2016 10 30 - Hurricane at Point Lonsdale

The day had been absolutely perfect - an early morning kite, a magnificent day at Bremlea beach with the family, boogie boarding, suping, having a great time with the kids.  The wind was forecast to come in for the afternoon - so the stars were aligned.  What could possibly go wrong ?  A freakin hurricane could, that's what.

With the ladies and kids headed to the Queenscliff market, Pete and I had the afternoon to ourselves, with a 25-30 knot breeze on the go.  We checked a couple of locations at Ocean Grove, before making the call to head to Point Lonsdale surf club.  I'd walked past it with Darren a couple of months before, beautiful water and some nice breaks - I thought it would be perfect for us.

First impressions were fantastic - strong wind, good surf but with some ominous clouds on the horizon.  We'd been out for our share of storm fronts so it did not appear anything to be particularly worried about.  On setting up the wind felt very heavy, I toyed with depowering the kite - but decided not to as there is nothing worse than not having enough power in the waves.  Turns out there actually is.
Pete on a wave, me in the background (credit Pete Campbell)

With kite in the air I got a sense of how heavy it was.  I warned Pete - depower as much as you can, it felt like at least 30 knots.  I asked him to hang around as I might bring the kite in to depower - but fun can kind of get in the way of best laid plans.  Once on the water it was amazing, great waves, good solid jumps and sparkling water.  I probably had the best surf kite I've ever had, I managed to really cut back into some solid water and hit the lip beautifully - I was having a ball.  I abandoned any thought of depowering the kite - why change anything when you are having this much fun.

About 30 mins in I got a warning.  A big gust came through that I could barely handle.  It pushed me off my line a bit, but soon dissipated and the wind dropped a little.  Overhead a big black cloud was going over, I figured the main frontal part of the wind was possibly over.  About 10 mins later, I got the wake up call - wind was on and here to stay.  It hit 50-55 knots and was very consistently strong. I'd been working my way upwind to stay the hell away from the rip (the tidal flow that goes through the heads of port phillip bay), the heavy wind pushed me massively down wind.  I was trying everything I could to hold my ground but to no avail.



At this time,  I looked out to sea and saw Pete was getting smashed. He had gone kms out from shore, and it looked like he had lost his board and was massively overpowered.  He was so far out there was no way I could help him without booking a one way ticket to Wilsons prom.

I tacked back in to shore trying to hold the kite as well as I could.  I was just south of Point Lonsdale surf club, and could see the lighthouse - a place I definitely wanted to avoid with its rocks and impending channel.  I headed in to shore and toyed with yelling to the family on the beach to land my kite.  Decided against it as it is mostly more dangerous than helpful if people have no idea about kites.  I kicked off my board onto the sand, tried to stand up but got dragged on my stomach for about 20m along the beach.  It was emergency time.  I finally got some amount of control, jumped back in the water to get more resistance and deployed the emergency release.  I always try to avoid the emergency release - I've had one fail on me about 6 years ago and I almost lost my kite.  On this occasion it worked a treat, the kite fell out of the sky, right into the water, to allow me to pounce on it and let it down to make the danger stop.  But the adventure wasn't over yet.



While on my way in, I watched Pete seemingly get dragged through the heads.  From my perspective, he appeared to be body dragging out of control, then unexplainably it looked like he hit emergency - I saw his kite drop from the sky.  I thought that he had ditched his kite in the middle of the heads - a dire situation.  With a powered kite, he would have made Sorrento pretty quickly - about 15 mins by my guess.  With a ditched kite, he would be stuck in the channel for a very long time - an emergency.  I quickly packed down my kite to prevent any further chaos, then ran to grab out bags.  I headed back to the stair to run and call 000 when Pete emerged from around the corner.  I was very thankful to see him alive and well.  He had landed in the last beach before the heads - having lost his board and had an epic.

Pete body dragging in huge wind (credit Peter Campbell)


I've been out in some crazy conditions - but this really takes the cake.  The wind measurement was 55 knots - about 100km/h. The minimum for a category 1 hurricane is 64 knots - and I can guarantee I would not want to be out in one !  The main learning for me is the combination of a new location, not knowing the intesity of the approaching front and not much margin for error will be avoided in future.  The upside - my emergency works a treat - thank goodness I keep the maintenance on these kites up to date.



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