While kiting at Huguenot Park one of our local kiters, Don Smith, saw two people in an 18 foot boat being pushed into large breaking waves off the northeast point of the park. The motor had quit and the boat was close to being overturned in the surf. Rescue service boats had been called but could not get to the vessel in distress because of the size of the waves. Don sailed to the boat and got on board. He placed his feet on the inside of the bow and flew his kite to turn the boat into the waves. Then he used the kite to pull the boat out of the surf. He said several waves broke over the bow boat and one hit them broadside. He was able use the power of the kite to pull the boat to safe water where the rescue boats could attach a tow rope. He then went back to kiting and had a great session. The wind was from the south at about 25 to 30 mph.
Last Sunday (the next day)
Sunday's wind was strong gusty and offshore in the 25 to 30 mph range. Local kiters were out having fun on the clean wave faces. Most were riding in the shallow water near the point. Several people on the beach noticed a disabled jet ski about 1/4 mile out. The rider was trying to swim in to the beach and was several hundred yards from the ski. He was wearing a PFD but the wind and outgoing tide kept him from making much progress. One kiter went to see if he needed help and then returned to the beach to ask bystanders to call 911. He then went back out to the swimmer to mark his position for rescue. The swimmer was weak and very cold and could almost not move his arms. He was wearing a tank top and board shorts. The water temp. was about 63 deg. Due to the direction of the gusty wind and strong current it was impossible to tow the swimmer back to the beach. Once again Don Smith came to the rescue. When he realized what was happening he retrieved an old long board from his truck, tied it to harness and towed out to the swimmer. The swimmer was so cold he had almost no control of his arms or legs and had trouble staying on the board. Don had to hold him and both boards together while keeping his kite overhead. The wind was becoming less and less steady. By this time both kiters and the swimmer were about 3/4 of a mile out. The first kiter tacked back to shore as the rescue boat arrived to explain what was needed and who was in the water. The boat was launched and retrieved the swimmer who was very hypothermic. They also brought the large board back in. Don who was on a 9 meter kite had trouble trying to come back in and so the rescue boat went back out and got him. By the time he was in the boat they were a mile or more out in the water. A rescue services jet ski retrieved the disabled ski. The swimmer had to be carried to the emergency services truck where he was warmed up. He had spent about an hour in the water and may have been taken to the hospital. Family members who had been on the other side of the park waiting for the man to return on the ski were located and brought to the ocean side.
Don Smith is a retired Jacksonville firefighter and has been a Huguenot Park patron for many years. Before kitesurfing he windsurfed the Park and remembers the days when the park area was only reachable by boat and 4X4s. These rescues are not his first. As a kitesurfer he has brought many people (including other kiters) back to the beach. Many people can also thank Don for retrieving gear that might have been lost at sea. Way to go Don!
awesome i feel some responsibility for the kiters at my local beach here in homer Alaska for all the new people getting in to the sport i don't wont any body to get in over there head ,,, thank you for helping others ...