An RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew from Salcombe were tasked to the aid of a kitesurfer in difficulty off South Milton Sands over the Easter weekend on Monday April 5th.
At about 2.20pm, Brixham coastguard requested the RNLI lifeguards and Salcombe's volunteer RNLI crew to launch to what had been reported by a 999 as a windsurfer in difficulties about 300 metres off South Milton Sands. With a rough to moderate sea and 20 mile an hour onshore wind the launched Inshore Lifeboat requested backup from the all-weather Tamar boat.
Mike Matson, RNLI lifeguard, describes how the casualty who turned out to be a kitesurfer had found himself in difficulty:
'Despite numerous efforts the kitesurfer was unable to re-launch his kite in the blustery conditions and had become exhausted by the effort. There was no way he could have got back to shore unaided. Thankfully we think someone on the cliffs above must have seen him and called 999, which went though to the coastguard.
Although extremely exhausted, he wasn't injured, so RNLI lifeguards Cory Venter and Matt Allan were able to pick him up in the IRB and take him and his equipment safely back to South Milton Sands beach. In this particular incident the assistance of the volunteer lifeboat crew from Salcombe was not needed, however because of the rough conditions, and the fact we were unsure of the kitesurfer's condition, it was reassuring to be working together.'
Despite the cold and windy weather, Bantham beach was busy with families and dog walkers eager to get some fresh air over the weekend as well as a good number of water users, including windsurfers, kitesurfers, and surfers.
Mike went on to say; 'There were quite a number of novice surfers on hired surfboards who obviously wanted to get in the water despite the less than great conditions. By coming to a beach with RNLI lifeguards, it meant that we were able to advise them on the safest place to be and what hazards to avoid. We were also on hand to assist the few who exhausted themselves trying to paddle against the rip on the left hand side of the beach.'
In conjunction with the British Kitesurfing Association, the RNLI has produced some key safety advice for kitesurfers. These are:
Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back
Check your equipment for damage before use
Wear your kite leash
Wear a suitable approved buoyancy aid and helmet
Ride in conditions above your capability (wind above 20 knots in your first year)
Ride or launch near other beach users, animals or objects on the land or in the water
Get someone to land and launch your kite who has not received training
In 2009 the RNLI launched a fundraising campaign - 'Serious Fun!' which aims to increase committed, financial support for the charity among all watersports enthusiasts, so they can enjoy the water confident in the knowledge that the RNLI is never far away should things go wrong. More information is available at www.rnli.org.uk/seriousfun
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