View Single Post
Old 06-20-2006, 08:54 PM
Posts: n/a
Default 10. Philthy makes a difference in Sarasota, Florida.

Kiting rescues don't always have to involve daring rough seas. Sometimes, a rescue can happen just from a kiter paying attention. Allow me to share a story about an incident that occurred in the summer of 2005 in Sarasota, FL.

One late afternoon, about 6 or 7 of us were kiting in about 15 mph wind blowing over outgoing tide in one of the inlets in the Sarasota area. The spot has some large sand bars that go out for many hundreds of yards, but once the sand bars end, the water level drops from 3 feet to 8 feet, then to 15, then to 29 feet pretty fast. The current can push you up into the wind but there can be some serious consequences to putting your kite down there if you get swept out past the sandbars by the current, so we keep an eye out for each other when riding there. It is also not a good place to swim or play, although the tourists on the beach often don't seem to appreciate the danger.

At this particular session, right when I was getting on the water, I noticed an older gentleman, in his sixties at least and likely a tourist, wading around in the inlet in 2 to 3 feet of water holding what appeared to be an empty plastic gallon milk jug in his hand. He was shelling and putting the small shells he found in the plastic milk jug. More than one of us warned him about the current, which was surging out as the tide dropped, but he swore that he would be fine.

We then focused on kiting, a solid session followed, and the local crew wrapped it up several hours later as the seabreeze started to weaken. That's when Phil, aka Philthy, started to ask if anyone in the crew had seen the old guy with the milk jug come back in to the beach. None of us had, but he was nowhere to be seen as we looked out to sea. Almost everyone was content to let the matter go, figuring that the guy had probably come back in a few hours ago and we simply didn't notice him. Besides, we were all tired from the session and ready to break down our gear, head home, and grab some grub.

Philthy didn't relent. He kept talking about milk jug guy, ran around asking everyone to borrow a cell phone, then called the police to report a person in distress, even though Philthy had no idea where milk jug guy was and only a vague but nagging notion that he might have found trouble. Soon enough, an exciting scene developed: sirens were wailing, a bunch of uniformed officers ran onto the beach and asked us where we last saw milk jug guy, a police chopper started flying around overhead, and a police boat cruised up the channel.

I decided to stick around and watch the spectacle, figuring that the police would be steamed when there ended up being no sign of the guy. Less than ten minutes later, the call came over the radio: "We found him!"

Milk jug guy was so far out it was ridiculous. By using the next island over as a point of reference and watching where the police boat went to get him and where the chopper was hovering, I figured that the guy was at least 1.5 to 2.5 miles out in 20 to 25 feet of water. Reportedly, he walked out so far in the inlet that by the time he turned around, the water level was too high for him to walk against the current and he got swept out to sea. Having a milk jug may have saved him, because he was clinging to it and using it to help himself float when the police got to him. There is no way in hell he could have made it out of there by swimming. My understanding is that he was fine but badly scared.

As far as I know, this story never made the paper or even the local kite forums here in the Tampa area. The bottom line, however, is that Philthy saved that old guy's life that day. If Philthy had not trusted his instincts and made the effort to call the police (and possibly take some heat if the call turned out to be unjustified), no one would have known what had happened to milk jug man.

Philthy's timing was good, as well. An hour's delay in reporting him missing could very well have sealed milk jug guy's doom. When they pulled the old fellow out of the water, it was less than one hour until sunset, but the current was going to keep rolling out until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. that night. Besides, he was in deep water just outside a shark-filled inlet. Not a good place to swim at dusk.

I've seen a lot of cool things in this sport, but this was the one time that I saw a kiteboarder take action that prevented a sure drowning. I figured I would share the story with the rest of you and hope that you get a good vibe from it. This was not a hair-raising rescue, but somebody didn't lose a loved one that day because Philthy suspected that a total stranger might be in trouble and did something about it.
Reply With Quote