When the wind dies, use a remote escape route.
For this post, we’re saying a downwind escape route that exists on a different beach to the one you are kiting on is called a remote escape route. Above is a map showing Watergate Bay to the south and Mawgan Porth to the north; in a SW wind, Mawgan Porth is a remote escape route.
The line in red shows my downwind journey to Mawgan Porth
The line in green shows my route overland back to Watergate Bay
The line in yellow shows messing about between the two beaches
Last Sunday a gentle SW breeze was tickling across a waist high swell at Watergate so I hauled my carcass out of the house and went for a play. The other two local kitesurfers were out, plus a few unfamiliar faces which is always good to see; it lets you know that there is life out there somewhere…somewhere over the Tamar…and that we aren’t just producing a magazine for an ingenious way to get stressed out every two months.
I rigged up the ‘fast becoming trusty’ light wind wave device, the RRD Obsession 12m, and hit the beach with a strapless surfboard. I got a few turns in, then I thought I’d head right out to sea on a monster reach to come back upwind. I reckon I held the line for about 8 minutes straight (checked on the footage on the GoPro) and when I looked back to land, I found myself staring towards a very distant Mawgan Porth beach – something I haven’t seen from the kite before.
I started heading back, thinking I would come back to the beach in front of the Extreme Academy, but as I rode towards land it was becoming clear that I wouldn’t even creep round the North End cliffs. Right; so no need to panic, it wasn’t a big day and the wind had really dropped off which was ideal since it meant if the kite fell out of the sky, I’d have longer to think and sort myself out before I got pushed towards the cliffs and rocks.
It’s worth mentioning that there isn’t a lot of love waiting for you once you get round the corner at the North End; cliffs, rocks, gulleys, not a whole lot of potential for landing a kite and keeping it in one piece. I thought I’d leave out the deep water pack down and scrabbling at the base of the cliffs with the kit and just head down to the next beach, which was of course Mawgan Porth.
This was pretty straightforward even though the wind had dropped to about 5knots and I was no longer planing. Once inside the surf zone and with sand underneath me, I was clearly past the rocks and cliffs and on my way to a safe landing. A pretty uneventful escape operation perhaps, but if you ask me when it comes to escape and rescue at sea, boring is good and exciting is bad. It’s the first time I’ve come in at Mawgan Porth from Watergate though I’ve always had the spot in the back of my mind as a possible get out if things do go wrong. It was good to test it out on an easy day since a dropped kite around that area could spell D-O-O-M very quickly.
So basically this is all about utilising an escape route that you cannot actually see from the beach you are kiting on, and one that in fact requires you to go towards and around all the dangerous stuff that you’d normally want to avoid. Why would anyone want to incorporate an alternative escape route into their session when it makes them ride towards danger? Well, an alternative escape route is something that every rider should have if the spot they are riding requires them to get out of trouble before they run out of beach or face certain doom. It also allows you to take more risks with your riding and explore more areas of the ocean, because with the correct planning you will have more time to sort yourself out in deep water.
Here are a few pointers for planning a remote escape route:
- Study the area you need to navigate on google maps, think about where the wind will push you.
- Walk the route at low tide when it is dry, or if this is not possible, use a path higher up.
- Coasteer the section between your kiting beach and the next beach downwind on a very calm day and dropping tide.
- Paddle it on an SUP or surfboard.
- Try launching a kite at the destination beach to check for wind shadows.
- Kite it with a couple of friends on an easy day and a dropping tide.
Of them all, I think the coasteer gives you the most confidence. This way you’re getting a taste of what it’d be like if you were washed into danger. You can check out the rips and currents first hand, and you’ll also spot cliff scramble routes to safety.
Here’s a video I made of the experiences from that day. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the 3mile run back in a wetsuit, and when I got back to Watergate the wind had picked up a bit. With not much else to do, I swam out and got a quick clip of my mate Smiler chopping the top off of a frothy one. Woooh!