There are certain clouds to avoid for kiteboarding. These clouds are a sign of change in the weather. To provide more reliable information, we consulted with iKitesurf meteorologist and kiteboarder Shea Gibson.
This article provides a general idea of clouds to avoid for kiteboarding. These clouds signify hazardous weather that can be dangerous for kiteboarders. You can reduce your risk of injury through situational awareness.
Shelf clouds are a well-defined wall shape that is low-lying and dark. These clouds are associated with a squall line. Winds can increase to violent strengths as they pass overhead and just behind them as down-drafting occurs. A wind direction shift can occur. Wind direction will be in the direction that these clouds are coming from (if the clouds are coming from the east, wind will be from the east). It is important to get off the water when you see these clouds.
Wall clouds are a low hanging column of clouds underneath the cumulonimbus cloud, or thunderhead, and are usually super-cell related. These are known for tornadic activity as they rotate underneath their parent storm cloud. One main difference of wall clouds is that they form under a cumulonimbus cloud and are very powerful. The wind can shift 180 degrees and increase violently. Severe lightning and tornados are possible. Avoid wall clouds when kiteboarding at all costs.
Cumulonimbus clouds are low, dark clouds that can produce strong storms. Avoid these clouds! The storms associated with these clouds bring gusty winds with the potential for wind direction change. Lightning, rain, hail and potential tornadoes or waterspouts can also be in these storms. In Florida or other warm climates, it is imperative to get off the water before these clouds come over you.
Tropical bands are fast-moving, lower-lying black clouds that can produce strong and gusty winds. These are associated with tropical activity like a hurricane or tropical storm. They move fast so be on the lookout!
These clouds can be defined as long, flat-black-bottoms that are like cotton balls. These form when warm humid air rises through cooler surrounding air in the atmosphere. Waterspouts can form from these types of clouds. Rotation will start at the surface and work its way up.
When Altostratus clouds come, they signify a change in weather. These clouds are often associated with a front. There will be continuous rain and gustier wind conditions. They are not as dangerous as Cumulonimbus clouds but kiteboarders should still exercise caution.
These clouds are low-lying, puffy and joined together. They are similar to altocumulus clouds but differ in the sense that they are darker in nature. The main attribute to these clouds is fog. Visibility can be difficult in dense fog. This makes hard to see other kiteboarders or the launch spot.
Key Point Takeaways
If you see low-lying, dark, ominous clouds then it is best to get off the water. Skill does not matter in some of these conditions. Even the best kiteboarders can get injured. 180 degree wind shifts, 25 + kt wind gusts, lightning and other conditions can be a kiteboarder’s biggest threat. These are all avoidable by paying attention to the weather around you. Rather than “one more tack”, get off the water and wait for the inclement weather to pass.