The first thing that you should do when arriving to the beach is to assess the conditions. You must determine that is safe to kiteboard, to make informed decisions on the proper gear selection, and most importantly, to maximize your fun!
Do: Winds that blow parallel to shore (“Side Shore”) or at an angle toward shore (“Side in Shore”) are best for kiteboarding because they will let you easily return to the beach.
Avoid: Winds that blows out toward the sea, called “Off shore” or “Side Off Shore”, make conditions too dangerous for kiteboarding. If the wind blowing in an unsafe direction, it’s time to head home!
Side-On Shore: (Safe) The safest wind orientation for kiteboarding as you are able to return to the beach with ease and in case of an equipment breakdown, the kite will get you back to shore.
Side Shore: (Safe/Caution) The second safest wind orientation for kiteboarding because you are able to return to the beach with ease and you have plenty of water downwind. The risk here is if your kite is pulling you away from the shore you are going out to sea.
On-Shore: (Caution) This wind orientation should be kited in with caution when near shore. The wind will be pushing you directly towards the beach. If it is possible to get yourself a safe distance from the beach, then this direction can be considered.
Off-Shore: (Dangerous) Never kite in off-shore wind unless you have a rescue boat as support. This wind orientation will be pushing you away from the land and the wind will be gusty and turbulent.
Side-Off Shore: (Dangerous) Never kite in cross off shore wind unless you have a rescue boat as support. This wind orientation will be pushing you away from the land and the wind will be gusty and turbulent..
*blog post of wind directions plus tide recommendations for Charleston.
Determining the wind speed is a crucial factor because you must determine if there is enough wind to go kiteboarding safely and to determine which kite size is appropriate for the wind speed.
Do: Low Wind - 10 - 15 mph
Medium Wind - 15 - 20 mph
Avoid: High Wind - 20 - 25 mph
If you are a beginner it is best to ride in low to medium wind until you are confident in your abilities and are able to handle the kite in higher wind situations. It is important to note that the wind does not always fit within such strict parameters as labeled above so it is crucial to use live wind readings from a source like ikitesurf.com or have a wind meter on hand to confirm the actual reading on the beach.
It also wise to familiarize yourself with the Beaufort scale.
Pro tip: As a beginner you only want to go out in 3-5 Beaufort. This is when whitecaps will be present on the water and it is best to kite.
Beaufort Scale: Click HERE to view the Beaufort Scale.
Smooth steady wind is ideal for kiteboarding. Gusty turbulent winds that have a large variance between the gust and the lulls make flying a large kite more dangerous. It is also more difficult to select the proper kite size for the wind speeds if the wind varies greatly.
Be aware of your surroundings!
Wind blowing onshore from the body of water will be smoother because no obstacles are in the path of the wind which creates turbulence. When the wind is offshore, the wind is very gusty and unpredictable. This is due to the wind travelling over, under, through and around objects, disturbing it and therefore it becomes far less smooth.
You will NOT be kitesurfing in offshore winds anyway, because it’s dangerous; but may find in side-shore winds that they have come over a nearby headland or building, making them a little gusty. If you are flying your kite inland, move a minimum of 7 times the height of the object downwind or 3 times the height of the object upwind for smoother wind, the further the better.
Another factor that greatly affects the wind is weather patterns. It is not advised to ride if severe weather is forecasted. Storms and squalls can bring drastic changes in the winds speed, direction, and quality. Always check the radar and weather forecasts for the day you plan on kiteboarding!
Tides & Currents:
Tides and currents can play a crucial rule in your safety as well depending on the area in which you kite. Consult local kiters, your local kiteboarding social media groups, or forums to determine if you need to educate yourselfs on the currents and the tides and factor these into your assessment.
Now that you have determined that is safe to ride, lets go over the wind window.