KITEBOARDERS TO THE RESCUE!!!
Ft. Pierce Inlet, Florida in calmer times
Click for full size image
Ft. Pierce had strong wind in the high teen and twenty mph range for about five days out of the northeast leading up to Sunday, April 30, 2006. Ft. Pierce Inlet is famous for going off with big surf under such conditions.
There were a bunch of riders out tearing it up in the surf and the calmer areas in the lee of the jetty to the south. Sunday afternoon the several day run of strong winds was starting to ease out as the tide flooded out approaching low tide around 3:30 pm. The tide was blasting at 5 to 6 kts. into the face of onrushing heavy seas creating 10 to 12 ft. swells breaking around the end of the jettys. The wind was about 18 to 20 kts. NE initially. Three big breaker zones had setup starting at about 1/2 mile from shore. Ft. Pierce is an outstanding wave riding venue when the
northerly winds cook off.
Greg Kuklinski or GK told me about the rescue and was onshore shooting video of the action. Greg was one of
the first kiteboarders in Ft. Pierce, a community of core watermen and windsports addicts.
It does get big out there around the end of the inlet jetties. GK having a blast in the heavy surf at the inlet.
This photo and several others to follow courtesy of George with kiteflix.com. Many of these images
were captured from the DVD, "Aerial Assault."
A swell meets the south jetty
Doug floats over some of the calmer stuff
Doug Smith was riding inside the inlet on a 20 m EH kite. Doug is an active kiteboarder that rides in Lake
Michigan in the summer and in Florida in the winter. Doug has been a regular at Florida events for years.
Doug was joined by Mike Gephardt in ripping along in the inlet on a 9 m Crossbow. Mike along with Kent
Marinlovic were both on the USA Olympic windsurfing team and together won the first Florida to Bimini, Bahamas
kiteboarding race last December.
Mike Gebhardt and Kent Marinkovic racing for Cabrinha all the way to Bimini to capture first place. (Photo credit: Guido Fleck)
The guys weren't alone as a teenager along with his girlfriend and sister was surfing a new 17 ft. center console
boat in the swells.
The boat may have looked something like this
The guy must have been distracted as he was heading in or westward in the inlet near the end of the south jetty
when a wave caught up with them and spilled over the transom of the boat. This effectively killed the
outboard. The current then started to rush the boat seaward into mounting seas. Doug was within 20 ft.
of the boat and had a real bad feeling coming on. Another wave broke over the boat, swamping it. Then
another and as fast as that the boat was almost submerged but for the bow sticking straight up out of the
water. The guy and the two girls were in the water surrounded by floating debris, life jackets, tool box, etc.
hauling eastward with the rushing current. The girls were screaming, obviously a bit disturbed by developments.
The guy managed to find his sister's surfboard and was paddling around. Doug came in, trying to calm the guy's
girl friend down asked her to hold on to him so he could take her to shore. Remember the lot are rushing
towards some closed out surf a short distance to seaward. Doug told the other two to stay with the boat as other
kiteboarders would be there to help soon.
Click for full sized image
This is what the sunken boat and trio were drifting into fast!
Geppy came up and picked up the sister. The kiters had a problem, not only heavy surf to the east but the out
rushing current was making heading to the south very hard to do. The wind was easing off at this time making
the guys have to sine their kites heavily just to try to gain ground. They were probably 300 ft. east of the jettys
before they could start to bear to the south. Eventually they got far enough south to escape much of the
current at which point they were able to turn to the west and head into the beach in the lee of the south jetty.
Mike had a fairly light passenger and so with some pretty intense sining was able to plane with them both up on
his board for about 100 to 200 m at a go.
Mikes gives an interview in Bimini
Doug's still up there
Doug had his hands full with his girl as he didn't have enough power to pull them both up on plane and she was
still a bit hysterical for about ten minutes or roughly half way to shore. Doug calmed her down through
reassurances and by giving her a kiteboarding lesson on the spot. Doug kept his board of his feet in front of
them and body dragged in this position. Initially his passager was strangling him but he was able to get
her to shift her grip to his harness. Eventually Doug's passenger even seemed to lighten up a bit and even
enjoy the ride somewhat.
Dave Deberard was the third rider to come up. Dave is 6'2", 200 lbs., is sponsored by Slingshot, DC Boards,
Jupiter Kiting has been a regular at Florida kiteboarding events since 2002, and just turned 15 years old!?
True story, I can remember when Dave was fairly short, no longer! Dave told me the wave/current conditions at
the inlet were "spooky" given how big things were running.
Dave came up to the guy, floating on his girlfriends surfboard. The guy grabbed Dave's suicide leash which
made a pretty fair tow point as he skidded along on the surfboard. Dave was on a 13 m Fuel kite. I asked Dave
how he though the three might have faired if the kiteboarders hadn't come along so quickly? He said the
guy was decked out in heavy pants, sweatshirt and boots. Unless the guy could have ditched this stuff absent
the surfboard of course he though the fellow might have had a rough time pulling through passing into the
breaking surf. If the girls had managed to put on the life jackets they should have been picked up fairly beaten
and waterlogged but perhaps some miles from shore.
Young, big Dave
The USCG was on the scene in less than five minutes. They have a base within a mile to the west of the inlet.
Still, the three had already been picked up. As the riders headed towards shore, Ft. Pierce's finest had
arrived in force. Dave said there were about a dozen police cars, flashers going on the shore. The
sheriff's department even sent a chopper out. Each of the riders deposited their charges on the shore
in turn and headed back out for some more riding. The wind had regained some strength, so why not?
The seas were too heavy for the USCG to do much with the boat. I understand it beached some miles to the south.
GK hangs out with some of the Ft. Pierce troops at the recent Kite4Girls. He is opening a beach front kiteboarding
) in Ft. Pierce just south of the inlet and next door to a beach bar. It's
going to be interesting!
Well done to Doug, Mike and Dave on your rescue. Kiteboarders are often exceptional watermen and great
to have around when the going gets tough. This is not the first nor the last kiter rescue. Great winds and times
to you all and WAY TO GO!!! More stories of heroic deeds of kiteboarders can be found HERE
Copyright FKA, Inc. 2006