Near Drowning in Large Surf

by Joel


Mid October, Wind: 25-30knts NW, Lake Huron (Great Lakes), Swell: 6-8ft rollers (generated by lage amount of fetch), Kite: 7m Evo,

A friend and I are riding a new(ish) spot known to have excellent waves on a NW, 35 min South from our usual stomping grounds. We have been ridng for 40 minutes when I start to head in, finally reaching the beach ~100m down wind from our starting point. I have a look around for my friends kite, but cannot not see it (turns out he had gone in to exchange for a smaller kite). I was ready to call it quits but was down wind and instead of walking 100m up the beach I decide to go out for one last ride to tack up wind (mistake 1)

On my first tack out I encounter a rather large wave begining to break. Initial instincts were to turn around and high tail it out of there, but as I was having a good session up until that point I decide to jump it. I reach the apex of my jump while focusing on the waves position in relation to myself (mistake 2)instead of focussing on what my kite was doing. During this instance I over corrected on one side of my bar initiating a lagre kiteloop. Once I notice the loop happening (and my body beginning to rapidly increase momentum through the air) instead of continuing the loop I try to reverse the loop to bring the kite back up to 12 (mistake 3). I hit the water full force behind the wave I was trying to jump and I crash my kite infront. I immediately try to get my kite in the air but the wave eats it and I get pulled into the back of the wave (underwater). I feel the wave release the kite and my second attempt at relaunching the kite begins. This proved to be useless as the wave behind me pushed me towards my kite enough to create excessive slack in the lines. I enter the wave's washing machine and pop out the other side. The wave then eats my kite puling me with it a second time, only this time the lines are a mess, wrapped around my bar, from the excessive slack. I instinctively go for my quick release on my chicken loop, but as the lines were tangled around my bar, this proved useless as well. I then reach for my quick release on my leash, but this had also tangled and was now wrapped around my spreader bar hook. With all my strength, I try to untangle the leash. Finally after what seemed like a long minute while taking water up the nose in in the mouth it finally frees and feel the pull change from the front of my harness to the back. I grab the release and pull. The kite is gone.

I now start my long swim back to shore. My initial thought was to try and reach my board so I swim frantically for it. No good, a wave takes it away with less than a foot to go. I try and chase it again, but revise my thought process to conservation of energy. I do the breast stroke in between waves, then when the approaching wave came i would try to bodysurf it into shore. By the time I reach shore, I cannot lift my arms and can barely stand.

Fortuneately my board and kite washed up not 15ft from each other. There were 2 minor hole in the canopy of my kite. I collected my gear and battered self and slowly walked back to the car, now 500m away.

As I think back it all stemmed from going out for that one last tack when i should have just stayed on shore.

Lesson to be learned: If you're nearing the end of your session, and you think to yourself "ahh ill just do one more" DON'T! chances are you are fatigued and if something goes wrong your 3 minute tack could turn into a 1hr self rescue.
Part 2: while kiting in waves and you crash your kite, if you cant relaunch in the first few seconds, ditch you kite and swim in (or if you have you board surf in). You will save youself a lot of water intake and trauma.

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Jun 21, 2012
Great share!
by: Glen -

Hey Joel,

Thanks for the great share. I know how you feel...I've been bitten like that before as well (and almost had the exact same thing happen to me in the Dominican Republic).

I'm generally a very conservative kiter because of things like this. I learned to kite and windsurf at a tricky beach where you needed to stay upwind and then ace the landing or else you had do downwind 1km to the next spot. Needless to say, when you have to consider the chance of a long swim when you could just come home now, the 'bird in the hand' usually wins out...

Glad your gear is still good though! Happy kiting!

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