You know how people sometimes say”I almost killed myself”?
Well, I almost killed myself a few days ago! And, it would have been 100% my fault…
Morpheus was anchored off Green Island, Antigua, a very well known Caribbean kitesurfing destination. It is a spectacular location on the eastern shore of Antigua, reachable only by boat, where the 20+ knot tradewinds roar into the bay after flowing undisturbed for 1000s of miles. The island itself is rather small, but the bay is a huge expanse of turquoise water protected from the open ocean perfectly by a large coral barrier reef.
Strong winds and flat water a rare & perfect combination that is impossible to ignore!
Anyway, back to my story.
Mistake #1: My arrival at the beach was timed poorly as the local kitesurfing school (highly recommended – 40 Knots Kitesurfing) had arrived just a few minutes earlier and the beach was crowded with vacationers in a hurry to get on the water. Unfortunately, these folks were not fast or efficient and I ended up getting a bit frustrated as I waited for them to get going while I had all my gear ready to go.
Mistake #2: Finally, more than a bit anxious from the wait, I asked one of the instructors to help me quickly launch my kite. He said he was in the middle of a lesson, but agreed to help.
Mistake #3: I handed him my kite and quickly ran to and picked up the control bar at the other end of my kite lines.
The first sign of trouble showed when I realised that I’d picked up my bar incorrectly and one of my lines was crossed. Normally, since the lines were initially correct this is an easy fix.You just pass your bar back through the lines to straighten out the crossed lines. I did this and the lines looked great.
Note: Kitesurfing kites are controlled by 4 very thin spectra lines that run to each of the four corners of the kite. The two center lines control the kites power and join into a single line just above the control bar. This single line runs through the middle of the bar and connects to my waist harness.
Huge Inexcusable Mistake #4: Unfortunately, in my rush to get out and allow the instructor to return to his lesson, I did not notice that the line running through my bar had wrapped once around the bar before connecting it to my harness.
The rest of this story may seem predictable, but in fact it could have gone several different ways. A fully powered, uncontrollable, terrifying ride was inevitable. The outcome of that ride was the only thing in doubt…
I was now ready to launch. My four kite lines appeared to be correct, so I hooked the kite to my harness, gave the instructor a quick thumbs up, he let go of the kite, and then all holy hell broke out.
The kite was fully powered and uncontrollable. I had just enough time to realize that something was wrong before I was flying down the beach past several very stunned people 3-4 feet in the air! I have no idea what my kite was doing during this time (1-2 seconds), but I do remember that I could not de-power by pushing my bar away. I hit the beach on my feet going way too fast, looked down at the bar, saw the wrap, looked up, saw the rocks getting close really really fast and finally did something smart!
The male ego always tells us that we can fix any situation. Given a bit of time, we can figure out what needs to be done and all will be fine. Luckily, I ignored that message! I was much more worried about hitting rocks at 50mph than embarrassing myself in front of a beach full of kiters.
I reached down and “pushed the eject button”. Instantly, my kite was flying on only one line and started to crash. It still had a bit of power, but nothing near 100%. The only question remaining was where was I going to land?
I have no idea how fast I was going, faster than I could run I suppose, as I was back in superman flying mode, and ultimately ended up face planting at speed on the edge of the beach into a pile of wet sand and seaweed.
I was pretty stunned and must have been quite a sea monster type vision when I slowly stood and turned back towards the crowded beach covered in sand, seaweed, and “a bit of blood” from a “meet the beach” head slam.
Ultimately, I was very very lucky. If my kite had kept me higher in the air, or if my ego delayed my decision to”eject”, I would have met the sharp coral rocks at the end of the beach and my story would be very very different.
Lots of lessons learned and relearned. The most important one being never ever ever rush through your safety checks before connecting a kite to your harness and launching.
Have a nice day. I’m very happy to be doing the same today!!