House Slamming: A Kitesurf Accident, Golden Bay, New Zealand
By Nigel Marsden, March 8, 2004
Kiteboarding accident Courtesy of P.Media There are many different ways of damaging one's own home; a sledgehammer, chainsaw or matches spring to mind. However, I chose to use my body as a battering ram to do the job following an out of control kite ride and this is my story. It was about 4 PM on a Monday, and with some free time on my hands I walked across my front lawn to check out the wind. I live at the kitesurfing paradise of Golden Bay- my house is right on Pohara beachfront so I can continually monitor the wind conditions and hopefully get as much kitesurfing in as possible. That day, the wind was marginally light, onshore about 12 knots. I pumped up my largest kite (Wipika 11.2m Airblast), donned my full-length wetsuit and helmet and headed for the water. I'd been contemplating upgrading my old standard bar arrangement with a quick release system, which I'd read about in Wind and Kite magazine.
I'd planned to drive to Christchurch in a few days and purchase one there. However, with the winds so light, the added safety of a quick release system was far from my mind. After about half an hour in the water, it was obvious the wind was too light for much fun. I had to work the kite hard to keep moving and was only able to make small jumps. Boring!
I decided to come in and maneuvered to the edge of the shore with the kite overhead and fully powered. "To have cleared the trees, my height must have been at least 5m above takeoff point." I don't remember much of what happened next, only a massive pulling feeling and hearing a friend scream. I'd like to report that during my unexpected flight I performed some amazing tricks, perhaps even my first kite loop. However, much as I probe my friend, who witnessed the flight, with leading questions, it appears I was just blindly dragged along. She reports watching helplessly as I sailed through the air, over the sand, over the Esplanade Reserve, over some trees and my front lawn to whack into the side of my house. I slammed into the eaves, fell into a gate and came to rest on the ground below, a distance of approximately 70m from where I started.
To have cleared the trees, my height must have been at least 5m above takeoff point. My neighbor had heard me whack the house and came running to witness my screaming friend and myself, deathly white, no obvious breathing and unmoving unfocused eyes. They thought I was compost or pretty close to. It was a great relief when a couple of minutes later I began painfully moaning.
Emergency medical services arrived 40 minutes later and the efficient medics decided the best option was to send me to Nelson Hospital by helicopter. A summary of my injuries: »5 fractures to pelvis »6 ribs fractured in 15 places
»2 fractures to my shoulder
»A dislocated shoulder
»A punctured lung
»Severe concussion and shock
»Severe bruising on my left side
And to top this off, I had damaged my own bloody house! Thank God I hadn't aimed for the neighbors to the east. This house is owned by lawyers! The other neighbors would have provided a perfect target. Darren and Michelle had just spent weeks renovating their beach bungalow. This included a newly installed pair of French doors, beyond which lay their immaculately polished polyurethaned rimu floor- a perfect target. But I missed, instead damaging my own fascia, guttering and fence. BUGGER!
The first days spent in the intensive care ward were a nightmare of pain and agony. After that I spent a further two weeks in hospital making a more steady recovery. I needed several blood transfusions and it was three weeks before my bowels and bladder began to function normally.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have survived at all with no spinal or permanent head injuries and know I'm going to make a full recovery. I have nothing but huge admiration and respect for the all the emergency and medical staff involved. I feel fortunate that the accident occurred in New Zealand, if it had happened to me in a third world country, I dread to think of what the consequences would have been.
Why have I written this story? Naturally, to win the competition's prize of the helmet! OK, if I can help others learn from my accident then I'll be more than happy. Here are some thoughts about kitesurfing safety:
1. Have a quick release system! This is the one single item that may have saved or reduced the scale of my accident. If you don't have one, go and update your gear. Having a quick release is not enough. Practice using it till you can do it blindfolded, left handed, upside down and lightening fast. You need to have it down to automatic because when the time comes to use it in a real situation, it's likely there will be no warning, no second chance. It has to be instinctual and lightening fast.
2. Consider coming in to the beach with a little less speed, and once on shore always keep the kite out the side, so if a big gust does hit unexpectedly you'll be dragged, not lifted and have time to pull your safety.
3. Wear safety gear. The fact I was wearing a helmet saved me from more serious head injuries. I think that we can be lead into a false sense of security about the sport by watching promotional kitesurfing videos, the apparent invincible riders perform amazing stunts in all conditions and wear nothing but boardshorts or bikinis. I don't care what I look like; I'm only going out with a helmet and chest protection from now on.
4. Regularly update your gear for advances in safety as the industry progresses.
5. Never take the wind for granted. I've never in four years of kitesurfing experienced a sudden gust like the one that caught me out. I hope that my injuries have not put anyone off the sport. However if this article helps save some accidents, then it's been worthwhile. My accident hasn't put me off and I'm looking forward to getting back in the water - with the latest in safety gear.
P.S. Anyone want to buy a cheap full-length wetsuit, hacked into 3 pieces?
Surfer hurt in freak kite crash
New rules are to be drawn up for a south Wales beach after a teenager was critically injured in a kite surfing accident.
Ross Milton, 17, from Diggle, Greater Manchester was caught by a freak gust of wind, blown out of the water and into a wall at Aberavon beach.
Neath Port Talbot Council is planning to liaise with the British Kite Surfing Association in the hope of keeping everyone using the beach safe. The teenager is critical but stable condition at Morriston Hospital.
Ross was carried 80ft into the air over a chip shop on the sea front and hit two walls after a freak wind caught his kite on Saturday.
The council's leisure service co-ordinator, Andrew Thomas, said: "We are going to work with the national governing body for kite surfing to put together a scheme which protects all the different users of the beach in terms of safety and enjoyment.
"We will be learning lessons from this accident and we will come up with a scheme to accommodate all the different users of the beach."
Jeremy Waitt, head of training at the British Kite Surfing Association, said: "The BKSA continues to do its best to help councils keep people safe on beaches. "Any advice or system to reduce risk to all beach users is of great benefit."
Kite surfing is similar to windsurfing but uses kites instead of sails. Its official UK website declares it as "the most extreme of water sports".
Ross had spent the day taking part in the British Kite Surfing Championships at Porthcawl in south Wales.
His family were watching him practise on Aberavon beach when the incident happened. His safety helmet is believed to have come off when the gust lifted him into the air, and he suffered head injuries.
His father Matthew, a GP, and his mother Anne have been at his bedside since the accident.
Read the related post:
18 October 2004, by Adam Lechmere, and agencies
It is thought he was unable to release his harness in time as the powerful gust lifted his kite from the ocean at Te Awanga, a small settlement on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, near Hastings in Hawke’s Bay
Wisor had moved from New York in 2000 to work at the Craggy Range winery in Hawke’s Bay.
Craggy Range won a series of awards at the recent Decanter World Wine Awards, notably two Silvers, two Bronzes and three Commendeds.
Writing on the Craggy Range website, managing director Steve Smith said, ‘[Doug] came to Craggy to make great Pinot Noir, and for me he was the perfect winemaking partner. Not only did he bring a love of Pinot Noir to Craggy, he brought an in-depth knowledge of oenology and practical winemaking that I did not have.
‘During his time with us Doug made some of the greatest wines this country has seen. He single-handedly created a Syrah style that has made the world notice something spectacular happening in the vineyards of New Zealand.’
Kite-surfers are pulled along on the water attached to a large kite. They reach speeds of up to 40km/h and perform daring 4-metre jumps.
The relatively new sport is recognised as high-risk - last year a man was seriously injured in a similar accident on South Island.
‘The world is a poorer place without him. He was an unbelievable young man,’ Smith said.