Wanted to have a discussion on techniques of self-rescue / foil rescue when getting caught in a fishing net while hydro-foiling.
While the topic is a bit fringe, it is a real issue, especially in Asia, where we often kite in less explored parts of world or locations where fishing is still a way of life for many locals.
Earlier this year a kitesurfer died in Hua Hin while tangling in a fishing net. There were other incidents, non fatal where either lives were in danger or equipment lost due to the tangle.
Last weekend, I myself experienced a kitemare related to fishing net and that prompted this post. Let's discuss..
I was riding about 500 meters offshore in a bay in Indonesia. I was the only kitesurfer in a bay and things were going just great. There were a few fishermen buoys around the bay, which I carefully avoided getting near. I was riding totally in the clear of anything that would indicate a fishing net, when I hit something soft. I thought it was a fish or a jellyfish and tried to body drug to the board. The board behaved strangly and did not move as expected. Only when I finally managed to get close, I realised it was a long net, probably drifting slowly (or not.. ) in the bay and it was extending downward but not visible from the top of the water. My foil was really stuck there..
I attempted to get my foil free only to get my foot stuck in the net, which gave me shivers.. I struggled and with one hand (while still flying a kite) to get myself free..
I body drag away from the net to think about what to do next. I then decided to attempt this again from another side of the net..
Second attempt, got my foot stuck again in the net, this time quite badly.. I tried and could not free myself from the net while still flying a kite. during my struggle (with a bit of panic building up), the kite went into a loop and I was really yanked by the kite, while my foot still stuck in the net.. I guess it was lucky as something gave and my foot was free again. Thanks to booties on my foot, I had no cut on my foot. But my bootie had some damage and my ankle as slightly strained.
At this moment, I decided to abandon my board and body drag to the beach and seek help. The beach actually a spot for local Indonesian families to go sun bathing and there is a station with life guards and kayaks. To make the story short, I was able to convince guys on a beach to lend me a kayak and a knife and I was able to bring my board back.
So, lucky ending to this story.
Once back in my hotel, I thought hard about what happened and how would I deal with the situation if I could not free my foot and how could one retrieve the board from a net without a luxury of having a kayak or outside help. If you are far off-shore, having a board with you could be a difference between survival or not.
Here are my thoughts:
1. I had a kite knife for cutting kite-lines with me. But many harnesses don't come with it anymore and also, the net can be strong and a kite-line knife may not be a suitable tool.
So I thought that having a real serious knife attached to your ankle or hand may not be a bad idea for any foiler.
2. The biggest issue when trying to free a board from a net is the fact you need to fly a kite while doing it.. Freeing a board with one hand is almost impossible and in my case, no way it could be done.. The board was really really stuck there.
One solution is to drop the kite and let it drift in hopes of recovering it later or even losing it in favour of saving a foil. with two hands, there are more chances one can free the foil by themselves. and with foil being much more expensive typically than a kite, it may be a way to go if a swim is short and the kite is old. But I did not want to abandon my kite as the swim was quite long and I was already tired from a session and struggle with the net.
It occured to me later, that solution for a kite was probably quite simple.. I could have dropped the kite on downwind side of the net and attach a chicken loop to the net itself!!
This is ONE idea I want to share here as potential solution for a situation like this. By attaching a kite to a net, it can't just drift away and it gives one more mobility and both hands free to do the work with your kite knife.
Now, have any of you on this board were caught in a fishing net with your foil or body?
What are your techniques for self-rescue and recovery of the gear?
If anything, let this post serve to raise awareness of this potential issue. Fishing nets could be anywhere and they are invisible aside from hopefully some floats around them.
Stay safe and pay attention to your surroundings. Its easy to be relaxed and amazed when you are foiling, but the dangers are always there and can't be ignored without consequences.
Cheers all and looking forward to your ideas and experiences with being stuck in a net at sea