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On the ropes: Tangled kitesurfer rescued by Porthcawl RNLI

A kitesurfer, tangled in his lines, was drifting out to sea. He was dangerously close to jagged rocks and was about to take desperate measures.

On the ropes: Tangled kitesurfer rescued by Porthcawl RNLI.

For Tom Davies from Bristol, it was the first time he’d kitesurfed on his own since taking lessons. It was around midday, 25 April 2017, at Rest Bay near Porthcawl. Tom realised he was in trouble when he couldn’t relaunch the kite. He attempted a self-rescue, but admits: ‘I made a bit of a hash of it and got tangled up in the lines.’

It wasn’t a windy day, but the current was pulling him across and out to sea. For an hour and a half he tried to alert people on the shore, 150–200m away. Tom says: ‘It was quite scary. Towards the end I was considering cutting my lines and making a swim for the rocks.’

Thanks to a call from a member of the public on shore, help was on its way. Lifeboat volunteers Simon Emms, Chris ‘Bee’ Missen, James Hill and Gareth Charnock were first to reach the station.

They launched the Atlantic 85 Rose of the Shires within 5 minutes. Simon was at the helm and it was Gareth’s first call out for the RNLI. During the 2-mile dash to the kitesurfer, Bee briefed James and Gareth. Bee explains the very real dangers:

‘Rescuing a kitesurfer is one of the higher risk jobs we do. The kite’s lines are like cheese wires when they’re tense. We need to get in and be in control of the situation very quickly, otherwise people will get hurt.’

The lifeboat crew locate Tom in the water.
The lifeboat crew locate Tom in the water

The crew spotted Tom, dangerously close to Hutchwns Point, a rocky outcrop. The Porthcawl Coastguard was watching from the shore.

Tom saw the orange lifeboat approaching – ‘a very welcome sight.’

Up close, the crew realised how tangled Tom’s leg was in the ropes, Simon wondered: ‘How on earth did he get into that mess? He could have got dragged against the rocks, without any way to protect himself.’

At the front of the lifeboat, Bee quickly grabbed hold of the kitesurfer. Looking down he realised how shallow it was and shouted to Simon to get the lifeboat out of there. The crew kept a firm hold of Tom as they manoeuvred into deeper water.

‘Boats and rocks don’t mix,’ says Simon. ‘There was a real risk of damage to the hull or the propellers, which could incapacitate the lifeboat. We’d be at the mercy of the tide. And people use their hard-earned money to pay for lifeboats.’

The crew pull Tom and his kite onto the lifeboat.
The crew pull Tom and his kite onto the lifeboat

The lads hauled Tom aboard, with his lines and kite. Tom was understandably shaken and cold, but he was put at ease by the Porthcawl crew. They loosened the lines and checked for injuries. Just 20 minutes after launching they were all back on dry land.

Once the crew had got the lifeboat washed down and ready for the next service, Simon turned to the serious matter of enjoying well-deserved cup of tea: ‘Tea after a call out is an absolute must.’

They made sure Tom got a cuppa and even tried to untangle the rest of his lines. Tom reflected: ‘The crew were excellent. I am certainly very grateful for their help, thank you.’

Are you a keen kitesurfer or thinking of taking it up as a hobby? Read our safety advice for kitesurfers before you head out on the water.