Kiteboarding during Hurricane Season
Kiteboarding during hurricane season can be safe with the right knowledge and awareness. Although the projected path may be unpredictable, the winds from a hurricane or tropical storm are predictable. For example, the winds from a hurricane or tropical storm spin counterclockwise. This is important to note for choosing the right spot and being able to keep an eye on approaching storms.
Do not be the person that causes a community to lose access to their kite spots. Most people do not understand hurricanes and tropical storms. Hence, any time the news mentions the word hurricane grocery stores are sold out of water. More important, authorities are on high alert. If someone gets hurt kiteboarding “during a hurricane” there is a greater chance for loss of access. This is what happened in Miami, and repercussions can still be noticed there.
Hurricane and Tropical Storm Weather Patterns
Hurricanes and tropical storms have distinct patterns that make them predictable. As mentioned above, hurricane or tropical storm winds rotate counterclockwise. This information can be used to determine the direction of the wind. For example, if the eye of the storm is directly south then the winds will be from the east or southeast. The east side of the storm is the rainier side with strong rainbands. Rainbands from a hurricane or tropical storm can cause sudden spikes in the wind. These rainbands can also cause tornadoes and severe lightning. Do not go kiteboarding with approaching rainbands.
As a hurricane or tropical storm approaches, storm surge is a potential factor. This flow of water is less predictable and is difficult to see from the beach. The flow of water can be amplified and potentially very dangerous. Avoid deeper water or places where there are fast moving currents. Moreover, the safest places to kiteboard are shallow water spots.
Proximity and Strength
Proximity and strength determine whether or not the conditions for kiteboarding are safe. Hurricane Irma made landfall over the Keys as a Category 4. St Petersburg experienced east winds three days before the storm. In other words, three days before Irma the St Petersburg area experienced 15-20 kt winds under blue skies. These conditions are safe to go kiteboarding in.
As Hurricane Irma approached St Petersburg, winds gradually increased to 50-75 kts. The real danger lies within the approaching rainbands. With consistent 50-75 kt winds, the rainbands that came caused gusts over 100 kts. Those are the situations that could severely injure or cause death.
As a storm approaches, the wind strength increases. Wind strength increases at a gradual rate. Unless there is a rainband or cloud line, the wind will not spontaneously increase nor change direction. There are signs that are important not too ignore.
When to Kiteboard?
If you are going to “kiteboard a hurricane or tropical storm”, make sure to go far before or after the storm. Check the radars for approaching rainbands. If there are distinct rainbands on the map or that are forecasted to form, do not go kiteboarding. These rainbands are not to be taken for granted.
Best Side of the Storm
The ideal side of a hurricane is to be on the west side of the storm. This is the drier side with weaker rainbands. Although tornadoes and lightning are still possible, the rainbands are less common. Hurricane Dorian, for example, caused havoc that is still seen throughout the Bahamas. St Petersburg is located a few hundred miles to the west of the Bahamas and still experienced winds from Dorian.
If located on the east side of the storm, kiteboard far before the rainbands come through. Or, wait for the storm to pass to the north. This will let the rain and gustiness associated with the storm pass. Even when the storm passes, still keep an eye for rainbands and ominous weather.
Number One Rule
When in doubt, don’t go out. Wait for a better day and do not try to force a session. Hurricanes and tropical storms can be predictable. Study the local forecast, listen to local meteorologists and talk to experienced kiteboarders before going out.