Posted by: surfgator | 2009/01/07

Kiting the Front

What does it take to let go of over $1000 worth of kite equipment? You’re about to find out.

Its hard to find a good place to kite on west winds around here. About the only two decent places are Manatee park and Sebastian Inlet. Manatee is known for hazards on land (for launch and landings) as well as gusty conditions. Sebastian is a great place but needs just the right direction – SSE to SW generally. The forecasts don’t track S to SW very well, so it can be hit or miss and a long drive if you are wrong! Well, during cold front season, typically Oct – Feb, its possible to get some good days with SW winds. Anything with west in it around here is usually gusty.

Today the readings were SSW @ 15-25mph with gusts near 30. The right kite can typically handle a range of 10mph ok, but much out of that and you are either sinking or over-powered. Looking at the weather showed a strong band of storms moving in from the North West due to arrive about 3pm (so I thought). I decided to go to Sebastian around 11am and get a few hours before the front. When I arrived it was 15mph or so which usually is good for my 12meter(m) kite. A lot of people were out on 9-11m kites and were doing ok, but seemed to be a little under-powered. Normally I would have just pumped up the 12m, but it was very gusty at times. Within 5 minutes it went from 15mph to over 20mph and back to 15mph or so. I was considering putting up a 10m. One guy tried to convince me to put up my 12m, but thankfully I did not listen to him.

All went well with the 10m for about 2 hours. I had some nice high airs, spins, cut backs, and got to ride some of the flat water behind the sandbars. Twice while I was out squalls came through with about 25-30mph gusts. My 10m can handle up to 32mph before it gets uncontrollable, so I was ok. All of a sudden the wind nearly died and everyone but me and one other guy went in. I barely made it back to shore. I had a feeling it would pick up again, so we hung out for few minutes and sure enough it picked right back up to 20mph or so quickly. This, I now know was the calm before the storm………..

I went back out and noticed some serious rain off to the north that I had not seen before. I did a few runs and noticed two guys launch and make their way out. I was watching this rain and did not like it. After three runs I decided it was time. I made my way to shore and out of the blue (or should I say grey?) a gust hit me and I was ripped completely off my board and catapulted 30-40 yards through the air at about 15′ above the water. I came crashing down hard and I knew all too well I had to depower the kite. As I reached for the bar another gust hit and I got pulled hard down wind. Everytime I got hold of the bar, the kite would either relaunch off the water or power up and I’d go for a ride. I took four or five good beatings then knew I had to pull the main depower from my harness. As I did, the kite powered up (which it should not do fully depowered!!) and went straight up. I was dangling from my leash about 5 feet off the water trying to pull the thing down to pull the OSH (Oh Shit Handle) which should completely depower the kite to one side. I couldn’t reach it. I then noticed my leash wrapped around my harness which would have prevented me from detaching all-together, and thats when I got concernced. I had visions of the guy in Ft Lauderdale who got drug across the street attached to this kite. Somehow I managed to turn myself upside down before falling back in the water and getting drug yet again and freeing the leash. This time I was done with it. Remember the opening line of this story? Well I pulled the final safety. The one thing attaching me to some very expensive kite gear. As I stood there watching my entire rig do cartwheels down the river, I contemplated what a nice kite that had been (and began to realize I wasn’t going to die or at least get seriously hurt today). It was then that I noticed the other kite careening just behind mine. I looked over and saw the other guy who was out with me had let his go too!! Turns out he met a similar fate as me and had to ditch his kite too. At that moment, the rain started pelting so hard I couldn’t see five feet in front of me. Somehow I spotted my board and his too. He had already swam back to shore when I came trudging up with two boards. He was very thankful I found his board, and I was very stoked to not have lost everything! I also was very happy I was not on my 12m. It just would have been worse.

Right as we walked on to shore, the rain stopped. The wind almost died and it was actually nice out. Everyone else came out of their cars and just looked at us in disbelief. I saw our kites floating about a mile down river heading for an area in the river that is accessible from the road. I quickly drove down there and waded out to a sandbar where, amazingly, my kite was floating perfectly unharmed and the bar was caught in some sea grass that apparently stopped it. I wrapped up the lines, deflated the kite and made my way back to work. I checked the Sebastian wind sensor and you can see the squall I was out in (Check out the “gust last hour” in the picture)… Another sensor reported 42.6mph.

I consider myself very lucky! I try to kite respectfully of the weather, but this time I cut it too close and got a pretty clear warning.




  1. Great story, glad everything worked out. even though you told me the other day that the 10m blew the leading edge….was it mad at you for this stunt? lol. I reposted this on CFK hope you dont mind

  2. That’s an intense story!!! I’m in the area this week and was planning on riding the Indian river off of east island under the stuart causeway. It’ll be SW tomorrow, similar to your conditions. The launch looks sketchy. Now you’ve got me really second guessing this. Have you ridden off the causeway?

  3. No, I’ve never ridden down there. Its just that the West winds on the east coast are so unpredictable unless you have a good wide area in the river, and even then it can be really gusty – do it! – but just watch the forecast and be careful!

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