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Old 01-28-2008, 12:43 PM
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ricki ricki is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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Default Squall Story - A wet cold front spanks a kite competition

This was originally posted on kiteforum in April 2003 about a year before this forum came into being in its current format.

The potential violent gusts and wind direction shifts in squalls can be highly hazardous to kiteboarders. Lots of stories out there about
sessions in the School of Hard Knocks in minor to incredibly strong gusts and the sad consequences for the kiteboarder in the slot.
Kiteboarding can be enjoyed in much better safety, with all the extreme moves, in stable weather. Going out in the unstable variety including squalls,
is only asking for trouble. These stories are coming in from areas ALL OVER THE WORLD. Just be near hard objects
(within hundreds of yds. or meters?), add some violent wind and be ready for some potential grim consequences.
Some details about some of these experiences
appear in the KSI at: ... EFERENCES/

This article presents a sequence of photos, radar images and wind graphs before, during and after the squall. These resources
are readily available to riders in the USA and in many other countries. Shame on you if you ignore these aids and have a severe
avoidable go to with mother nature. Conditions can change so checking out these resources is not enough. They are only an aid and
suggest conditions that can change while you are out. So we all need to stay alert and
observant while we are out for deteriorating conditions.

This event took place during the Islamorada Invitational kiteboarding competition on March 30, 2003 in Florida, USA. A strong cold
front was forecast to pass over the area on that day, Sunday. High winds were predicted to accompany the front into the
30 to 40 mph range.

An early radar image appears below:

Sunday, March 30, 2003 at 12:19 pm
A substantial squall line is clearly evident in the image, moving north to northeast. Movement can be estimated from radar loop
functions and TV color radar images.

The event went along nicely from early morning on to late afternoon when things started to get interesting.

Here is a windgraph courtesy of from Molasses Lighthouse along the Florida Reef Tract just south of Islamorada.
Note the major 90 degree wind direction change and increase in speed that occurred between 4:30 and 5:00 pm.

An annotated Satellite Image of the area (from

The squall line is moving much closer to the event site in Islamorada.

Some dark is sliding in from the south, from the right of the image. Riders did not appear to react much in advance to the squall before winds and conditions changed.

Coming a bit closer and some riders are actually coming in before the true fun starts.

How does it go? "Something dark this way comes."

The stragglers enjoy a major wind shift, soon to move to dead offshore and boosted gusts into the 30 and 40 mph range. One kiter
is being dragged at high speed and tossing out quite a bit of spray. Most of the competitors weren' t using kite leashes. If things get
out of hand, this is all you can do in such a situation. Keep your kite very low, edge for all you are worth and HANG ON. Otherwise, you just let go and
send your kite running off downwind for someone else to deal with. If you are lofted while trying to hang on to your kite that just goes
with choosing to ride without a kite leash. I like Hamish's idea in using a leash and still doing incredible tricks. It protects bystanders, his kite and
IF the weather goes bad before he makes it to shore, it can PROTECT HIM AS WELL.

Starting to look downright evil out there ...

More gusts, rain and the mats go to sea ...

The sky's looking pretty strange in a short lull ...
Waverunners are trying to still get some of the kiters in that were blasted by the squall are being blown offshore.

Rain and gusts again ...

The squall line passes ... but is that all?

Competitors and organizers were concerned about the safety of resuming the competition. At one point it appeared as though
it might have been concluded in the interest of safety. A couple of influential out of area individuals, those with little apparent understanding of
actual area weather patterns, argued to continue the competition. One person was heard to say, "they are Pro riders, they can
handle it." I had heard that Pro riders were issued a "I am EXEMPT from the Laws of Physics" card. If so, there may be reason to
believe that skill can overcome shear incredible explosive force such as sent a rider in Cabarete flying over 800 ft. horizontally in only
a 51 kt. gust. Gusts like that and MORE are not so uncommon in squalls in this area AND IN MANY OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD. Hmmmm...

Worry, concern and a bit of fear. Fear is a very good thing and has excellent survival value. All that was needed was to checkout color
radar on TV or on the Internet. This would have been seen. A large, clear area behind or to the south of the narrow squall line.
There was a substantial area of high pressure behind the squall line along with the predicted strong offshore winds. So competitors
and organizers could have breathed a bit easier if they had checked into available resources. It could have been different however
and often is. There could be a mass of yellow and red stacked up to the south which would have indicated that hazardous conditions
were going to continue to be present. It would be even better to monitor both visible conditions on the scene as well as on color
radar and the Internet. There is no need to go "blind" as was the case not so many years ago.

Something the NWS service weather stations don't show are the gusts but list more steady wind speeds. This is a depiction of
an ikitesurf station further north in the Miami area that does show gusts and some strong ones too from the same squall line.
NOTE the major, rapid changes in wind direction depicted by the yellow arrows at the top of the page between 4 and 7 pm. These rapid, direction
shifts are all to common in squalls. So you assume that you are ok because winds are sideshore? Don't be because the squall can do
anything from turning the wind off entire to spinning the direction of the wind and speed
all over the place. Lots of uncertainty in unstable weather
including squalls.

Large image: ... rada_VR3_s

So this was the back of the storm, but who knew? If you chose to guess you will set the table for interesting times. Sometimes things
can get too interesting, best to do your homework and save your extreme moves off the water for the intentional variety.
All these squall warnings to kiteboarders SHOULD be old news. The accidents are mounting up as should the motivation to pay attention
to conditions and TRY TO AVOID this hazard. I guess we just aren't quite there yet.

More ideas about weather and kiteboarding at: ... e57dc7ca74
FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi
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