13 April 2017

Kite-boarding and kite-surfing in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Tel Aviv

 On blustery windy days in Tel Aviv whilst most of us try to stay out of the wind, there are a dedicated group of people who seek the wind as it enables them to take part in their hobby of kite-boarding and kite-surfing.  It was windy here yesterday but instead of seeking shelter from the wind, I headed to the beach to watch this exhilarating sport.  The people out on the water were clearly professionals.  They made the sport look so effortless and easy and yet I get the feeling that there must be an enormous amount of skill involved in steering the kite at speed and having a clear path in the water away from others whilst keeping the kite out of the water.  It looked great fun and I envied their free spirit.

Kite-boarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wake-boarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and gymnastics into one extreme sport. A kite-boarder harnesses the power of the wind with a large controllable power kite to be propelled across the water on a kite-board similar to a wake-board or a small surfboard, with or without foot straps or bindings.  Kite-surfing is a style of kite-boarding specific to wave riding, which utilizes standard surfboards or boards shaped specifically for the purpose.  There are different styles of kite-boarding, including freestyle, free-ride, down-winders, speed, course racing, wake-style, jumping and kite-surfing in the waves.

Wind strength and kite sizes
Kitesurfers change kite size and/or line length depending on wind strength—stronger winds call for a smaller kite to prevent overpower situations. Kitesurfers will determine the wind strength using either an anemometer or, more typically, visual clues as shown in the Beaufort scale.  All modern kites dedicated to kitesurfing provide a "depower" option to reduce the power in the kite. By using depower, the kite's angle of attack to the wind is reduced, thereby catching less wind in the kite and reducing the power or pull.  Wind speed, rider experience and weight, board size, kite design and riding style are all interdependent and affect the choice of kite.  An experienced rider generally carries a 'quiver' of different sized kites appropriate for the wind speed range. A typical kite quiver might include 8 m², 10 m² and 12 m² traditional "C-kites". Exact kite sizes will vary depending on rider weight and desired wind ranges.  Bow kites have a wider wind range than C-kites, so two kite sizes (such as 7 m² and 12 m²) could form an effective quiver for winds ranging from 10 to 30+ knots for a 75 kg (165 lb) rider.

Wind direction
 Cross-shore and cross-onshore winds are the best for kiteboarding. Offshore winds pose the danger of being blown away from the shore in the event of equipment failure or loss of control. Offshore winds are suitable in a lake or when a safety boat is available, however they are generally more gusty. Direct onshore winds carry the risk of being thrown onto land, and are thus less favorable.
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