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  • Writer's pictureTed Emes

Chasing The Wind: The Kitesurfing Self-Rescue Sessions #1

Post session photo
Boundary Bay

Happy New Year!

As we head into the winter and start dreaming about warm weather kitesurfing, I thought I would do a few posts about some self-rescue incidents. Self-rescue situations in kitesurfing are not often talked about but the good news is that you have me! I'm more than happy to point out my 'oh no' moments for learning and/or amusement.

Every year I seem to have one big self-rescue moment which oddly happens near the end of the season. I've been meaning to write about these incidents as they seem to amuse my neighbours whenever we have summer drinks on their patio. So why not share the news?

Kitesurfing Self-Rescue: Boundary Bay

Boundary Bay Storm Sailing!

I love kitesurfing at Boundary Bay as you have to dig a little deeper to hit the session sweet spot. Often you are doing everything from suiting up to packing your gear down in the rain. However, after a good session, I truly enjoy wrapping my hands around a thermos of coffee while huddled in the front sear of my car. It reminds me of my storm sailing days as a windsurfing teenager on Lake Simcoe, Ontario.

One early morning last October, I was scanning the various weather forecast models and the local chat board kinda lit up. On a whim, I decided to just throw the gear into the car and head on down to Boundary Bay. After double checking that I had all the right gear, I did something that I had not done in months: I packed a toque and threw my rain jacket on top of my wetsuit gear bin.

Naturally, a kitesurfing session always starts off so well.

After 45 minutes of sailing time, I was riding toeside and leaning heavily into the rail of the board to make some headway upwind. I guess I was trying too hard and was not paying attention to my kite as it started to behave erratically. Instinctively, I let go of the bar and swore under my breath as my kite zipped away from me down the safety line from a false eject. The ocean swell and chop made wrapping my bar lines a frustrating process which also resulted in getting pulled far away from my surfboard.

Now here is where I got lucky but I let myself get distracted in the process.

Somehow the waves and wind brought the board closer to me; I have no idea how, but there it was. I let go of my lines, grabbed my surfboard and failed to notice that one of the lines wrap dropped loose into the water. While pulling my board closer to me, the loose lines wrapped around my leg and created some power in the kite. I panicked, released the safety line and then watched the gear start doing that slow (yet expensive) wind-generated roll off into the horizon.

Map of where the self-rescue took place
A map of good times.

The Strength of The Community

After coming to the realization that I had a 500m paddle to shore and possibly a 5km shoreline walk to grab my kite (it looked like it was going to roll towards Boundary Bay Airport), I resigned myself to the situation and started paddling.

This is where a fantastic community came into play.

After 100 meters of slog paddling, I saw a wing foiler in the distance slow down and grab my kite. This gentleman demonstrated incredible skill as he managed to sail to me with my kite in hand. After many thanks, I was able to set the kite as a sail and head for land. A second kitesurfer grabbed my board and dropped it off on the beach. After reaching the shore, I packed up the kite and rolled it tightly into my harness and proudly did the 2km 'walk of shame' back to the launch spot.

Next Time I'll....

Self-rescues suck and it is a critical skill that often gets overlooked. The how-to videos don't do the struggle justice or really touch upon the loneliness and potential dangers you face when you are adrift on the ocean.

Things that I'm glad that I do consistently:

a) I wear a life jacket.

b) I never kite surf alone.

c) I'm always a little over-layered.

Things I need to do better:

1) Not react so quickly. If I had taken just a moment to scan my harness I might not have released the bar and tried to reconnect the chicken loop.

2) Be present and deliberate in all my movement. Once I started wrapping my lines, I really should not have stopped to retrieve the board. It was a classic example of how your mind and your hands can go in separate directions if you are not careful.

One Last Thought

As I mentioned before, self-rescues suck and the reality is that I'm merely a speck on the ocean and I'm grateful that I get to zip around and play. You can't master the ocean but you can work towards mastery of your skills, abilities and your attitude. Loving the ocean means we keep learning, reviewing and story telling.

So go chase the's an adventure.

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