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Listen up rookies! The time has come to complete that self-rescue that you so called "learned" during your first kiteboarding lesson. Situations that require a self-rescue may vary, but every kiteboarder will encounter it at least once. Change of wind direction, drastic changes in wind speed (increase or decrease), and approaching storm fronts are some natural obstacles. While broken equipment such as tangled bridles, busted chicken loops, and snapped lines are a few gear malfunctions that will also render your equipment useless. We are here to reinforce the right way to self-rescue back to shore safely.
If you are into whale watching, remember that the farther you kite from shore the longer the swim back in will be.
Attach your kite leash to one single line (preferably a center line), and release your safety, located on/above your chicken loop, from your harness. The kite should flag out completely on one line. This will disable the kite from further use or accidental flight, and is meant to depower the kite as much as possible while still attached.
Move hand over hand up the single line, keeping tension on it, until you reach the bar. (Note: continue past the bar to retrieve the kite in an emergency situation). Wrap the single line around the bar end several times to lock it off. An additional option is to remove your kite leash from the line and attach it to your board's foot strap to help keep it close throughout the duration of the self-rescue.
Begin wrapping all of your lines around the ends of the bar as neatly as possible. Continue winding the lines towards the kite until you are within half of the kite's length, making sure along the way that only the original line is tensioned. Lock off all four lines by wrapping them a few times around one bar end, and finish with a half-hitch. Grab a hold of the kite and move towards the center of the leading edge, which should upside down in the same position as when you inflated. Attach your bar's chicken loop to the Velcro of one of the main valves to secure it.
Decide whether you can use the kite to sail you back to land; if not, skip to full pack down (step 5). Fold the kite in half, and work your way down to the touching wing tips. Some kites have handles to aid in self-rescues just inside the canopy wing tips. Otherwise, grab a hold of the two front bridles or wing tips. Position your kite towards shore and begin to sail in.
A few reasons why you may no longer be able to sail to shore include: the wind died, switched off shore, or increased dramatically; leading edge deflated, kite split in half, or worse. . Since the kite is no longer of any use, it is necessary to pack down your kite as much as possible to be able to swim in more easily. After completing step three, deflate only the leading edge. Prevent the struts from losing air on one-pump systems by clipping off the connector tubes. Roll up both sides of the kite until they meet at the center strut. Be sure to close the release valve to ensure that no water gets into the leading edge bladder. Take off your harness and wrap it around the rolled up struts of your kite. Place the secured kite on top of your board, and then climb on. The inflated struts will act as good floatation when you tire during the sizeable swim back to shore.
Self-rescues can often be overlooked in the learning process, but they are necessary to a self-sufficient kiteboarder. Sudden equipment failures and unexpected weather changes can be hard to see and avoid for any rookie, amateur or even professional kiteboarder. Knowing how to properly rescue all of your equipment and yourself is integral to having safe sessions every time. So, the next time something goes terribly wrong, you can be confident that you will make it back safely and efficiently just in time to grab a drink with your buddies to tell them about your well averted kite mare.
So you are ready to go kiteboarding without an instructor for the first time. You have taken lessons so that you feel confident in your abilities, and now it's time to take this sport to your local stomping grounds. Rigging up for the first time can be a daunting experience, but you strive to smoothly integrate into the local kite spot. The first thing any new rider should do is talk with the local shops, instructors, and riders. This will provide useful information on any beginner specific spots, as well as the area's regulations. Additionally, look over this Pre-Flight checklist that every kiteboarder should consider prior to each session.
Verify wind direction. Onshore, side-onshore, or side-shore are the only safe wind directions. Make sure weather conditions are stable. Launch area assessment. Scan the area upwind for objects that may cause wind shadows. Make sure the downwind area is equally as clear. Free of bystanders, buildings, cars, power lines, etc.
Wind speed, body weight, and skill level are all factors in your choice of kite size. Watch what others are flying, but be aware that you may not know their weight or skill level. Err on the safe side. It is better to rig small and switch to a larger kite, than rig large and end up getting lofted.
Locate where everyone else is launching and landing. Most of them can probably launch quickly and with ease. In your case you will want to pick a spot just downwind of the masses. This will give you ample time to rig up and launch without feeling stressed. Also, when you get into the water, you won't be getting in anybody's way as you drift.
Look for tears/ holes in the canopy or inflated struts. Ensure that no air is leaking from the bladders.
Small knots can cause weakness in lines, causing them to break. While running the lines, rid them of knots and tangles.
A common cause of injury can be wrapped bridles. Make sure they are laid out proper and neat. Also, ensure that the pigtails at the ends are not worn, and replace them if necessary.
Tighten down harness securely to your waist. Check everything is connected to the appropriate place and all straps are taught.
Hook into chicken loop, and perform a test on the safety system by pulling the release. Make sure it disconnects correctly and activates primary safety.
Fasten leash from the harness to a one-line attachment point on the bar. Verify that the release is closest to your harness. In the event you need this release, it must not be stretched out of reach! Practice disengaging this safety until it's second nature and you can do it with your eyes closed.
Visual inspect the bar for abrasion on the chicken loop, bar, trim strap, and leader lines. Make sure no lines are wrapped or caught.
Ensure that the winds have not changed direction or speed. Watch for approaching weather fronts, dark clouds, wind lines, or dropping kites.
Befriend an experienced rider and ask them to help with launching your kite. Place your board near the water's edge. Have them hold your kite, walk out into the water, and hook in.
Put tension in the lines. Verify the launch angle, make sure lines are attached correctly, and that there are no tangles. Make sure your surrounding area is free of any new obstacles such as other kiteboarders, cars, bystanders, etc. If things don't look right, waive off the launch, and have your assistant put the kite down.
Once everything is correct, launch the kite. Keep your kite low on the side of the wind window to prevent any possibility of getting lofting. Grab your board; walk calmly and slowly out into deeper water. Put your board on and ride! Since you are already downwind of others, you don't have to worry about getting in other people's way.
Bear in mind, that if you originally took lessons in an easy learning environment, your local kite spot may prove to be a bit more challenging. So take your time and be patient. It may be advisable to practice a few self-rescues to be confident and ready in any situation. Kite boarding is an extreme sport that should be enjoyed, but respected. If you remember to follow this pre-flight checklist, you will improve your chances of having a fun and educational session every time.
Who doesn't enjoy watching a good tea bagging? It is always amusing to see somebody else skip by, throwing spray at mock speed, unable to stop his or her overpowered kite. Generally though, being that person is a whole different story. The beginning stages of kiteboarding are an exciting time for all, but it is important to make the proper assessment of weather, kite size, and your own ability before hooking in and launching that brand new kite. Since over-enthusiasm may hinder judgment, we have developed a few pointers that kiteboarders should reference to spare the pain and embarrassment from that next yard sale.
The first thing you should always do before a kite session is check the local weather. There are several free resources that one can use to assess the weather conditions. These include the weather channel on television, and numerous different Internet websites. With a little research you can find the one that provides you with the right information about your local riding spot. Red flags should be triggered by large systems moving in, or a forecast of drastic changes in wind direction or speed. Heavy winds may not be the best choice for the greenhorn kiteboarder. Other considerations before you even decide to go out are the tides, currents, air and water temperatures, and swell conditions.
An experienced kitesurfer will recognize when the conditions are not suited for their abilities or kite sizes. Find the current and projected wind speeds and gauge them against the figures 1.1 to 1.3 to make sure your body weight and kite size/s match up to the conditions. If you only have one kite, you need to understand it has a limited wind range. Attempting to put a large kite up in excessively windy conditions is a sure way to tether oneself to a dangerous situation. To cope with many different wind speeds, most kiters own several kite sizes, enabling them to choose a smaller kite when the winds pick up.
Disclaimer: all kiteboarding conditions are different. Any information shown is meant to give you an idea of proper wind range. Asses your own conditions and abilities prior to kitesurfing
Additionally, it is safe practice to never go kiteboarding alone. Having other kiters present, allows for assistance in landing and launching, as well as emergency contact. Although, you may be tempted to look and ask what other kite sizes people are flying, you need to understand that they may weigh significantly more, or could be far more advanced riders. Rationally evaluating your ability level in relation current wind speed and available kite sizes can prevent you from dangling all over the beach by an oversized rig, ending at best with a face full of sand. When choosing a location on the beach to rig up, find a spot just downwind of the experienced kitesurfers. This will give you ample space to set up as well as keep you stress-free if you take too long or make a mistake. As beginner kiteboarder, you will generally end up farther downwind from where you began. You won't get in the others way as you marinate and drift along slowly if you start already downwind of the masses.
As you set up your kite, do a thorough assessment of your equipment. Inspect the conditions of the kite lines, bar, canopy, trim lines, struts, pigtails, and others. If anything looks worn or damaged then consider fixing it before trusting your life on the gear. It is poor judgment to leave the testing of your safeties to the instance a kite-mare occurs. Make sure they all function correctly and release prior to launching your kite. Furthermore, once riding, remember not to exhaust yourself to the point of no return. Do you have the strength to swim back? Or self rescue to the shore? Know your body's limits. You are more prone to injury if your body is fatigued. If you begin to tire, head back to the beach for a rest. It is better to end the session early with your health, than push it to the limits and end up regretting it.
Kiteboarding is an intense sport that needs to be taken seriously. Knowing your kite range and experience level is integral to having a successful session. More experienced can cope with over powered conditions, while new kiters will lose control much easier, resulting in tremendous consequences. Evaluate your abilities and the conditions wisely, and next time you can join the peanut gallery watching some other poor sap tea bag down the beach!
Ever wish you could kite surf 35 miles down wind along a sun-bathed tropical island in 25-knot wind, and head high wave conditions? South Padre Island is the place where your kite surfing dreams come to life. Home to consistent world-class downwinders, South Padre Island, Texas has the best wind conditions in the United States, accompanied by the best wave breaks in the Gulf of Mexico.
South Padre Island is a narrow strip of land that runs 35 miles north-to-south along the Gulf of Mexico, only miles off the southern most tip of Texas. The island is accessible by plane or car, with close to 25 miles of uninhabited drivable shoreline that calls for epic kite surfing adventures. The wind machine turns on in October and runs continually through June. The best conditions for the down winders are the ying-yang effect of nuclear north winds and the powerful south winds in the fall, winter, and spring months. On any given week during the island's windy seasons, you are bound to score 20's, 30's, or 40+ mph winds from either the north or south, with head-high to double-over-head swell.
Start: Isla Blanca County Park
End: Wanna Wanna Bar, Beach Access #5
With hot south winds blasting between island palm trees at 20 and 30 mph, the daily kite surf sessions begin. The warm south winds push up nice swell typically between 4 and 9 ft. The strong side shore winds make it an ideal place for long wave rides on the island's several breaks. Just pack your surfboard, or rent one from one of the local kite shops, and head out to the warm sunny conditions.
In any south or southeast wind (side shore or side-onshore), the best starting spot is Isla Blanca County Park at the southern end of the Island. Here you can rig-up out of the wind at the second pavilion and parking lot. At the park, the wave breaks consistently right in front of the rigging area, so don't be afraid to stay upwind for a while dialing in on the peeling rights that makes Isla Blanca famous on the Gulf Coast. Be considerate to the local surfers and let them have the cleanest break located closest to the jetty, since you can slash waves for the next 10-15 miles.
When you're ready to head downwind, don't hold back, just go! The down winder from Isla Blanca is a super safe run. Cruising parallel to the Town of South Padre Island, one can easily walk to the street if gear breaks down or you quit the mission early. As you kite past the sunbathers on the beach, look ahead to see where the waves are breaking. South Padre has are a series of offshore sandbars, which makes it possible to choose the wave height that bests suit you. The biggest waves typically break on the outside bar, but wall up steeper and pitch a nice fat lip on the middle bars. If you keep your eyes open you will be able to find the perfect set that you're looking for. One of the locals' favorite beaches to take out is the Wanna Wanna Beach Bar, about 4 miles downwind from the starting point at Isla Blanca County Park. You can recognize it by the tiki-hut style roof, volleyball nets, and inebriated beachgoers. Make sure to land a just downwind of their beach, and then grab a burger and a cold one. Call for a cab, and repeat.
If you don't feel like you've earned it yet, blow past Wanna Wanna, and head another 3 miles to Beach Access #5, which can be recognized by the start of cars parked along the beach. Beach Access #5 marks the southern boundary of where the beach opens up to vehicle traffic. There are generally cars lined up with people tailgating and grilling full on Texas BBQ style right on the beach. The park's entrance booth is where you can call a cab to start the trip all over again. Taxicabs on the island are $3 per person, flat fee to anywhere on the island. The famous SPI chair lift: minivan taxis that are cheap, know what's up with kite gear, and even provide towels on occasion.
Start: End of Road
End: Beach Access #5, Isla Blanca County Park
Just when you get used to riding from Isla Blanca County Park to the end of the road, the north winds begin infiltrating the season, and you get your chance to ride the other way on the island. North winds break up the warm southerlies, and hit South Padre hard. As the cold fronts sweep in from the arctic tundra's, the north winds begin to nuke. A new frontal system moves in about every week and a half. Typically the north winds punch out blustery 45+ mph winds. Their wind speed tends to slowly back down to cranking over the course of the next 2-3 days. They generate some of the biggest swell of the year, often 9-12 feet on the outside sandbar. These conditions are not for novices; only advanced kiters should make the downwind track in these wind and sea conditions.
If the north winds have any west (side-off) in them, the best place to ride is the undeveloped north end of the island. Leave a car at Beach Access #5, or a little further south at the parking lot next to the Leaning Tower of Padre (a huge unfinished skyscraper that is tipping to the left). Take another car to the north end of the road (about 6 miles north of the Tower). The road ends at a huge sand dune, pump up on the beach, and ride the swell back to where you left the other vehicle.
North Wind Tip: If there is any east in the north wind (side onshore), then it's legit to ride the southern section of the island, all the way down to Isla Blanca County Park. The heaviest waves on the Island are typically in front of the La Quinta Hotel, so watch out on big days, they will not only slap you around, but are also well documented kite killers. Take out at any of your favorite bars downwind.
Start: Port Mansfield
End: Beach Access #5, Isla Blanca County Park
South Padre Island's main road runs south to north for 15 miles up the beach, but the island itself actually extends another 20 miles north of the end of the road. The whole north end of the island is undeveloped coastline that you can drive on! Heading north on the beach, the coastline eventually ends 35 miles north of Town at the Port Mansfield Jetty. The sandbar and jetty at Mansfield is a secret, un-crowded, glassy wave that works great in north wind and swell. If you make the trip it is definitely worth hanging out and working the break at the jetty, but of course the mega downwinder beckons. This kite surfing oasis runs 35-miles in the waves, along the entire coastline of South Padre. If you do somehow make it all the way back to beach access #5, then you better just keep riding the last 7 miles to Isla Blanca County Park. That is if you expect any real bragging rights around town.
Boca Chica is another well kept north wind secret. The jetty at Boca Chica extends 10 times further out than the jetty at Mansfield, and can clean up the biggest north swells that hit SPI. Its not actually on South Padre Island, it is the beach on the other side of the Isla Blanca jetty, just 50 yards south of SPI, but a round-about drive away. It's a 45-minute drive to reach the other side of the inlet, but its well worth it for the clean faces and peeling lefts. It is best to stay up wind for a while and finish with a short downwind run to the road entrance. Just don't go too far or you'll end up in Mexico!
Location: South Flats, North Flats, Race Flats, Holly Beach
Picture yourself rigging up on spacious sand flats, strolling into the crystal clear Laguna Madre Bay water, and honing your kiteboarding skills or latest trick. On any given day, in addition to the waves on the Gulf of Mexico, you can head on over to the several glassy water riding locations on the bay side of the island. Because the island is narrow and undeveloped north of town, the Laguna Madre Bay can be ridden in any wind direction. More than a million square miles of shallow water, makes the Laguna Madre Bay fantastic for beginners and flat-water enthusiasts. Comfortable water temperatures lure thousands of kiteboarding students to train on the bay side of South Padre Island every year. The Laguna Madre Bay warms up earlier, and stays warmer than any kiteboarding instruction location in the United States. In addition, re-launching couldn't be made easier, since you can stand everywhere on the sandy floor of the glassy Laguna Madre Bay.
South Padre Island, Texas has something to offer for everyone. Whether it is the toasty warm south winds, or the nuclear north wind and waves, the coastline of South Padre Island is a long stretch full of epic downwinders in waves and beginner friendly flat water. The ability to drive on the beach north of town offers a unique perspective on the uninhabited coastline, and the ability to choose your own launch and landing along the endless beach. Nothing is better than a campfire and a beer with you kite buddies, after playing all day in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico.
South Padre Island, Texas is one of the windiest places in the world. Coupled with warm air and water temperatures, a million plus acres of flat shallow water, and no crowds makes visiting South Padre a must. The Town of South Padre Island is a mere spec on the world's longest barrier island off the southern Texas coastline. It thrives off tourism that its sandy beaches and stress-free island atmosphere draws. Visitors will find a small beach town where the focus is on outdoor activities. Whether you are here to kitesurf, fish, boat, or just hang out by the pool and beach; South Padre Island is a fantastic place to relax and forget about the busy city-life. Don't forget your sunscreen, because the sun is always shining in South Padre, but the steady ocean breeze keeps the temperature comfortable.
South Padre Island, Texas has a full quiver of kite boarding locations to keep you riding no matter what the conditions. The island has sheltered butter flats on the Laguna Madre Bay side and head-high pitching waves on the Gulf of Mexico. When the wind is blowing, which is more often than not with a year round average of 17 knots, you will have your choice of multiple kite surfing launches. The Laguna Madre Bay on the west side of South Padre is where kiteboarding is made easy. With over a million acres of flat, shallow, warm water to kite on, you will be sure to get your first ride or nail that trick you have been working on. No matter where you put your kite down in the bay, you can always touch. With the water height never exceeding waist to chest deep, re-launching your kite can be done with two feet on the ground.
The main launches on the Laguna Madre Bay are located just north of town. The south flats is the first launch area located next-door to the convention centre. It is free to enter the vast sand flats from the main boulevard and choose your own private area to set up. You will be amazed at the amount of available space. When the water begins, it is a slow and gradual. Walk out until the water depth is enough to water-start, and ride out into the bay. A sandy bottom and shallow blue water make South Padre Island sand flats a premier location to kite. The south flats work well in any northeast to northwest wind. For access to 360 degrees of wind, drive north one mile to the north flats. Access to the flats costs $15 per month, or $25 dollars for the year's pass. Stop by Air Padre Kiteboarding shop on your way to the flats to pick up your pass and get some more local knowledge on the conditions and setup. Similar to the setup at the south flats, the north flats have a huge expanse of sand before the water even begins to make setup easy, and give you enough room to launch well away from others.
The wind is generally stronger towards the middle of the 8-mile wide bay. If the flats have light wind close to shore, and you don't want to risk having to walk back upwind, then check out Air Padre Kiteboarding boat-guided down winders. The only kiteboard shop in town with full boat support in the bay, will take you to where the wind is blowing in the middle of the Laguna Madre Bay. Dedicated boat support while you and your buddies cruise downwind. Throw your latest tricks with no worry about getting stranded. With a full photo and video team, you can show your family and friends back home how your kiteboarding vacation went from the water's view.
If the surf where your heart is, the Gulf of Mexico side of the island is fantastic for epic downwinders. For intermediate to advanced riders looking to ride the surf, the island is set up with miles of coastline with side shore wind conditions. There is close to 15 miles of coastline a stone's throw away from the main street. Park your car at any of the numerous beach accesses, setup your gear on the large sandy beaches, and head downwind. Depending on the wind direction, you will either begin at the north end of the island and continue south into town, or begin in town and head north to the deserted beaches. Park a car where you want to take out, or go as far as you want, and call for a cab when you are done.
The Gulf of Mexico is a great place to shred waves. When the wind the wind is on, so are the waves. The waves are chest to head high, fast and steep. The waves pitch a bit more on the inside breaks, while the more mellow rolling swell builds past the first couple of sand bars. The great thing about South Padre is the ability to choose which sand bar you want to ride, depending on desired wave heights and steepness. Isla Blanca County Park at the south end of the island is where the best peel. This is also where most of the surfers hang out, so if you do decide to kite there, stay down wind of them not to cause any problems. If you didn't bring your surf shred stick, stop by Air Padre Kiteboarding for a full board demo line from brand new twin tips, directional's and surfboards.
South Padre Island, Texas is graced with wind year round. The busiest kitesurfing season however, is in the spring and fall months when the weather is much warmer than most other kiteboarding locations. South Padre's water and air temperatures stay warmer longer and heat up earlier than any other major kite spots in the United States. September through November as well as March through June are the best times to visit the island for consistent and warm winds. In the fall, there is a continuing battle between the north and the south winds. As the cold fronts begin to approach from the northern states, the south winds are sucked in from the Caribbean. The south winds sweep across the island around 20 knots for several days. As the north front reaches south Texas, the direction switches 180 degrees and it nukes from the north at 35+ knots. This can typically be spotted on the horizon as the wall clouds approach. Give it a few hours to settle down, and go out kiteboarding for the next few days in the north winds. The strongest winds are the first day of the north winds and taper off gradually over the following couple of days. We recommend that you bring as many kite sizes that you can afford to on your trip. The ever-present winds in South Padre range from light to nukin', so you can get good use of your full quiver.
In the spring months, after the brief stint of cold called "winter", South Padre Island quickly heats up. The south winds return with consistency, and the warm wind and waves begin to show their face. As the south winds build, South Padre Island beginner friendly conditions come to light. Shallow and calm bay water fused with steady southerly breezes make learning to kite easier than anywhere else in the world. The South Padre Island Kite Round-Up scheduled for May 1st-9th is a can't miss event. The SPI Kite Round-Up gives you a chance to demo latest kites and boards from the industries' top manufacturers. Check out www.SPIkiteroundup.com for more info.
Year round average water temperature: 77 degrees Fahrenheit/ 25 degrees Celsius
If you have any accurate yearly wind stats with an average for each month that the wind is over 14 knots / force 4 that would be great!
Average wind speed throughout the year: 17 knots
The town of South Padre Island is a 4-mile long tourist town. There is a grocery store, movie theatre, restaurants, and multiple convenient stores all in town. There are many Mexican and seafood restaurants to try out, but if you are on the island for more than a few days, it might be worth picking up a few items from the local grocery store named the 'Blue Marlin'. If you are looking for something a little more than the essentials the island has to offer, then you can venture 30-minutes inland to the city of Brownsville, Texas. There you will find the bustling city life bursting with corporate businesses, fast-food chain restaurants, and modern conveniences. However, if you need to acquire some necessities, but the appeal of civilization is not part of your agenda, there is a Wal-Mart located just off the island in the small town of Port Isabel minutes from the island's bridge. Here where you can find just about anything that you could need for a little cheaper than on the island.
Looking to hit up what the local bars in town have to offer? The south end of the town is where most of the bars and nightlife occurs. There are multiple bars along the bay side in the small entertainment district South Padre Island located next to the go cart track and bungee jump towers. Spring break through the end of summer is the busiest time of year for nightlife. You can find everything on the island from nightclubs to outside bars and cantinas with live music. For cheap beer and late nights then moor up at the 'Coral Reef Bar and Lounge'. Just be sure not to get shipwrecked!
South Padre Island is a small island that does not require much transportation. Most people rent a car when they fly into the local airports. There are also inexpensive buses that run from the airports to the island. Once on the island, there is a free bus that will take you anywhere on the island for free. Just flag down 'The Wave' as it passes on the main boulevard, and jump on. The third option is call for a cab. Taxis on South Padre are incredibly cheap. Cough up 3 dollars per person to anyplace on the island. Can't beat that deal!
As the wind changes directions, there is usually a day when it becomes light and variable. Rent a surfboard, or stand up paddleboard and go hit the surf. When the wind shuts down, the waves will stay up and get clean for the next few days. Other options include activities ranging from deep sea fishing, nature walks through estuaries, dolphin watches, shopping, parasailing, water parks, kayaking, scuba diving or snorkeling, wakeboarding, horse back riding, dune buggies, bungee jumping and more! Alternatively, if you are feeling adventurous, take a trip across the border into Mexico, which is located just 15 miles south.
The currency on the island is the US Dollar (USD). There are several banks and ATM's on the island in case you need to withdrawal money.
Brownsville International Airport (BRO) is the closest to the island. 30 minute drive. Harlingen International Airport (HRL) is the next major airport inland. 50-minute drive. Both airports have taxi and bus transfer services that head to the island. Or you can rent a car for your stay.
Un cerveza costs on average $3.
Meals on the island generally cost $10 or less.
Hotel and motels cost between $30 and $70 per night. Inexpensive campsite at the south end of the island, or Free camping at any of the beach accesses north of town!