A beginner kiteboarder from Italy launched a 9 m LEI kite to ride off of Ponta Preta at the SW coast of the island of Sal in Cabo Verde in early February 2004. Cabo Verde is a group of 10 islands located approximately 400 miles to the west of Senegal in NW Africa.
Winds were side offshore at about 20 kts. with ground swells forming about 50 m (170 ft.) or less from the rocky shoreline at heights ranging from 3 to 4 m (10 to 13 ft.). Ponta Preta is widely known as a demanding, advanced riding location.
The rider reportedly fell over in a wave and was swept into the rocks. He was not wearing a helmet or impact vest. His back was seriously injured although to what degree it is unknown at this time. It is not known what other injuries the rider sustained from this impact. The accident was stated to have occurred at about 4 pm and the rider was flown off the island at about 6 pm as medical care is quite limited on the island. The rider died during the flight of unknown causes. If additional information is available about this accident, please contact me by private email at <email@example.com>
Ponta Preta, given large powerful groundswells, the short distance to a rocky shoreline and side off winds is a technical launch and potentially hazardous riding area. It has been described in various online sites as a pro to advanced kiteboarding area only. This is no spot for any one other than strong riders and given the reported level of experience of the rider he should not have launched at this location. Given the power and speed of 3 to 4 m ground swells and less than 50 m to the rocks, a rider could wipeout and slam into the rocks quite rapidly. I understand that there are beginner and intermediate spots off the NW coast of the island of Sal with side onshore winds and more manageable wave conditions. The person that I spoke to on the island indicated that insufficiently experienced kiteboarders wanting to ride off this world famous area is a problem. There is no one to just stand around to quiz and potentially warn off kiteboarders from this wave spot. It is up to visiting kiteboarders to research local conditions, ask for advice and critically to take prudent advice that they are given. This applies to riders visiting ANY area. It is not known if the riders injuries would have been lessened or not by use of a helmet and impact vest. Even pros and advanced riders can get into problems at a launch like this. Still with advanced ability they may be able to come out of things with lesser injury and if not at least they have enough experience to accept the possible consequences.
Manu Bertin shown riding big surf off of Ponta Preta. It is beautiful to watch. Manu was one of the first kiteboarders on Maui back in the mid 1990s. I imagine he rode off of Hookipa and perhaps even Jaws which the above images resemble. Still, Manu is a world class rider and is thoroughly familiar with big wave riding and no doubt the consequences of hitting the nearby rocky shore at speed. This sport is incredible but have a care to ride within your abilities. A big part of that is researching launches at destinations you are going to visit, asking experienced locals for advice and following prudent advice that is given. There are other wave riding spots around the world, often with shallow rocky bottoms and iron rocky shores nearby. Mokes in Oahu with rocky nearshore conditions claimed a rider a couple of years ago. That rider was very experienced but things just didn't work out that day.