Pacasmayo Wind and Wave Forecasts

18 10 2011

I have been asked many questions about predicting the weather and swell by competitors attending the KSP wave kiting event here in Pacasmayo. The following is an attempt to answer those questions. The information and advice is based off realtime observations, watching the weather, talking to locals and reading forecasts over the last 2 months. If anyone can provide further insight into wind forecasting in Peru,  I am interested in hearing from you. Please leave a message in the comments section if you have something to say or if this post has helped you in some way.

One of the challenges about kitesurfing in a new place, is being able to read the weather like a local. I really try to understand how accurate weather forecasting is in a particular area. The long-term Peruvian wind forecasts are probably the worst I have encountered in the last 7 months of travelling to France, Sardinia, Brazil and Morocco. I almost didn’t come to Pacasmayo because of low wind forecasts , but have been pleasantly surprised that there is usually 12- 25 knots  if the sun is shining.

Because the waves in Peru often originate from such a long distance (15-20 sec period), wave forecasting is usually predictable a week out.  Locals I have talked to look more at the swell period (15 sec+) rather than height to predict when the good swell will arrive. Magic Seaweed or Windguru are both reliable sites for wave forecasting.

The most reliable real-time source of  wind information is the weather sensor in Chiclayo. This sensor provides a good indication of what is happening in Pacasmayo, despite being 50km away and inland. Wind Alert provides the easiest to understand wind stats and historical data from this sensor. If you want to see the raw data it can also be found on the NOAA website (select Peru and Chiclayo). Dewpoint and temperature are the most interesting as explained below.

Wind forecasting  in Peru is so erratic that I have given up trusting the long-range forecasts. Predictwind and Windguru are, however, your best sources of information and are usually more accurate on the day, providing the sun is shining. All the sites I have been following are particularly poor at predicting the cloud cover which might account for the erratic forecasts.

In Pacasmayo the wind blows more cross-shore in the morning and early afternoon swings to more cross off. The time at which the wind swings and peaks, can vary anywhere between 1-5pm. Often the best sessions are late afternoon after the wind has swung more cross off .

The following 5 sites are worth looking at;

Magicseaweed- http://magicseaweed.com/Pacasmayo-Surf-Report/3289/

Look for the high period days of 15 seconds or more.

Windalert- http://windalert.com/en-us/Search/SpotInfo.aspx?spotid=16193

Good for real-time and historical information, but don’t trust the forecasts. Look for the wind angle to be 180 or less and 20mph+ for a good session. Wind becomes more cross offshore and it’s easier to get upwind at angles of 180 or less.

Windguru- http://www.windguru.cz/int/index.php?sc=52627

Add roughly 30% or more onto figures that Windguru predicts. If the day is cloudy then the raw figures will be correct and it is time to go surfing instead of kiting. Any swell over 2-3 m with a 15+ second period will be the longest rides of your life!

NOAA- http://weather.noaa.gov/weather/current/SPHI.html

Good for real-time wind, temperature and dew point readings. For those that want to get more technical and detailed view of what is happening, this is your source. Dew point is critical when it comes to forecasting fog that is likely to kill the wind. Fog is likely when the surface air temperature and dew point temperature are the same. Dew point is however different from humidity as this article explains.

Predictwind- http://www.predictwind.com/

PredictWind is one of my favorite sites because it uses two independent weather models to predict the weather. Comparing the PredictWind forecasts (GFS or CMC) can give you confidence in the forecast. If CMC and GFS models are showing the same numbers then the forecast is more reliable.

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Learn to Paraglide- Part 2

25 04 2011
 
Paragliding accident photo copied from Brian Stipaks’ paragliding safety page

 One of the things that has held me back from learning paragliding up until now has been a question: am I going to get enough out of this sport for the amount of risk involved? I assess IT risk for a living and is something that I also talk about in my Brazil presentation. I talk about the  familiar risks or things that we perceive we have control over that often gets us into trouble.

The first thing I look at when trying a new risky sport, is the accident statistics. It’s not that I want to freak myself out, but it’s more to understand what mistakes people commonly make and how I can reduce my risk. Ok, you might be thinking this is a bit of a morbid or geeky thing to do. Accident statistics and discussions, however,  help everyone continue to learn from the experiences of others, and to constantly question peoples’ own perception of how much of a commitment to safety they are willing to make.

Pinned in the Whataroa river

To give you an example, as  a whitewater kayaker, I actively follow the accident statistics in this sport. One statistic which stands out, is that half of all white water kayakers killed are a result of being pinned on wood. I used to get a ribbing about carrying a pruning saw kayaking. People would comment “who do you think you are Crocodile Dundee” or “why do you need something like that”. Well, they were not asking the same question after incident on the Whataroa, where a pruning saw was vital to cutting open kayak and saving a life after being pinned by wood.

I have thought for some time that the kitesurfing community could learn from paragliding. For a start there are really good yearly accident statistics, in addition to the safety and mindset being emphasised. I’m not trying to imply that kitesurf instructors are doing a bad job or that kitesurfing is unsafe. However, the best we have in the kitesurfing community are statistics from pre 2004. The gear in kitesurfing has become much safer and easier to use after these statistics were gathered, but did it really make us safer in our attitude? I have always maintained that mountain biking is far more dangerous than kitesurfing , but have never been able to prove it.

The first 2 days of learning to paraglide went well without incident. Yes, it turns out there are some real risks in paragliding especially for the over-confident pilot who wants to push the limits. Under the right conditions, paragliding can however be relatively safe. Quality of pilot decision-making, skill level, experience and quality of equipment are things that were highlighted in my reading of the risk factors.  However as glider pilot Mike Meier has pointed out;

“More skill gives you a higher limit, as does more experience or better equipment. But safety is not a function of how high your limits are, but rather of how well you stay within those limits. And that is determined by one thing: the quality of the decisions you make”. 

As with kitesurfing, launch and landings are the most critical moments where people seem to come unstuck in paragliding. The decision-making process does start well before you decide to get on the water to kitesurf, on a river to kayak or in the air to paraglide.

I am at the stage of  making small (100m) flights after running down the hill. Now I am ready for a longer flight, but unfortunately the weather hasn’t co-operated for the last 2 days of the course. I am now researching other areas where I can learn cost effectively. My criteria for locations are consistent wind and high amount of flying days. An instructor who speaks good English, is safe and  enables me to progress efficiently to a fully competent level are high on the list. If there is kitesurfing nearby for the windy days then that is a bonus.

So here is my honest opinion on the Alto Paraglide school where I have been learning to paraglide.  The school is run by experienced  and safety conscious people who also provide good kit to learn with. Alto also has a nice family atmosphere and I was lucky to have good competent fellow students who didn’t hold back the progression. Unfortunately English spoken by the instructor wasn’t what I was hoping for. We did get there in the end with a bit of translation, but it was not ideal. Pierre who runs the school, does have good enough English and is a very experienced pilot. If Alto were able to offer good English-speaking instructors, then I would have no hesitation in recommending them in the future to English-speaking people. If your French is good, I would have no hesitation in learning to paraglide at Alto.

Alto Parapente

Learn to paraglide part 1





Learn to Paraglide Part 1

20 04 2011

Have you ever lived somewhere or gone on holiday and been frustrated by the weather conditions? If you have ever lived in Wellington NZ you may will have been frustrated by how windy it is. Fair call, it really is one of the windiest cities in the world, the stats say so. You probably start asking your self questions like why it’s so windy and continue to get frustrated unless you are into sailing or kitesurfing.

Over 3.5 half years ago I was frustrated by having to drive 3-8 hours each weekend to get good kayaking. Rather than get frustrated I asked myself the question, what can I do right here in Wellington NZ, that will keep me entertained and give me Flow . Bingo, it is windy in Wellington and kitesurfing looks good.

Over 3.5 years have passed and a world record later, I am here in France chasing snow kiting. I have arrived at the end of a bad snow season, with beautiful blue skys, 20-25 degrees and perfectly still wind conditions. Now that sounds pretty good if you enjoy summer, but not if you are a snow kiter.

I have spent over a week up at the Col du Lautaret and unfortunately only managed one half day of snow kiting. I have however managed to meet some cool people up there and been hosted by The Kite Legende snow kite school . Great bunch of guys and a fantastic spot with good access. If you are ever in the area do look up Rémi Borgioli, he runs Frances oldest kite school, has good English, is an all round nice guy and has good knowledge of the weather.

So I am back in Lans en Vercors (Close to Grenoble) and am asking myself the same question as 3.5 years ago. What can I do in Lans en Vercors that can take advantage of the nice weather stunning scenery and that also lets me perform baby minding duties. You have probably guessed from the title that it’s paragliding. The idea has been eating away at me for some time now and was cemented but watching Dave Cornthwaite learning to paraglide. He has a great blog and an interesting series of adventures planned. Go check his blog out.

I have chosen to learn to paraglide with Parapente Alto who has been operating since 1995 and has a good safety record. My main concern was to find someone who can speak English, because I really am not keen on a lost in translation moment, while hanging from a bit of cloth, a few strings and dangling hundreds of feet up in the air. Thankfully they do have instructors that speak good English. We we, was that left or right you wanted me to go?

My next few blogs will be about the adventure of learning to Paraglide. I hope to be able to provide an insight into what its like and what I am thinking along the way. This will be an honest warts and all account. As a full disclosure I have been tandem paragliding passenger twice with my cousin, who runs Coronet Peak Tandems. He is based Queenstown NZ and has in the past has been the best performing kiwi on the world cup paragliding circuit, as well as 4 times NZ champion. Other than that I have no experience of paragliding other that being related to someone really good at the sport.

What have you thought about wanting to try, but never got around to it?





NZ Summer Weather Outlook

17 12 2010

Wondering what the weather is going to do this Summer and want to optimise your kitesurfing/paddling holiday? Bob McDavitt the Metservice weather ambassador just emailed me some fantastic information in a way that makes sense for me. Hope this makes sense for you as well.  Thanks Bob!

This is a La Nina summer.  To understand the varying impact of La Nina on winds around New Zealand, let us first look at the three normal weather zones in our part of the world.  First, to the north we have the tropics with trade winds that mostly blow from the east. Second, to the south and in the “roaring 40s” we have a zone of disturbed westerly winds and the low-pressure systems of the Southern Ocean.  Third, in between, we have the latitude zone which we see cells of high-pressure take as they migrate from west to east across our weather map- let us call this the “sub tropical ridge”.

These weather zones tend to follow the sun.   The strong cool westerlies dominate our winter and spring when the sun is overhead in the northern hemisphere, and then recede to the south when the sun is seen to get higher in our sky during our summer.  Click on the animation above and watch how the orange belt, which marks the subtropical ridge, shifts from the Australian Bight / NZ latitude belt in summer, to the Australian Desert/north of NZ zone in winter.  This annual solar-driven cycle is so dependable we use it to name our seasons and we track time in years.
The second strongest weather cycle is called the El Nino-Southern Oscillation cycle (ENSO) At present it is in it’s La Nina phase and this occurs when the sea temperatures along the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean go through an episode of being cooler than normal.  This can last for a year or so and the current event has already been going for six months and should last at least until autumn.

La Nina deflects the normal weather zones southwards around New Zealand.   The subtropical ridge shifted southwards across New Zealand during late spring, much earlier than normal this year, and that helps explains the dry period since Labour weekend and the late November “heat wave”.  This zone is likely to stay in the south until March so that the anticyclones may take a path along 45 South, as shown by the pink arrow in the weather map.  Individual highs may linger around southern New Zealand and the Chatham Islands, producing extended periods of dry sunny weather with light winds around the southwest of the South Island.

Watch the highs on the weather maps and  – when one of them peals off to east of Chathams Island, as shown above, note that northern New Zealand then becomes vulnerable to anything that more form in the tropics to the north.  If a low-pressure system forms north of New Zealand at this time then winds around it may combine with winds around the high like the wheels of an eggbeater, and focus their fury onto a localised area.  This weather map can produce a day or two of wind driven rain and heavy surf, and eastern places between Kerikeri and Gisborne are the most likely targets.

During the coming summer the windscape is, in general (but NOT all the time) likely to favor more than normal wind from between north and east- mainly affecting places northern and eastern parts of the North Island.  With the subtropical ridge lingering over the South Island that is the place where there may be extended periods of sunny dry weather with light winds.

The subtropical ridge should make its way north again around Easter.

Our seasonal weather outlook is also on our rural page ,
at http://www.metservice.com/rural/seasonal-forecast-north-island

Bob McDavitt
MetService Weather Ambassador
Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited