Kiteboarder rescued from rough water

The U.S. Coast Guard, a dive team and other emergency workers rushed to Grand Haven's north shore after a call came in shortly after 1 p.m. about a kiteboarder in trouble.
R.J. Wolcott
Jun 18, 2012

The kiteboarder floated in the water about a half-mile offshore, nearly a quarter-mile north of the Grand Haven pier. The 22-year-old ran into trouble when the wind changed direction from south to east and he lost air under his kite.

From there, he pulled his safety release, but it ended up getting wrapped around his leg. While this was happening, he had a heart palpitation, and said his vision became blurry and he was disoriented.

The kiteboarder said he made a mistake when he noticed the wind change.

“I should have released the kite a lot sooner," he said.

When his vision was restored, he was heading toward Wisconsin when two fellow kiteboarders came out to help him.

Josh Mitchell, one of the boarders who swam out to help, said it could have been a lot worse. Mitchell described the situation as “simply a really bad choice.”

The kiteboarder said he only wanted to catch one or two rides before work, but the wind made it extremely risky even when he attempted to stay close to the shore.

Once Mitchell and his brother, Jake, saw the man go down, they grabbed a board from a nearby residence and headed out.

The Coast Guard arrived on scene at 1:26 p.m. The Ottawa County dive team was alerted at around the same time.

Emergency personnel were able to be cautious with their approach because the man was still floating, with the help of his board.

Eventually, the three kiteboarders made it to shore and the dive team was called off at 1:43 p.m. 

The National Weather Service on Monday issued a "Beach Hazards Statement" to warn users of Lake Michigan that potential hazards exist through Tuesday evening. The weather bureau said high-wave action and dangerous swimming conditions are expected, with rip currents possible. The beaches with particular hazardous conditions are off Grand Haven State Park, South Beach in South Haven and Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon.

The main threats during the day will be longshore currents and structural currents on the south side of the south piers.

To read the full hazard statement, click here.



We just wanted to say thanks to the caller, the Coast Guard and the Dive Team for such a quick response. Situations like this can only take a few moments to turn really bad.

After talking with the kiteboarder involved, we have learned that by the time the Coast Guard arrived on the scene, two other kiters were already assisting him after he was able to self-rescue to his kite, and were on their way back to the safety of the shore on a Stand Up Paddleboard. This incident is a perfect example of why kiteboarding lessons are so important and why safety measures should always be followed when participating in extreme sports. All the kiters involved were experienced local kiteboarders, were wearing wetsuits to protect them from the cold water, and also had impact flotation vests to keep them afloat during a self-rescue scenario like this one. It is also critical to point out that you never want to ride alone, and the buddy system is very important.

During our kiteboarding lessons, "safety" is of the utmost importance. All students are trained specifically for this type of event. We would rather have our students be safe not only for their own safety but also, more importantly, the safety of innocent bystanders, and know what to do in an emergency situation versus just throwing them on the water and getting them up on a board. Self-rescuing is not an uncommon practice in the sport of kiting, and that is why we choose to make it a main focus in our lessons and while we are on the beach with other inexperienced kiters.

Be safe, have fun and good winds! Now let's go ride!

Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.