* Last Updated on: 21/11/2018
The Sea to Sky Corridor has long been known as the adventure tourist capital for skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and now Kiteboarding! Kiteboarding is one of the fastest growing sports, popular for all ages. It helped to define Hood River in Oregon and is also shaping The Spit in the Howe Sound, Squamish as one of the world’s top wind-sport spots.
Squamish Season Facts
- Season Months: May to September
- Wind Conditions: 15 – 24 knots
- Kite Sizes: 7 – 12 meters
- Water Temperature: 46°F / 8°C (wetsuit/drysuit preferred)
- Water Type: Flat and small Chop
- Weather: Sunny, Mild, Windy!
- No. of Kites: Average of 80 in the height of the season
Squamish Wind Season Starts Mid May to Mid September
Squamish means “Mother of the Wind”
The official Squamish kiteboarding Season starts around the 15th of May and closes mid September every year.
During this 4 month summer season the wind can be pretty predictable because of the thermal winds. This short time frame was chosen to avoid disturbing the nesting birds in the Squamish Wildlife Estuary at the north end of The Spit. There is talk to try and extend the season to a 6 month period due to the growing popularity of the spot in a similar manner to how the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park limits the climbing season for the nesting of Falcons.
The Spit’s steady wind has attracted attention and tourists from across the globe. Many come out to The Spit after looking down at the kites from the Sea To Sky Gondola. You will often hear spectators say, “We love how the kites seem to dance in the sky with their multi-colours”. This attention has also attracted one of Canada’s top pro-kiteboarder’s, Sam Medysky who now calls Squamish home, and also up coming pro Jack Rieder.
Squamish Wind Conditions
During the season, The Spit is staffed by Squamish Windsports Society (SWS). They are a non-profit organization that holds liability insurance to protect the Crown and District of Squamish against damage, loss or injury. They charge a small daily fee or annual membership for their services. For new kiters ask the staff about the location and unique rules. Without them, access to The Spit would be banned!
SWS services include:
- Changing Room Facilities
- Jet Ski Rescue
- Live website – wind and webcam report
- Knowledgeable Staff for the location
Squamish Kiteboarding Season
The launch and landing area at The Spit is a small gravel beach that may require footwear to enter the water. The wind blows side-off shore here which means you need to know:
- How to ride upwind
- Body drag to recover your board
- Right of Way
- Perform self rescues in the water*
*Wrap up our lines for jet ski rescue so they don’t suck them in!
Because of the small landing area there are some simple etiquette rules to follow:
- Wrap up kite lines after each session
- Move your kite to the storage area if taking a break
Predicting the Wind
Using the kiting webcams of SWS and Sea To Sky Gondola. If you see a clear blue sky above, it is a good indication of a smooth windy session at The Spit. If there are clouds in the north or south, it often means a more gusty session which you can see from the wind graph on SWS website.
What do the numbers on the Sea Can mean?
- A: Shows the Lull from the graph
- B: Shows the Average wind from the graph
- C: Shows the Gusts from the graph
- D: scanner for members card swipe
Beginning & end of the Season May and September
During the months of May and September the winds are good but are not as consistent as the summer months of June to August, due to adverse weather conditions and storm systems that create frontal winds.
Summer Season June – August
From June till August you can pretty much guarantee 100% windy days, storm frontals permitting. This is due to the thermal winds generated between the mountains once the sun is out.
In the summer months the main factor affecting the strength of the thermal wind is temperature differences of about 5°C between Vancouver and Lillooet. This effect creates wind because the hot air rises and causes a negative pressure, drawing the colder air in behind it.
Pre-Season March to May & Off Season September to October
The wind will not be as consistent, the water will be considerably colder due to the glacier fed river and SWS will be not be open to offer rescue from The Spit!
These periods in the season are less predictable as there are more chances of cloud and cooler weather conditions. If however, you see clouds in the valley and a small or zero temperature difference between Vancouver and Lillooet and the chance of rain is less than 40% it should be kiteable! There can also be microclimates at this time in the season that create enough wind for a session.
Squamish Wind Conditions
A typical seasonal, thermal windy day at The Spit has consistent wind building from around 10am to 11am and will continue to develop into the evening with wind knots of 18 to 24. The water condition is usually flat to small chop out in the Howe Sound bay.
Local kiteboarders check the temperature gradient to ensure they have an awesome session, but what is this?
In the morning and evening in Squamish we experience outflow wind, meaning the wind is flowing out of the valley to the sea. This is due to the fact that the sea by Vancouver is hotter than the mountains above Squamish. As the day grows warmer, usually beginning around 9/10am, the mountains heat up more than the sea and the wind switches to inflow pulling wind into the valley. When in Squamish you want to see inflow wind for kiting. However, on a strong outflow forecast day, Sea To Sky Kiteboarding School can offer outflow lessons & downwinder experiences with supervision.
- Inflow: summer weather creates higher temperatures inland than on the coast. Causing air to rush up the valley to the area of lower pressure.
- Outflow: strong wind produced when cold air develops into a mass of high pressure rushing towards the warmer low-pressure air on the coast. Can be strong and hazardous.
See environment Canada’s weather warning for the area to see the outflow and inflow winds.
The shape of the Howe Sound creates a bottleneck into Squamish. The wind coming down the valley is condensed into a tighter area, causing a pressure increase, which in turn means the wind speeds up as it approaches Squamish. It also means the wind gets lighter the closer you get towards the sea. This is called the Venturi effect where the air pressure will get lighter the further you go out from The Spit and in some cases you may run out of wind and need retrieval by SWS jet ski rescue. An analogy to best describe this would be to think of a large fan drawing wind in and releasing it through a reduced nozzle to increase the air pressure.
Storm Frontal Systems
This is one of the main factors that affect the wind, especially in the pre and off-season. These storm systems create frontal winds that prevent the wind direction from being funneled down the valley like the thermal winds. Instead these winds come over the surrounding mountains into Squamish, causing gustier winds, less predictable in direction and sometimes very strong.
During the official season Sea to Sky Kiteboarding School is located directly at The Spit and we are more than happy to update you on the weather conditions. This location has deep-water and is an active shipping port that can be challenging at times. We offer a number of different services for all kiting levels, from supervision, upwind drop off and lessons. Just drop us a message or call for more details and bookings.