as forcefully as you can.
  • Use your body angle to control the power of the kite (i.e., lean backward more if you are overpowered)
  • Use the edge of the board to control the power of the kite ( i.e., edge more if you are overpowered)
  • You can jump much higher in heavier air; make sure you know how to land smoothly by reading the landing page.
  • Use the techniques described in Kitesurfing in an Overpowered Situation to handle the gusts.  Do not rush to shore to change to a smaller kite unless you are out of control and the "gust" stays for more than 30 minutes.

 


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