31 kiteboarders rescued from cold waters in the Netherlands

February 22, 2021 | Kiteboarding
Rockanje: a popular kitesurfing spot in the Netherlands | Photo: Reddingsbrigade Rockanje

Thirty-one kiteboarders were rescued from the water at Rockanje, near Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.

On February 20, 2021, an unusual number of wind sports participants had to be taken out of the water by local lifeguard teams due to an unexpected disappearance of wind.

The lack of wind combined with strong currents kept 31 kites and riders floating in cold 39°F (4°C) waters.

According to local reports, among the rescuees were also inexperienced kiteboarders with little wind and weather knowledge.

The Rockanje rescue team responded and acted quickly, and there were no serious injuries or casualties.

The sudden wind drop from approximately 17 to 12 knots left many riders struggling to get back to the shore as they were sailing too far out.

The side-shore and side-offshore wind direction also didn't help.

"It was a unique situation for the lifeguards. We had in one day the number of rescues we normally observe in one year," explained the Rockanje Rescue Brigade.

At first glance, it looked like just another beautiful spring day - the perfect scenario to get the dust out of the kites.

Freezing Waters

But at 39°F (4°C), the water is still ice cold and increases the risk of hypothermia.

"Trying to get your kite out of the water for ten minutes is enough to get numb arms and legs. Even with a thick wetsuit, shoes, and gloves," add the local rescue brigade.

Nevertheless, the time that the kitesurfers stayed in the water has been kept to a minimum thanks to the lifeguards' efforts.

As a result, none of the riders had to be checked by the ambulance service.

"We suggest novice kiteboarders wait until the water temperature has risen at least above 50°F [10°C] again," underline the Rockanje Rescue Brigade.

"Also, it is not advisable to enter the water with wind parallel to and (obliquely) offshore from the coast."

"It makes it very difficult to bring yourself to safety if things go wrong. And get out of the water when you see others needing to be rescued due to the weather."

During cold winter months, kiteboarders should stay closer to the shore.

In addition, make sure that you can relaunch your kite in the open ocean and deep water. If necessary, practice this technique in shallow waters.

According to bystanders, there was enough wind in the afternoon, and several kiteboarders were unable to relaunch their kite by themselves.

Learn how to self-rescue and pack down if you find yourself in an emergency, with no wind or problems with your equipment.

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