The wind is a key element in kitesurfing and knowing the direction from where the wind is blowing is essential. There are many ways to determine the direction of the wind. A easy way to determine the direction of the wind is simply to stand towards the wind and turn your head from left to right. When you feel even pressure in both ears, you know you are facing the wind. The direction that you are now facing is also known as upwind.
Another way to determine the direction is to pick up something light, like sand, and release it. The wind will blow it directly downwind, which is the opposite to upwind. A flag can also tell you the wind direction, because it`s always pointing downwind if there is wind. You should also always check the local weather forecast before every kitesurfing session.
Like the wind direction the strength of the wind is an important factor in kitesurfing. You should observe clouds and cloud formations as they can alert you if there is about to be a sudden change in wind conditions. For example dark cloud formations are a sign that you should interrupt your session and wait until they have passed.You also need to check the strength of the wind before you can chose the right equipment. Light winds require bigger kites and strong winds smaller ones.
The wind has various names in relation to the beach.
onshore = the wind is blowing directly from the sea towards the beach
offshore = the wind is blowing directly from land towards the sea
cross shore = the wind direction is parallel with the beach
cross onshore = the wind is blowing in an angle from the sea towards the beach
cross offshore = the wind is blowing in an angle from land towards the sea
The safest wind directions are side/cross shore and side/cross on shore. These directions allow you to comfortably ride to and from the beach, and in case something goes wrong, you will eventually drift back to shore.
Direct on shore wind is not recommended for beginners. You need to be able to ride upwind, or you will constantly be dragged back to shore. There is also the risk of you being thrown onto the beach if something goes wrong. However, it might be possible to practice safe, if the water is shallow, and you are able to walk out to an adequate distance from land.
Side/cross off shore and off shore winds blow off the land towards the sea. This is dangerous because if you have problems or can`t stay upwind, you will be dragged out to open waters away from the shore. The quality of these winds are bad in general, because obstacles on the land cause the wind to become gusty.
You should never ride further away from shore than the distance that you are able to swim back comfortably, in case there is a problem.
Obstacles can effect the wind quality and alter the wind direction. Obstacles such as trees, hills, buildings and structures create turbulence in the wind as the wind cannot pass freely through them. The area around an obstacle, where the air flow is erratic, is called a wind shadow. Big obstacles create big wind shadows and the turbulent area always extends downwind from the obstacle over a distance greater than the height of the obstacle istelf. Identifying the wind shadows is very important for safe kitesurfing. You should always avoid to fly the kite close to obstacles, as the wind shadow causes the kite to become unstable and behave unpredictably.
A distant island directly upwind from you will effect the wind quality. The further away it is, the smaller the effect it will have on your spot. The best and safest wind is the kind that blows from a safe direction, and the air flow is not blocked by anything.
When wind is forced in between two obstacles, there is an increase in the speed of the air flow. This is called the Venturi effect. This can be dangerous because the sudden change in the wind conditions may result in your kite becoming over powered. Sometimes it is possible to take advantage of this effect. On a low wind day this boost might allow you to kitesurf if for example the wind is blowing in from between two islands.