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RickI 08-01-2005 10:41 AM

Hurricane Riding, A Story
A version of the following story less images appeared in The Kiteboarder Magazine ( ), in 2004. It was written on the eve of a major hurricane striking my area of Florida. Some of the uneasiness and uncertainty of that time came out in the account which follows.

"Hurricane Riding, A Story"

... or “normal” riding in Florida, these days. Four hurricanes hitting one state in a year, actually in less than 6 weeks, last time was only 118 years ago. I am writing on the eve of Hurricane Jeanne’s visit to Florida. Lots of us are wondering what tomorrow will bring and have tried to secure things as the best we can. Florida isn’t alone in this hurricane slam-fest, lots of others in the USA and Caribbean have had to deal with this season of devastation. And … it isn’t over yet.

Some of these hurricanes approached as Category V storms, like Ivan packing winds over 165 mph. That will get you thinking, if anything can. Confronting something that can erase your home, place of work and even your life can motivate some introspection. That is between exhausting bouts of preparing for, sitting out the raging of the storms, cleanup after, trying to restore normal living absent power and doing it all over again and again. Normal haunts are closed, phones don’t work, normal foods unavailable and finding widespread power and cool air nothing but a memory.
Ft. Pierce after Jeanne and Francis

So what does this have to do with kiteboarding?

Nothing and everything … for us “ducks in the shooting gallery” this year. Lots of us live to ride or at least crave the escape and release of ripping over water. In stressful times like these this applies only more so. We NEED to ride to recharge mind and spirit between attacks of Mother Nature.
Ft. Pierce

So, with hurricanes you got LOTS of wind, right dude? No, not really much of the time. The winds may be too light before, after and even during the hurricane say if it passes to the east of you. Then again, hurricanes can vomit violent squalls that can loft you to China or at least to the ER, if you allow it to happen. Think of the dozen plus tornados spawned by Ivan in the Panhandle. Most hurricanes have the potential to do the same thing. I was nearly wacked by such a squall spewed out by a feeder band hundreds of miles from the hurricane years ago before we knew better.
Hurricane Jeanne heads toward Florida.
Ft. Pierce

Yesterday, I landed my kite pronto before a squall moved in. Amazingly, several guys continued to ride with an evil black mass of clouds and rain raking over us. I unsuccessfully tried to call them to land. I asked a couple of the guys after, “you know that you can be lofted/dragged and potentially killed with a kite up in such conditions, right?” It was news to one guy and they other said “sure, I know that.” As long as you know and accept the risk so be it I guess.

Then again, there are times with hurricanes when it all comes together. We are talking intense on the edge shredding, big waves, wind and singular riding. We had an afternoon like that off SE Florida the day before Charley demolished Punta Gorda on the SW coast, Friday the 13th no less. We crave wind but sometimes there is a price to be paid, it is the way of the world and this too can get you thinking sometimes. Then again, what will happen, will happen regardless of some riders grabbing some stoke along the way.

I went off Delray Beach with an 11 m kite rigged flat to limit the power. Building wind got me thinking to rig the smaller kite that I had along. Being overpowered if something goes wrong can really trash your day. So, in 45 min. I went from an 11 m to a 5 m kite! I have never ridden a 5 m four line kite and hadn’t touched a two line 5 m in over 3 ½ years. There was one other guy out, a fellow 40 lbs. heavier than me also on a 5 m. There were waves breaking over double head high about a mile off shore with two other breaker lines closer to shore. The wind was around 25 to 35 kts. much of the day and gusting higher later on when I was on the smaller kite.
Hurricane Charley coming ashore in SW Florida.

There were no hurricane feeder bands or squalls on the color radar or visible over the ocean during that session of fairly steady winds. This is unusual to say the least. The hazards of high wind kiting go up but if you are prepared by experience and use good procedures you can try to manage the risk.

You are out there reeling over chop, swells and roiling breakers hurtling through gusts and tasting the finer side of prime shredding. It is a unique, freeing experience and really can make you feel alive. We had some of the best winds in three years that afternoon, before Charley took the SW coast to task.
Punta Gorda after Charley

Life is for living, know your game, ride responsibly and savor the odd incredible session when it comes your way. For better or worse, hurricane riding seems to be here to stay for a while. Still, I am craving those clean, powerful fall cold front winds. The strong fronts “should” spell and end to this hurricane riding season. This season of hurricane riding has been a trip. See you in another 118 years, if we are lucky.


RickI 08-24-2011 08:24 PM

It looks like over a dozen states along the east coast of the USA may soon experience hurricane force winds for the first time in decades. Lots of kiters along that stretch of coast, many without much exposure to intense tropical weather. High sustained winds are one thing if you have the right gear and experience, violent squalls common to these systems are quite another. What size kite do you rig for gusts from 10 to 50 kts.+ with the increase happening within seconds?

Answer, you don't, if you use your head. Skill really doesn't enter into things above a certain windspeed, raw and indifferent physics does. STAY AWAY FROM SQUALLS in short.

Guys have died in this stretch of coast before in former tropical systems. Question is, will there be new volunteers this time around? Sure hope not but the choice is yours.


RickI 08-24-2012 08:11 PM

TS Isaac is heading towards Florida. The models current disagree on how strong and where at this point. With tropical storm winds extending outward over 180 miles it will easily impact the entire state one way or the other. There will be lots of squalls in the feeder bands and eye wall predicted to develop. Lots of opportunities to mess yourself up in short kiting. The next few days are a good time to stay off the water unless you have the right gear and good experience in similar conditions. Regardless of experience, stay the hell out of and well away from squalls. That means you'll need to look for large enough holes, a few hours worth, if there are any. There may not be. This was the case with TS Fay in 2008. More about the resulting accident and uproar at:

In the meantime here's a look back at what we went through in 2004 in this magazine article. (ABOVE)


RickI 10-07-2016 04:01 AM

As Hurricane Matthew moves north and folks in its wake reflect on its passage, this article came to mind. I had some bad image links and so added some more from that time. Some lost everything in Matthew, including the hundreds who lost their lives while others were hardly impacted at all. If you had a choice, which outcome would you choose? Pretty dumb query, but so is looking a "gift horse in the mouth." As they say, count your blessings, there are more hurricanes where these came from. Hopefully, no so many or particularly damaging ones either. Take care out there.

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