Safety strikes ‘cord’ with kitesurfers

Fremantle Volunteer Sea Rescue fleet manager Nick Hill knows kite safety. Picture: Martin Kennealey d409290
Fremantle Volunteer Sea Rescue fleet manager Nick Hill knows kite safety. Picture: Martin Kennealey d409290

‘Five years ago calls to rescue kitesurfers were rare to non-existent, and if they were, they were rare and close to shore,’ Fremantle Volunteer Sea Rescue president Philip Martin said, whose crews cover kitesurfing spots from Leighton to City beaches and Gage Roads.

‘Now kiters are spreading out along the coast to find new places to go, and are going further offshore.’

However, they and the public have been unsure about how to deal with the four or five detachable 25m-long lines connecting a kitesurfer to the kite.

Mr Martin said methods were needed to deal with kites looping dangerously on the surface, possibly preventing self-rescue by the kiter, who could be unconscious or impaired from being in the water for a long period.

As part of ongoing safety initiatives by kiting groups, Fremantle Volunteer Sea Rescue hosted a forum also attended by kite shops, Water Police and yacht clubs about offshore rescues, held at East Fremantle Yacht Club last week.

The forum was unrelated to the death of kiter Marc Sprod at Cottesloe three weeks ago, but is intended to instruct surf lifesavers along the coast on kite rescues close to beaches.

A draft set of guidelines directs offshore rescue skippers to approach the kiter from upwind, and on his left side, put the engine in neutral and instruct him on how the rescue crew will tackle his kite before taking him aboard.

In life-threatening situations, rescuers first release the kiter from the device, cut the lines or deflate the kite with a sharp object.

Mr Martin said boaters who found a kiter struggling at sea should first call professional rescuers, kiters in the water more than 20 minutes should tell their rescuers and offshore kiters had to carry a personal emergency beacon.

Onshore, Scarborough kite school Action Sports Australia held a safety demonstration at Brighton Beach, and the WA Kitesurfing Association, with the Department of Sport and Recreation, is developing kiting guidelines for WA before another safety session at Leighton Beach in December.