How To Read Wind Strength & Direction

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Check the conditions are safe for kitesurfing

A big part of learning to kitesurf safely on your own or at new spots is to understand how to read the wind strength whilst at a beach or kite spot.

In this post we will have a look at winds that are good for kitesurfing (and those that are not). We do this now as many of you will be flying your trainer kite at the beach and so you can start to notice the effects we’re talking about now when you’re out flying your kite, so when you’re ready to start kitesurfing it will become a little more automatic.

90% of the time when something goes seriously wrong in a kitesurfing session it’s not due a mistake made on the water but a bad decision on the beach before you even start to set up your kite. Start noticing these effects now and you’ll save yourself a lot of time when you actually go kitesurfing.

Wind Direction

There are two ways in which we can describe the wind direction; where it came from, and in relation to land and sea. As we define the wind by where it came from, we are referring to the compass points North, East, South, West and each of the points in between. For example, we could have a wind blowing from the South West. This would be called a South Westerly wind.
We can also describe the wind orientation in relation to the direction it blows over land and sea. Wind that blows from the sea onto land is called an onshore wind; wind that blows from the land out to sea is called an offshore wind. We also have cross-shore wind which blows parallel between land a sea and, again, the midpoints between each direction called cross-onshore and cross-offshore.

Safest Wind Direction

Given that a cross-onshore wind is the ideal wind direction for most types of kiteboarding and is the safest, we should be looking for a beach where the wind direction is cross onshore. For example, if the wind were South Westerly, we would look for a South facing beach.

Wind strength (Visual) Tips

Hopefully you have read the forecast and considered it safe, you arrive at the beach and are checking the conditions, here are Infinity Sport Kitesurfing’s tips for reading the strength of the wind using visual aids.

White caps on the water appear at 15-25kts
Seagulls hover at around 20knts
Flying (bleaching) sand equals upwards of 25knts
Very strong wind creates large waves and lots of white caps!

Kiteboarding Know-how

A cross-onshore wind direction is the easiest to kiteboard in.

Onshore and cross-onshore winds are smooth (less gusty) and will return the rider to shore so they are the safest direction.

Offshore and cross-offshore winds are very gusty as the wind passes over land and they require boat support.

When describing wind direction by compass points, we state the direction the wind is coming from. A wind blowing from South to North is called a Southerly wind.

When describing our position in relation to other objects or people, we do this in relation to the wind direction. We can be upwind, downwind or crosswind to another person or object.

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