It was an incredible day in spring off of Jupter, FL, USA on April 16, 2005.
That day at Jupiter was strong by SE Florida standards.
The wind had gusted up into the 45 mph range since the previous day* and this waves in this renouned waves spot were really going off. There were two breaker lines, one over 1/2 mile offshore where they waves were breaking around 12 to 15 ft. high and another line inside. The waves were running in from the East to East North East. The area between was a bit smoother and "appeared" to be more rideable. Still, the local riders used to the big stuff that runs off the coast here were staying off the water in droves for some reason.
The surf can get fairly large off of Jupiter. This was a smaller one by comparison near the inside break during the Jupiter Kite Invasion earlier in the year.
A bunch of guys had driven up from Ft. Lauderdale to do a downwinder from Jupiter Inlet south to kitebeach where the Jupiter Kite Invasion is held. One rider, Neil Hutchinson suffered a broken leg in one breaking wave near the start of the downwinder.
Some big surf off Jupiter at the outer break, three years before to the day!
Our rider launched a new 11 m Slingshot Fuel on new lines and a bar and headed on out. It was the largest surf that he had kited in before in the 1 1/2 years he had been riding and was having a great time. He had worked his way out past the outer break about 1/2 mile offshore and was wave riding and loving it. He got a little too preoccupied on one wave he caught as he ran past his kite on a speeding wave and stalled it. The kite hit the water while the rider rushed to relaunch it. He was suddenly hit from behind by a breaking 12 to 15 ft. wave and thrust underwater and rolled in his kite lines. He was slammed into the bottom and bruised his left side in the process. He estimates he was held under for about 30 to 40 seconds when he was able to surface to catch a breath. He was totally wrapped up in lines all over. The wave that shoved him under initially then slammed into his kite and pulled him underwater for what he estimated to be a minute. The lines were slicing into his neck, wetsuit, thigh and ankle as he was ripped along at high speed underwater by the wave. The water force would compress him into a ball along with the line wraps cutting into him all over. His mind started screaming "DO SOMETHING" or else he was thinking he wasn't going to make it through. He remembered his hook knife at the back pocket of his Dakine Fusion seat harness. He reached around and grabbed it. He reached up and cut at the line slicing into his neck and causing considerable pain. He managed to free the line which spun him around.
The rider in happier times, at the Kite4Girls wrap party in Miami, sporting a neck scar over a month later.
A closer look of the neck and the first area in which our kiter gained some freedom with his first successful efforts to cut away line.
He was able to surface for two quick breaths before being yanked under by the next wave and hauled forward by line wrapped all over his right ankle and leg.
We are very vulnerable to shallow (say 1/4 to 3/8 inch), cuts, over our jugular and carotid blood vessels. I understand such a cut can extinguish life in 15 minutes. For those than may not realize it, our kite lines have sliced through fingers with blinding speed. Making a 3/8 inch neck cut would be very easy to do with traction kite lines. THIS IS ALSO AN EXCELLENT REASON TO NOT
FLY KITES UPWIND OF INNOCENT BYSTANDERS.
A kite loaded up with the force of a 15 ft. breaking wave with an array of spectra line pulling into soft flesh? Our rider was very fortunate indeed.
The line cut behind his right thigh.
He was a bit more confident this time knowing that he had a shot at cutting himself out of this dangerous situation. He cut one more line and was able to surface. He then proceeded to grab and cut every line he could see spewing around him in a cloud.
and across the front of his thigh. Again, these photos were taken a month after the accident.
Eventually, the kite pulled free and drifted into the shore break. It hit the beach and started to blow inland. Someone on shore ran after it and secured the kite. The rider then drifted and swam into shore totally exhausted. He hit the beach and was so totally stoked to still be alive. A girl ran up, said she saw everything and asked if he was OK. A policeman drove up on an ATV and asked the same thing. The rider suffered cuts to his right ankle, thigh and neck. He felt the cuts to his neck would have been more severe if not for his shortie wetsuit which was sliced up somewhat.
A Dakine Fusion seat harness similar to the one the rider had on and the hook knife shown in the pocket. There is a good chance this rider might not have made it but for this knife.
* The day before was even stronger and it honked all night building up some substantial seas.