How to read wind forecasts online

How to read wind forecasts online

This is a question we are often asked, and that's why we decided to write an article about it !

Knowing how to read the forecast is essential to be fully autonomous in kitesurfing, but most importantly, it allows you to ride safely. But, when you are new to a forecast website, decrypting the information can be a real headache! Don't panic, we've all been there 😉

Before we start, we'd like to warn you that this article doesn’t aim to go into all the details of the different sites and applications, as there are tons of analysable data on each of them. Our ambition is simply to give you the basics that will allow you to read the most important information so that you can plan your next session safely.

In short, the aim is to keep it simple and concise.

Also, it is important to remember that these sites and applications provide FORECASTS. So, you can never be 100% sure that the wind will be as predicted. But that's just the way it is 😉

Let's start with the basics!

For the novice kiters among us, let's go through a brief reminder of some useful information:

  • On the forecast websites, the wind speed is expressed in "knots" (kn). 1 knot = 1.85km/h. To give you a quick scale, 15kn = 27,8km/h, 20kt = 37km/h, and 30kt = 55,5km/h (here guys, it's starting to get seriously windy😉 )
  • Some vocabulary about wind direction now. Even though these terms will not be mentioned on the various sites, there is a very good chance that you will hear them in discussions with other kitesurfers, so we might as well explain them to you (see photo below for illustration):
  • - An “onshore” wind comes from the sea and blows towards the land
    - An "offshore" wind comes from the land and blows out towards the sea
    - A "sideshore" wind blows parallel to the beach
    - So, for safety reasons, it is recommended not to kite with an offshore wind, because if things go awry you will be blown out to sea. NO BUENO!

    This little reminder being done, we can now get into the more complex part of the subject 😉

    There are many websites on which it is possible to read forecasts but, to make it as simple as possible, we are going to tell you about the most used one: Windguru.
    First of all, you should know that Windguru provides forecasts "by spot". When searching on the internet, you have to specify which one ("Windguru Le Touquet" for example).

    Windguru is a very complete site and shows many "forecast models" for each spot (GFS, Arome, Icon, WRF etc...). In order to be as efficient as possible, we will focus on two models which give you a good general idea of the forecasts:

    - The WG model, which is the first one shown at the top of the web page. It is a synthesis made by Windguru of all the models
    - The Arome model, which gives a shorter term vision (over the following two days) but which is more precise

    Now, how can we decrypt all of this? Let's see an example.

    A Windguru forecast looks like this:

    But what data should you look at ?

    The most important data to take into account, apart from the first 3 lines which are simply the date and time of day, are the following:

    - The first line of the forecast shows the wind speed (expressed in knots). This is the so-called "established" wind speed, a kind of "average speed". Here, for Monday the 9th of November at 3 pm, the wind will blow at an average of 9 knots.

    - Next, you can read the gust speed (a gust is a sudden and transient strengthening of the wind, resulting in a short and sudden increase in wind speed), also expressed in knots. It is very important to take this into account, as strong gusts can be dangerous when kiting. If the wind is very gusty, be careful and make sure your kitesurfing skills are sufficient. To give a concrete example, if the average speed is 20 knots, a 70kg man of average ability will generally sail with a 9m2 kite. But if the gusts go up to 40 knots, then there it becomes dangerous, because a 9m2 is too big to handle safely with this much wind. So always take the gust speeds into account when choosing your kite size!

    - Wind direction (= "direction du vent"): VERY important information! Here, the arrows point to the direction in which the wind is blowing. So if an arrow points to the right, the wind is coming from the west, and blowing to the east. Little example : if we take the spot of Le Touquet, a west wind, which will correspond to an arrow pointing to the right, will indicate an onshore wind (which blows from open sea to the land).

    - Then, the lines "wave" (= "vagues"), "wave period" (= "période des vagues") and "wave direction" (= "direction des vagues") are not yet crucial to understand in detail. Just be aware that if waves are too big on the first "wave" line (over 1,5m), it can become complicated or even dangerous for beginners.

    - For the temperature, it is the air temperature and not the water temperature that is announced. For the water temperature, you will have to look on another site 😊 Then, it's up to you to decide if you want to bring out your gloves, slippers and hood 😉
    - Then, cloud cover is not really essential information.

    - Rainfall: it is important to check whether it is going to rain a lot or not, because you have to remember that in kitesurfing, unlike surfing for example, you move at a speed between 20 and 30km/h. If it rains, it whips the face and can disrupt your vision, so keep that in mind! (see below for more detailed info about rainfall)

    - Finally, the Windguru rating is not very important either

    So that was how to decrypt a Windguru forecast table. As mentioned above, you can also complete this model with a more precise model such as "Arome" which will look like this (among other things, more time slots are displayed):

    If the Arome model is not available (this happens sometimes depending on the spots), choose a model which, like Arome, gives a more short-term vision (I am writing this article on a thursday morning, so I have a vision over 2 days), which will be more precise and reliable in the forecasts.

    Another important type of data that can be displayed by Windguru (which is not originally) is the tides:

    To display it, click on "Tides", then "Show tides" (see image above).

    The tide is high when the curve is at its highest point (at 11:20 in this example), and conversely it is low at the lowest point (18:10). Logically, the tide is rising when the curve is rising, and vice versa.

    I mention the tide here because for some spots it is very important to take it into account. In fact, it can make the kiting conditions vary radically. Here are some concrete examples among others:

  • The beach can sometimes completely disappear when the tide is high, so there is no room to rig your kite on the sand
  • The wind can vary (strengthen, weaken or even change direction slightly) depending on the tide
  • Certain currents may appear or disappear
  • However, tidal variations have different consequences in different spots. It is therefore important to find out about the spot you’re heading to in advance from those who know it well!

    There we go, now you have the basics to read the wind forecast on your spot!

    A few last reminders! !

    A few final reminders for the more novice kiters before we finish this article:

  • Avoid kiting in offshore conditions, it could take you out to sea if you get into trouble
  • If the wind is too gusty, be safe and don't go kiting if you are not certain you can manage
  • If you have any doubts about a spot, whether it's about wind direction, tides, safety, etc., make sure you ask people who know the spot well! Through friends, Facebook groups, locals or by contacting us directly! We would be happy to help you 😊
  • If you have any doubts about where to kite when you arrive on the spot, preferably go where there are already people riding. That way, there's less chance of making a mistake!
  • That's it for us! We hope this article helped you, and of course if you have any other questions don't hesitate to contact us directly!

    PS: once you are comfortable with Windguru and the various information provided, a good complement to the forecast is the Windy website Windy. It is, among other things, very useful visually 😉

    Stay Tuned and Keep Riding

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