Today’s blog is a follow on from one of the points I made in the last blog about what it takes to become an independent kitesurfer. As I mentioned in that one, being independent isn’t just about knowing how to kite – it’s so much more than that. In this post I’ll be taking you through how to read a forecast (and what to do when the forecast is inaccurate!)
To start, the first thing you need to know that reading the forecast is about so much more than checking one website and being ready to go out. There are several things you need to check, and depending on your spot, you might need to check several different websites to get the best view.
There are several things you need to check before heading out to kitesurf:
- Is the wind blowing in the right direction? There’s no point getting excited about 25kts of wind if it’s straight offshore at the beach you’re headed to. Make sure you know which wind directions work for your beach and whether you need to change anything in your plan based on the wind direction (e.g. are waves bigger in a particular direction, is it easier to launch from a different spot?)
- For Camber, WindGuru is the most accurate site for wind direction. It is always important to remember that if the forecast is light offshore but it is the middle of summer and 20+ degrees, the sea breeze can switch it to onshore wind.
- How strong is the wind? Whilst it is vital that you base your kite size on the wind actually blowing at the beach, checking the strength on the forecast can give you an idea of whether or not it is worth making the trip. If it’s forecast to blow 3kts, it’s probably not worth it. If it’s forecast to blow 40+kts, it’s not safe to go out unless you are an advanced kiter. Whatever the forecast says, don’t leave a kite at home – we always joke at the centre that whichever kite you leave at home will inevitably be the one you need. Keep in mind also that forecast is exactly that – a forecast, and location specific effects can also affect wind speed, such as sea breeze. It’s also important to check both the average and gust wind speeds, as a really gusty day can be horrid to kite in, especially if you are more of a beginner. Checking live observations which show what is happening at the beach you are visiting, as well as what is happening along the coast (and therefore going to happen at your beach later in the day) is also a good idea. At Camber we’ve seen instances where the forecast says 15kts and it has come through at over 30kts!
- For Camber, xcweather gives a good idea of the forecast strength, but does not take into account sea breezes. On a hot day, you can add between 30 – 70% onto the forecast strength. It’s also worth checking xcweather’s overall map to show if there are strong winds along the coast which will hit later. This is especially the case on stormy days as it is important to check what sort of weather fronts will be coming through.
- What are the waves like? If you’re visiting a beach that has varying wave conditions, it’s also important to check the swell (it’s also super fun to check if you’re into wave kitesurfing, surfing or wave SUPing as seeing a 17ft swell in the channel can make for some lovely waves!). Of course, on days where it is windier there are often bigger waves, but the waves are also affected by the wind of the previous day and the direction of the wind. If yesterday it was 46kts, the waves may still be big today despite the forecast only being 10kts. Wind direction will also affect the waves, as there may be shelter in offshore conditions. Beginner kiters may want to avoid wavier days, whereas those looking to play in the waves on a directional or use them as kickers for boosting may be waiting for the big ones!
- For Camber, Magic Seaweed is the most accurate site for checking the swell. There is also a Facebook group whose members regularly post updates if the waves are looking good.
- Is it going to rain? Of course, it’s not about making sure you don’t get wet – you’ll be doing that anyway if you’re going kiting! Rain means fronts are coming through, and they can either kill the wind completely or come through as a squall which can easily add an extra 10kts onto the wind speed! They can also completely change the wind direction – the last thing you want is to be stuck out to see when the wind dies and goes offshore. You can check forecast websites like Rain Today which will show a radar of exactly where the rain is coming, meaning you can plan when to kite to best avoid them.
- At Camber, BBC weather will give you a good indication of whether or not it is going to rain, and Rain Today will show more accurately when and how long the fronts will come through for.
An important thing to remember is not to go off the forecast, go off what is actually happening at the beach. If it’s blowing 45kts but the forecast said 25kts, don’t put up a kite for 25kt wind.
Don’t be afraid to ask the local shop or school and other kiters on the beach (though keep in mind a) their size b) their level and c) some kiters have an ego, and think a bigger kite makes them better. If someone is bragging that they can hold down a 12m, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should try it).
THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE IS “IF IN DOUBT, DON’T GO OUT!”
It’s better to have a trip to the beach where you don’t end up kiting than to go out in conditions beyond your ability and end up hurting yourself, someone else or damaging your equipment. If it’s too strong for you, why not find a local cafe and grab a drink, and if it’s too light… why not try Stand Up Paddleboarding?