Are you Ready for Deep-Water?
Following a spate of newbies losing their boards, failing to relaunch and swimming long distances to rescue themselves at my local spot, I thought I’d offer some advice for newbies venturing out in deep-waters.
1-Assess the wind strength before going out: As a newbie, the conditions you need to safely enjoy a session in deep water are limited. You will need stronger winds than in shallow water to be able to easily ride your board, relaunch your kite and recover your board.
Typically that corresponds to a bare minimum of 15 knots, but preferably a minimum of 18 knots at the earlier stages of your progression. If the sand isn’t moving at all on the beach and the ocean isn’t saturated with white caps, there is a good chance the wind is below 18 knots and that you will struggle. A good way to “test’’ the wind speed if you’re not sure is to put your kite in the water from the beach and see if it’s easy to relaunch or not. If you struggle to relaunch your kite standing from the water’s edge, you will more than likely not be able to relaunch it from deep waters.
2-Assess the wind direction before going out: Kiting in deep waters limits you to two wind directions: side-shore and side-on-shore winds. Side-on-Shore winds are by far the best and safest as they will allow you (and your board) to drift back easily to the shore if anything goes wrong. However, side-shore winds are trickier as they allow you to easily get away from the shore but you will take much more time to get back to the shore if anything goes wrong and you’re not competent at self-rescue. At our local spot (Pinnaroo Point, WA), side-shore (Southerly) winds are frequent and because of the angle of the beach downwind of the entrance of the kite spot, the wind becomes side-off-shore quickly, which means it’s very difficult to get back to the shore especially if you drift downwind too far and if the winds are light.
3-Study the local weather and know the local forecast: wind can be tricky sometimes. In Perth during the hottest parts of the summer, sea breezes tend to come in late and are usually weaker in strength. If the wind comes in late (i.e. 2pm, 3pm), it will more than likely die off early as well! If the morning has strong off-shore Easterly winds, chances are the Sea Breeze will be weaker, come in later (if it does come) and die off early as well. If the wind starts to die off around 5-6 pm and there are more kiters on the beach than in the water, it’s probably an early sign of the wind starting to die off completely and turning off-shore, which means: don’t go out!
4-If you’re new to the spot, talk to local kiters: this is the key to gathering all the local knowledge about the location whilst making friends with the kiters who may very well be the ones to help you recover your board or tow you back in if you’re not competent at self-rescue. Local kiters will happily fill you in about the pros and cons of the area and give you some advice to help you stay out of trouble.
5-Learn to self-rescue: This is the skill that unfortunately the majority of schools don’t teach well enough or don’t teach at all. If you’re not fully competent at getting to your kite and using it as an efficient sail to get yourself back to the shore easily and quickly, you simply shouldn’t go out in deep waters. Thinking you know how to self-rescue and being actually competent at it are two different things. Newbies who go out in deep waters without being competent at self-rescue are simply forcing other people to come rescue them if they get in trouble.
6-Improve your water-relaunching skills: Relaunching a kite in deep waters is more challenging, requires stronger winds and more skills than in shallow waters. If you’re not able to easily relaunch your kite in various scenarios/positions in deep water, you will drift downwind for very long distances. If the wind is below 18 knots (sand not moving on the beach) you will need more advanced relaunching skills and many hours of practice to be able to relaunch your kite easily.
7-Improve your upwind body drag skills: Recovering your board in deep waters easily and quickly requires nearly perfect upwind body dragging skills. Small mistakes in your technique will make the difference between recovering your board or not. If you can’t body drag away and back to the shore without losing any ground, your upwind body drag skills aren’t good enough for deep water kiting.
8-Stay closer to the shore: This is a no-brainer, if you’re not competent at all the skills mentioned above, do yourself (and the people who will potentially help you get out of trouble and recover your board) a big favor: stay closer to the shore. Especially if it’s later in the day and the winds are lighter, simply stay within 200-300 meters to shore this way you won’t raise the alarm and have to swim impossible distances when you get in trouble and can’t self-rescue.
9-Take a lesson in deep water: probably around 80% of kite schools operate in shallow water while in contrast probably around 80% of kite spots in Australia are in deep water…If you struggle with any of the skills above, booking a 1h or 2h deep-water refresher lesson could make the difference between saving your gear and your life in some cases.