Often the most decisive data point inspiring the daily movements of a kiteboarder is their local beach sensor broadcasting wind speeds from the iKitesurf app. Yet there are other significant, somewhat ‘touchy-feely’ inputs that often sway the decision-making process of the kiteboarder. Many kiters who live in reasonable proximity of their kite spot consciously or subconsciously read the movement of the environment around them. Since our office is a couple of miles from the kiteboarding beach, the trees outside our office window are often the first indicator of a potential kitesurfing session. One of the biggest allures to installing a weather system was to add a meaningful metric to augment the visual cues of the blowing branches outside. Having done some research on weather stations, weighing cost, simplicity and types of data, we opted to give the Tempest a go to see how it would influence our decision making when it comes to heading to the beach for a session. We also thought it would be cool to become one of the sensors displayed on the iKitesurf app!
When the Tempest arrived in a clean white box, it felt more like we were unboxing a sophisticated Apple product rather than deploying a weather station. The two key pieces of hardware (Tempest and hub) were neatly arranged in cardboard with the most important item placed on top – a clean picture-style instruction card that seamlessly walked us through the quick launch sequence in about 7-minutes.
Connect Your Devices
The first step is to download the Tempest app to a smart phone, which is easy enough through the Play Store for Android phones (Apple Store for iPhones). Launch the app, create an account and plug the base hub station into an electrical outlet on your wall and look for the LED light on the bottom of the device. The Tempest weather station has an on switch and its internal batteries come pre-charged to get the unit past the install process before you mount it outside and let the onboard solar panels provide the maintenance-free power source.
The Tempest app has a series of configuration steps; first the app connects to the hub over Bluetooth and requires confirmation of its serial number, then the app asks you to connect to the Tempest station and confirm the serial number on the Tempest station’s bottom. Finally, the app asks you to type in your wifi network password and you are off to the races.
The Tempest station has two mounting options, one is a collar that tightens around a 1-inch PVC pipe (or similar diameter pole), or in the alternative, there is a base plate that you can screw onto a post and then rotate/click the device onto the mount. Since we had a 1-inch PVC pipe laying around and wanted to get the device higher into the air, we opted for the PVC pipe install, which was super easy; screw the PVC to a post, then tighten the Tempest collar around the PVC pipe and rotate the blue arrow on the Tempest’s side to the north. It’s important to get the Tempest orientated correctly because you want the unit to report your wind direction accurately as well as make sure the solar panels line up to the south for maximum sun exposure. In relation to the hub, we located the Tempest about 50-feet away and installed it at least 12-feet above the ground to get the best wind exposure. The hub was located in a window within direct sight and that seemed to be sufficient for a failproof connection between the devices. In about 7-minutes we had the unit configured through the app and in another 15 minutes the Tempest station was fixed in place atop a PVC pipe screwed to a fence post and we became a live data point on the iKitesurf map.
The Tempest app is really clean: there’s a landing page with current data up top, an hourly forecast across the middle and a 10-day forecast running down towards the bottom. On the upper right, you can click the Tempest icon and drill into the current readings from your device, or you can click the History button on the bottom and get the averages for past days, weeks or months. The max wind speed for a given day is fun to review because you can correlate that number with solid kitesurfing days. The other aspect of the app that we found entertaining was the TempestWx Map which you can find in the Settings tab. This feature shows you an interactive map of Tempest weather stations all over the world and allows you to check the weather in Tarifa at the Hotel Arte Vida, or search through an impressive number of stations in North America.
As we got used to checking the app in addition to our local iKitesurf sensors, we found the wind speed and the wind direction at the office was a useful number for keeping an eye on how the day was unfolding at the beach. Our office is five minutes from our local kiteboarding beach, so the number is fairly relevant for kitesurfing, but more so, the app becomes a very useful weather dashboard that mixes current conditions with daily/hourly forecasts that factor in not only your Tempest data, but other WeatherFlow network data. The Tempest is WeatherFlow’s consumer oriented hardware, but beyond its network of professional weather monitoring technology, the company’s key strengths lie in AI modeling and forecasting. With the Tempest app we found our forecasts to be really accurate for our microclimate, which it better be because they offer a refund program if you don’t find an improvement over generic forecasts found on the internet.
The rain sensor is also particularly interesting because instead of measuring the quantity of water like a traditional weather station, the Tempest senses the tapping of the rain and translates that to quantity. We had a couple of early storms for the California wet season and found that the Tempest’s ability to sense rain rates and total collection was fairly accurate. We have a simple rain gauge that we manually poor out after each storm and the Tempest seemed to measure within 10% of the manual rain gauge on the harder rains. Being able to check the rain rate without walking out to the manual rain guage was an attractive feature. In our experience, automatic/digital rain gauges are a mixed bag and the measuring vessel typical requires maintenance or periodic cleaning of the debris filters to work properly. Since the kiteboarding lifestyle is a constant effort to minimize commitment, the maintenance free approach of the Tempest makes up for the approximate accuracy of the rain sensor. However, if you need scientific rain numbers, then it might be worth investing significantly more on a weather station and block out more time to ensure the rain collection mechanism is clean and operating.
The Tempest sensor delivers other interesting numbers that form a background panel of kitesurfing information, for instance: the temperature, UV/Sun index (fog is a huge variable in our local wind forecast) and the pressure reading are good things to keep an eye on. The Tempest also has a lightning sensor, which we have yet to have a lightning event, but the device is supposed to detect lightening within 25-miles and estimate its distance from the source. There’s another bonus with the Tempest station — if you have a smart irrigation system or a smart home (we don’t have either of these things), the Tempest will interface with those systems to add more automation to your lifestyle.
Probably one of the biggest features of having a Tempest is that it trains your mind to think a little broader about environmental data, rather than just salivating over your iKitesurf beach sensor. If you’ve got an itch for data that applies to your home and if you’re the kind of kiteboarder that deciphers the meteorological discussion and wants a broader picture of the environment, the Tempest is probably the most cost effective and maintenance free way to get a steady source of local information. If the future of wind forecasting is driven by machine learning and data, we are happy to know that our Tempest station is feeding environmental information into the iKitesurf algorithm and we will hopefully play a roll in the forecast accuracy for our area. With a 7-minute setup and maintenance free design, the Tempest adds a solid source of data and improved weather forecasting without the hassle of an expensive weather station, a complex setup or any long-term upkeep. If the goal is to spend as much of your free time in the water, the Tempest is a useful but hassle-free friend to help you stay informed and tuned into your next kiteboarding session.
Learn more and get your hands on your own Tempest weather station here: https://shop.weatherflow.com