Articles > When It All Goes Pete Tong

An account of a VERY BAD DAY by Bushflyer, June 2005

Monday, April 7th

location: redcar

After attending the charity fly-in the day before, i decided to make the trip to redcar the following day for a bit of kitesurfing. kitted out, i headed off for the 2 hour ride to redcar central. arriving about 1 hour after the turn to low tide, the wind was blowing a pretty consistent 18mph, a little gusty near the dunes but for the most part clean. the direction was south west, not ideal but it was blowing into the small point across from the car park, thereby giving me a bay to sail in.

carefully setting up and launching the p2, i headed up and out. the wind was slightly cross off, giving butter smooth water. the psycho lapped it up, fully trimmed in and racing upwind. i was certainly powered up. the conditions were great, and i was able to spend time working on my heel and toeside carves, throwing up walls of spray as i cranked my 150 into the turns.

after about an hour on the water, i came in for a smoke and a chip butty from the burger van permanently stationed in the car park. suitably refreshed and stoked from the previous session, i headed out for another ride. though there were a few windsurfers there already, a couple of kitesurfers had now arrived. i was glad of the company, for though ive kitesurfed solo most of my kiting career, its always good to have another pair of eyes available.

so after a couple more passes i managed to spin out and flick the board off my feet. the kite was at the edge of the window and i inadvertently flipped it leading edge down onto the water. after retreiving the board i went to relaunch the kite by backing it off the water. as the kite came off the water there was a surge of power, and i was spun round, flicking the board out towards the point off my right foot. with the kite now in the air, i headed out towards my board in a series of passes. i managed to get within centimetres of my board but missed it, so started to head back in, so i could put down the kite and wait for the board to pass me a little closer. all the time i was doing this however, the tide was starting to come back in. as i waited at the point with the kite ready to launch, i could feel the water level rising. at this point i decided to use the pull stop and get the kite packed as quickly as possible. bracing myself against the sea bed, i started to wind in the lines, but about halfway up, the sea level rose to a point where i couldnt brace against the kite. the p2, even when sitting on the pull stop, was catching enough wind to start pulling me along, even though i was swimming against it full force.

within 10 minutes i was past the closest point on the beach and slowly but surely being pulled out to sea. i carefully unwrapped the lines once again in preparation for a relaunch but the p2 had been sitting on the water for a good 40 minutes. relaunching was going to be difficult as the kite had taken on some water, and i feared a surge of power taking me further away from the shore. when kitesurfing i operate using a checklist of possible scenarios, and over the course of the last half an hour had used all of my available options. packing the kite down at sea was not possible, relaunch was unlikely and the board was now out of reach. i was now rapidly reaching the furthest point at which i could swim in from.

so now i was faced with the ultimate dilemma: lose my kit or risk losing my life. i've flown the psycho nearly everyday for over 8 months, to the point where it feels part of my soul. but now i was faced with no other option but to let it go. i pulled the secondary release and swam in several hundred metres to the shore, to spend the next 40 mins watching my baby sail out to sea, to finally be finished by a wave. i can tell you now, in 4 years of kiting ive never felt worse.

so, what can be learned from this? from now on i'll never sail again without a board leash. i can bodydrag pretty well but wearing a leash gives more options. also, the benefit of hindsight tells me i should have came in sooner, giving up on the board. spending more time in the water reduced my options, but pride is a terrible thing sometimes. at the first inkling of a problem, cut your session short. its better to count your losses than lose it all. its a situation i never thought id experience, and touch wood, never will again.

stay safe everyone. Cool



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