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What are the optimal wind speed, direction, and surf conditions for Kitesurfing?

Please provide a description for various ability levels.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I know very about kitesurfing, so I did some research on it. Please look at some of the resources I used instead of taking what I say for granted. I hope that I can provide a simple baseline, and those who know more or want to know more can continue the process.

Most of the information below is summarized, paraphrased, or quoted from this site: www.kitesurfingschool.org

They deserve most of the credit for it - I just condensed this particular info.

Wind Direction:

It is possible to go nearly any direction regardless of the wind direction, though moving upwind is more challenging than downwind, and beginners in particular will have trouble with it.

To keep things simple, there is a "wind window" where the wind allows a kite to fly in. When facing downwind, the window is roughly 85 degrees to left and right, and 85 degrees upward.

Ideally, surf in winds that are parallel to the shore, or in winds that go towards the shore at a 45 degree angle (called "side-onshore wind")

Onshore winds (where the wind is headed directly from the sea onto shore) are not desirable, because it might blow you directly on land, which would be dangerous.

On the same lines, offshore winds (where the wind is blowing out to sea) are also not desirable (even dangerous) because it is easier to be blown out to sea if you lose control or if the equipment fails.

Wind Speed:

For a beginner, you should train on the beach (not in water) at wind speeds around 7-20 knots (~23 mph) with a trainer kite (or 7-10 knots [~8-12 mph] with a normal small kite).

When you've trained further and practiced, the wind speed and direction is somewhat less important, as long as it is roughly between 10 and 30 knots (~12-35 mph), and your equipment matches the conditions.

Wind speed should not gust very much. More than 8 MPH gusts are challenging to manage. (From www.mackiteboarding.com)

Low Speeds:

It is possible to kitesurf in wind as low as 5 knots, though you need to take advantage of that low wind with the right size of board and kite (large board, large kite, long lines). Kitesurfing School calls wind from 5-10 knots "extreme light wind kitesurfing."

They also include a table of "minimum wind speed (in knots) needed to fly decently:"

  • Inflatable Kites: 5 knots
  • Flat Inflatable: 4-5 knots
  • Arc Kite: 4-5 knots
  • Closed Cell Foil: 4-5 knots
  • Opened Cell Foil: 3 knots

High Speeds:

Kitesurfing at wind speeds above 30 knots is very dangerous, so keep in mind some rules:

  1. Use kite size appropriate 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 stays in the power zone. Start from 20m and go down or up as appropriate.
  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.

Surf Conditions (mostly from www.mackiteboarding.com/kiteboarding-conditions.htm):

High winds equal larger, choppier waves, which are harder to surf. Beginners will want waves that are under 2-3 feet tall. At the higher end of speeds, waves might get up above 3 meters - big!

Summary:

Ideal wind speed is 10-25 knots, direction is headed onshore at a 45 degree angle (or parallel to the shore), and surf is relatively calm.

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I kitesurf regularly on snow and water for the last ten years. I'd like to add that when you fly unhooked, the bar is in it's most powerful position. This can be minimized by pulling the trim all the way in, but it's still not completely depowered. If you must fly unhooked, use a leash to prevent losing your kite. When the wind is strong and you fly with the bar in it's unhooked position, the kite will be pulling very hard. You don't want to be fumbling with hooking back in when the wind is strong. Your best bet is to avoid hard objects entirely, and get into water as soon as possible. – Chris Miller Jan 28 at 23:54
    
Just to add, as a beginner I find 5-10 knots is generally too light to get going for any decent length of time (I can fly the kite, and get enough momentary power to get started, but that's about it). 10-20 knots works well (with the 'sweet spot' at around 15-18 knots; where I can easily get going and travel for as long as I want without needing to work the kite too aggressively). Anything much above 20 tends to feel overpowering, to the point where I'd rather wait for the wind to settle down a bit before going out. All of this is on a relatively large 11m kite. – aroth Apr 8 at 3:29

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