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Be Weather Aware

Had another cold front squall line bringing winds gust to 40 to 60 mph +, tornados, waterspouts and offshore wind shifts. This was the second violent front in a week. Many dozens of kiters have been killed in these worldwide and likely hundreds injured including paralysis, brain trauma, major and minor bone fractures along with damaged or lost gear.

Kiters still go out in them due to a lack of apparent understanding and respect for just how easily and badly they can be messed up. Gear has improved but not enough to allow you to risk this sort of violent weather.

These squall lines are usually easy to see and avoid. Some people just don't try or ignore them. This squall line could be seen days out working its way across the country and causing damage along the way.


Posted: April 15, 2011 at 10:28 PM
By: John Bryja
(0) Comment/s
Blown Away
After a recent severe Squall line that moved across Florida, here is an educational piece put together by Florida Kiteboard Association's Rick Iossi about the dangers of Squalls.
I understand a number of kiters like to go out in squalls others don't bother to think much about it. If it is blowing, they go. I would take a look at the following clip, consider the many dozens of kiters killed and likely hundreds injured worldwide over the years in squalls and think it over again. This was shot at the Sun n Fun fly in, in Lakeland, FL yesterday. It is horrible to have so many personal aircraft many home built radically damaged in an instant and at a fun annual fly in.

Want to fly a 7 m kite in that? Anyone who goes out in squalls has the opportunity, believe it.

How about the winds that blew over Egmont Key ikitesurf sensor at the entrance to Tampa Bay shortly before things went ballistic in Lakeland, FL about 30 miles to the ENE? Note the classic 90 degree direction change with the onset of the squall line. This has blown kiters offshore plenty of times in the past and with far less violent squall lines. Some have made it, some lost boards and still others lost their lives. These direction changes can be ANTICIPATED, along with strong winds, if you bother to look out for it. There were nine tornados identified in the Bay area however looking at the windgraph and duration of high wind, it seems likely that other sources of high wind were present throughout the area as well. Perhaps powerful gust fronts and bursts.

So, you ignore squalls/weather hazards and head out say at 10:30 am rigged with a 9 m. Having some fun until say 12:30 pm. They there is a good chance it is lights out time or a real nasty go to if you're extremely lucky. I could easily imagine kiters who ignore weather hazards or actively go out in them falling into this predictable but possible terminal scenario. Not all squalls are this lethal, just enough to make it a real bad idea to mess with any of them. Lots of guys have lost it in squalls blowing to 35 kts. Some may not believe it but you likely haven't hit a bad one or have had things go very wrong yet. I know some kiters rely on squalls for wind in some inland venues. It is tough but getting taken out by one permanently or messed up still make it a poor choice. Also, no way this is a "Florida" specific threat. Squall lines like this tear things up from coast to coast at times.

We were to fly back to Ft. Lauderdale, FL yesterday but were put on a 3 hour weather hold on the tarmac in Denver because of this same cold front squall line and all the tornados and other damage going on. I understand bow echos were identified in radar images along with tornado signatures. Some of the imagery suggests microbursts may have been involved too.

This was the radar image around the time of the windgraph shown above. That dark red curved area is heading to Lakeland.

This is what a powerful squall line or collection of supercell storms can look like from space. The higher the shadow the taller and more powerful the storm cloud stack.

This is an aircraft view of the one that ripped over Central Florida yesterday about 300 miles west of Naples and at 38,300 ft. or so. You can see the anvil of one thunderstorm out of many more in the squall line. There were cloud tops still higher than we were flying, powerful cumulonimbus.

Multiple gust fronts, tornados, straight line winds, lightening and hail, what is not to like?

The marine forecast for the Tampa Bay area that day was for 20 kts west, more HERE with a warning about tornados on some websites. Look what the weather hazard forecast was at 6 am the same day!
CLICK image for full sized photo

Coasting along past an overtopping cloud in the distance 7 1/2 miles above the earth.

This was our approximate position at the time. The real violent stuff was already well to the east, hence the three hour weather flight hold from the FAA.

Here are some more images of the damage done by this squall line over a fairly large area:

So, the wind can rip the roof off a house, we're powerful and skillful enough to handle what comes with a kite the size of small car up, right? Not likely sad to say, this storm tossed ACTUAL cars.

A bent 220 ft. tall tower. Good thing kites (and kiters) are stronger than girder steel?!

A photo from beneath what may have been a shelf cloud later in the day. If you kite, it really pays to know weather and use common sense.
Damage photos from:

More on kiting weather planning and monitoring at the top couple of stickie posts at:

FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi
Join the conversation, visit the Florida Kitesurf Association
Posted: April 5, 2011 at 07:43 AM
By: John Bryja
(0) Comment/s
Kiting and Skydiving come together

Neil Hutchenson creates a new kind of event, kiteboarding and sky diving combined. Many know of Neil going back ten years in kiting, now he has expanded into coaching sky diving. The venue in Sebastian, Florida is ideal for this sort of thing. The LZ is about two miles inland from the riding area. The riding area is accessible by boat about a 1/2 mile offshore within the Intracoastal Waterway. Shoreside launches in the area aren't so good given abundant long docks in the area to tangle with. The riding area is a narrow spoil island. It is rideable with winds from all directions, with flatter water on one side or the other in many conditions. The Intracoastal is almost three miles wide allowing the reduction of land-related wind shadow which creates excessive lulls and gusts.

The first day of the event was on Friday, which I missed unfortunately partcularly as they had some good wind. I drove up on Saturday first to the Sebastian Municipal Airport. It is about 130 miles from Ft. Lauderdale, 93 miles from West Palm Beach, 90 miles from Orlando and 140 miles from Tampa situated on the east coast of Florida. More about the skydiving operation there, Skydive Sebastian at:

More to come latter on regarding the remarkable flat water riding venue just to the east in the wide Intracoastal.

There were a bunch of sky diving kiters there already. A few kiters including Neil, Evan, Jesse and a few others started to get into sky diving in a big way about three years ago. More have come into the sport since then in SE Florida. The reasonable wind independence can be a very good thing.

Susie Q's bar on the water and opposite the sand spit riding area. Lyle Presse runs a pontoon boat as sea taxi to take experienced riders and students out from the dock there.

They started out the morning with a traditional sky diving competition event, seeing who could land closest to a depression in the ground filled with gravel. Neil is flaring for a landing here, coming very close to the target. Unfortunately, this shot was following the formation training jumps.

A dockside view of the Intracoastal and sand bar from Susie Q's.

Quite a few kiters showed up like Matt Sexton here, felt like a normal kite event with some new twists.

The kiters came out in force for light pretty uncertain winds on Saturday. I understand things were well powered the day before.

Neil walking in with Lyle Presse. As Neil has been a pioneer in kiting, Lyle has been a pioneer in recreational sky diving. A great team to have in place to bring participants from both sports together. Lyle ran the sky diving competition while Neil organized the kitesurfing.

The on site pro shot owned by Lyle Presse. Close to the sky diving LZ or landing zone and not far from the kiting area either.

They have organized Kiteboard Sebastian to service kiters in this great riding venue.

A look at the inside of the shop. Gear for sky divers and kiters all in one venue, impressive!
Click photo for full sized image

The "Island!" Narrow, sandy, good with wind from most directions, fairly calm waters and just offshore from the local bar.
Click photo for full sized image.

One of the chute packing areas. They were running a LOT of sky divers through here with two jump planes running continuously throughout the day. We estimated they might have over 1000 jumps in a day. The recycle from jump to jump is pretty short too.

They have a camp ground immediately adjoining the jump preparation area and aircraft tarmac.

This may be Pete's VW, makes me feel like I'm in a time warp. Used to see these all over Ft. Lauderdale Beach when I was growing up there in the 1970s. Still running and good for water people on the move.

One of the two planes being readied for loading up and another spiral over the field up to 13,000 ft. I understand free fall to chute deployment may last around 60 seconds.

The sand bar north of the island, great riding area in wind. I understand they even get thermal winds in the 20 mph range out of nowhere fairly often. AND, they have some summer thermals too. I suggested to Neil and Lyle that they set up a wind alert for regulars who kite up that way.

Joe Ruscito comes in under silk, although I think the use different canopy material these days.

A closer look at Joe and his lady. Joe also hang glides in addition to kiting and sky diving. These air sports compliment each other with some shared knowledge and skill base. I certainly learned a lot of practical knowledge and ideas to adapt to kiting from hang gliding in the early days of kitesurfing before we had much of a clue about anything in the late 1990's.

They have a bar and restaurant right by the pro shop.
Click photo for full sized image

Evan another long time kiter got into sky diving about three years ago along with Neil and a few other riders. Evan is also a pilot keeping him focused on air activities more than most. Here he is showing off an camera integrated into his helmet. You will see full sized DSLRs and video cameras on mortar boards of sorts stuck to the top of some jump helmets. Bulky but they do deliver great images.

Matt floats into the LZ

Jesse a well known kiter walks in. He started about the same time as Neil in sky diving.

Some of the more aggressive experienced sky divers come in real hot, like 70 mph worth. Sky diving is all about managing drag, like kiting really. The less drag or projected area you present the faster you go. You can hear these guys ripping in just from the noise the air makes as they fire down to the LZ.

Enrique from came over from Naples for the event. He was smart to rig a 16 m Crossbow and ride a Plasma light wind board. He was one of the few able to ride upwind, at times.

The run tandem jumps on many flights usually with these folks situated at the back or more accurately forward section of the plane jumping out last.

I decided to do a tandem jump to be able to get some shots from the plane and to relive the experience. A good friend treated me to a jump for shooting her wedding 19 years ago at Clewiston, FL. I think the more recent jump was more interesting. The jump area is incredibly scenic to say the least. Neil wore one of my GoPros and captured this shot of me in the forward section of the aircraft and the tandem folks near the pilot compartment. I jumped with Ian Brown a very capable, well informed certified instructor with only 14,000 logged jumps!

No need to even get wet the way Lyle barrels on on the spit.

A shot out of the window of Sebastian Inlet. Some may recall some fun downwinders AJ ran from Cocoa Beach to Vero by here, photos at:

Sean shredding across Sebastian Inlet with Kent hot in pursuit during the downwider.

A shot of Neil with the Slingshot helmet decal by the aircraft door.

Mike from the Otherside Kiteboarding was invited to come up to provide kiting lessons. Brandon from Miami Kiteboarding came up to help out Mike.

When the green light goes on and they say jump you want to do just that without delay. I recall the aircraft holds about 23 and you want to get the folks out while they are still over the jump zone.

Terri swings out at about 13,000 ft. above ground level (AGL) as I recall. This was captured from the GoPro video Neil shot from his helmet for me. She next stuck a leg back a few times and then pushed off into space.

A look at the airport from a lower altitude.

There she goes!

Riding into shore to grab my gear as the breeze is up. Not for long though, it had faded before I got my riding cameras sorted out and had returned to the dock.

This was actually shot by Neil using my GoPro later in the day during formation practice. Still it provides a nice perspective of sky divers flinging themselves out of the plane and falling down at over 100 mph.

Harry Parker is a professional photographer and an avid sky diver too. He shoots some excellent photos as exemplified from a recent trip to Rum Cay in the Bahamas. You can find more of his images at:

An example of Harry's shooting.

A tandem pair flies overhead.

Neil lands

That is a look at the morning and mid day, I still need to wrap up the end of the day with the formation practice jumps. Have some interesting photos from that one so stay tuned!
Join the conversation at FKSA.
Posted: March 24, 2011 at 11:43 PM
By: John Bryja
Comments Disabled
Boca Chita to Crandon Park Downwinder In Photos!

How about an inter-island downwinder?

Christophe Ribot of Miami Kiteboarding graciously invited me along on a downwinder from Boca Chita Key to Crandon Park on Key Biscayne in Miami, FL. As winds were clocking to east to southeast, we ran to the island to kite back with something like a broad reaching breeze. Winds were around 15 to 20 mph for much of the run. Seas were light given that we rode inside the Florida Reef Track for much of the way.

Five of us were on the downwinder including left to right, Jay, Christophe, our Captain Alan, Para, Maryanne and myself. We're shown here in the harbor on the island.

The distance as the crow flies is about 12 miles from Google Earth but I understand Jay measured 27 miles on his GPS for the overall run.

The island was owned by Mark Honeywell of Honeywell Corporation in the 1940's. He constructed several of the quarried rock structures including the lighthouse. The lighthouse reportedly was never placed into operation as it was never properly registered as an official aid to navigation. Boca Chita literally translated means "quiet bay." Well, it is pretty calm in there, outside of hurricanes anyway. More about the more recent history of the island at:

After some maneuvering in the strong cut current, the boat is anchored. Christophe demonstrates the kiter recall horn.

Walking the gear ashore to rig up and launch. Alan carries a dive cylinder in which he used for inflating the kites for us.

Rigging up

The key seems very far away and shares quite a bit in aspect with some of the Bahamian out islands. Still, look north and you can see the Miami skyline in the distance. The pelicans seem indifferent to that however.

Christophe gives me a launch. I am carrying to GoPro cameras, one on my helmet and another mounted on my kite.

A kite view of the lighthouse, camp ground and our boat along the north end of the island.

Tacking out off to the south of the island

I rode a 2011 13 m Crossbow which was a great choice with a wide wind range and particularly good low end. The wind ebbed about the time we hit Crandon.

Popping a small jump around the cut.

Chrisophe walking his long skegged raceboard through the shallows. Those things do kick butt particularly in light winds but you need to watch your depth!

Going to sea but land is always visible in the distance, frequent islands and sandbars along the way. Also, Capt. Alan in our trusty chaseboat is on our "6" ready to help as needed.

Gang is all here and making northward. Christophe takes the lead while Alan trails the group with the boat ready to assist as needed. Both are in radio contact with one another and all the kiters received a safety briefing on procedures, rescue, recovery, etc..

The goes Para

A look south down the Ragged Keys towards Boca Chita.

And to the north

We stopped at a sandbar along the way, taking our time tacking back and forth to stretch things out. There were frequent shallows along a good portion of the run. I thought the pace was pretty easy going as it was a pleasure run after all and for fun.

That is Jay in the red hat following Para with Christophe's kite easing up into the frame.

There is Christophe running up on Marianne I think.

Jay rips along beneath

Para moves out

Marianne rides on as I pass over Alan and the chase boat.

So, that's a look at the first part. I need to go over the images from the rest of the run and add a few more photos. Also, I have a video to put together as well. So, stay tuned ...

Thanks for a great run Christophe and Miami Kiteboarding!

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Posted: March 8, 2011 at 12:15 PM
By: John Bryja
(0) Comment/s
Nice wind, attack fish, man-o-war, sharks and other sea pests?

Lots have probably seen lifeguards post on their stands under "Sea Pests" recently, "man-o-war and sharks." Well, they have a point I guess.

About 2 seconds before things got interesting. The GoPro was firing still shots every 2 seconds making time keeping pretty easy.

Anyway was out today in some nice wind with a brand new Crossbow 13 m eating up some nice wind for a change. The kite performed marvelously, really stoked on this kite. I had ridden out about 3/8 of a mile and saw a weed line. I looked around for evidence of feeding fish, bait kicking up, diving birds, shark fins, etc.. Didn't see anything and so went across it. I turned around and headed back towards the beach when within about 10 seconds I saw something jump out of the water flying right towards me.

I was hoping I caught something on my GoPro and amazingly lucked out right about the time the fish launched towards me. Thinking he might have gotten interested when I first passed over the weedline.

A cropped closeup of the above image in normal form and as a negative to improve definition.

Only got a one second or so image but thought it might be a small 2 to 2 1/2 ft. spinner shark or mackerel. Next thing, BANG into the board and I am pitched into the water. Well, if it was a shark, there are likely others and my board is a good distance away. Not my favorite body dragging venue.

Two seconds later ... this!

Two more seconds and time to get the board, hoping nothing nails me as I recover it and water start.

So, I got to the board body dragging as quietly as I could, went to water start when I saw some spray kick up about 15 ft. away with some blood in it?! Things keep getting better. I don't know if I cut the fish that collided with me and something else hit it like a shark, another one of these guys hit some invisible bait or ?

So, I launch and book into shore a good clip thinking weed lines are not a good place to hang out during shark migrations. On the beach, I still wasn't certain if it was a shark or not. I saw several real little spinners like that from the Lake Worth pier a few days back. I headed back, electing not to go near the weedline and had no more incidents for the next couple of hours. I did see one spinner shark jump and spin about a 1/4 mile south and flocks of feeding gulls about 3/8 mile offshore but that was about it. I resolved to stay away from normal signs of feeding. I had already given up on riding with dozens of visible spinner sharks based on what showed up in a video shot from a kite recently, untoward interest in kiters. A bunch of larger man-o-war had showed up nearshore and on the beach within the hour as well. Didn't get hit by any of those guys, second day in a row too.

I was thinking with our combined approach speed, a shark might have done some nasty damage just from impact alone to my leg. If the teeth were involved, worse still of course. First time I have heard of a kiter being hit by a mackerel or whatever this thing is. Houndfish, needle fish have pierced both kiters and windsurfers in the past. Still not sure what this fish was, other than it isn't a spinner. Michael has suggested it might be a bluefin tuna, Brian a blackfin tuna. It does resemble both fish from illustrations online.

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Posted: February 14, 2011 at 08:24 AM
By: John Bryja
(1) Comment/s

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