I heard about a recent kiteboarding incident in Ireland that I wanted to pass along. It involved a very experienced traction kiter (10 years exp.) out with an open cell traction foil kite. He was out wave kiteboarding near Sutton when his safety system broke during a sudden lull causing his kite to crash and rapidly become unrelaunchable. Many of us have used open cell foils over the years but a serious problem is that if they land on the water for more than a second or two they generally stay there.
Sutton apparently has well known dangerous currents which swept the rider offshore. He wrapped his lines up and trailed his kite out on the surface to reduce the drag. He then lay on his board and tried to swim in but soon realized that he would only wear himself out against the opposing current in cold water before making shore. Fortunately, the kiteboarder wasn't riding alone and had friends at the launch. So, he decided to stay put and await rescue. One of his friends eventually rode out to him after about 30 minutes and asked how he was doing. The disabled kiteboarder asked him to send help out. The rider had become very cold and tried to wrap himself up in the foil kite to conserve body heat.
A helicopter passed overhead a short time later as the rescue boat was unable to find him given the high surf in the area. The rescue boat then came along and took him to shore from about 1.7 miles from shore.
It is fortunate that this rider had nearby friends and an excellent rescue service shoreside. Open cell foils can be a lot of fun to kiteboard with although I personally think that they require considerably more skill to kiteboard with than inflatable kites in varied conditions. Lets face it if they hit the water for much time at all they generally convert to a sea anchor. Technique and edging are the main ways to expand viable wind range, etc. So, it mainly takes some well developed skill to keep open cell foils flying and as long as things go well, have at it. These type foils were very popular with some pro riders only a few years ago for the significant air they would deliver.
Still we all are vulnerable to breakage, LEIs, foils, whatever and things will happen given enough time. Even if this rider was out with an LEI and a line, harness, etc. broke or the kite otherwise was unrelaunchable, a similar outcome would have likely occurred.
I guess it comes down to choices. As great as the surf sounds in that area, that offshore current sounds like a rough proposition. Flying a non-relaunchable kite in potentially hypothermic waters and heavy seas a bit riskier still. We meter the risks we expose ourselves to through our preparation and choices. This is just one more way of getting into trouble. Without the intercession of his friends onshore or in the absence of the helicopter to ultimately find the rider when the boat could not, it is quite possible this story might not have had a happy ending.