UPDATE: Water-rescue response off Beach Drive; kitesurfer found safe

11:06 AM: Seattle Fire is sending a water-rescue response by land and sea to the 5000 block of Beach Drive SW, for a report of a kitesurfer possibly in distress “about 50 feet offshore.” Updates to come.”

11:13 AM: Avoid the area since multiple emergency vehicles are blocking Beach Drive in that area [map]. They haven’t spotted the person yet but are told to look for someone with a “black wetsuit and lime-green kite.”

11:21 AM: SFD has made contact with the kitesurfer, who is safely out of the water at Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook (across from Me-Kwa-Mooks), and they’ll be dismissing most responding units.

33 Replies to "UPDATE: Water-rescue response off Beach Drive; kitesurfer found safe"

  • Not an adrenaline junky November 15, 2021 (11:43 am)

    There have been at least three emergency responses for kite surfers off of Beach Drive in the past 1-2 months. One case resulted in a search by a Coast Guard helicopter and two boats (fire department and SPD).  Who foots the bill for these false alarm search and rescue attempts?  Is it reasonable for kite surfers to put themselves at others at risk during severe weather events like we are experiencing today?

    • Jort November 15, 2021 (12:31 pm)

      Who foots the bill? Probably the same people who foot the bills incurred when drivers speed their automobiles up and down Seattle’s streets (for whatever personal reasons they have) and end up in disastrous, costly crashes that take lives and damage property far more frequently than kite-surfing. I suppose you could also ask, “Is it reasonable for people to be allowed to drive automobiles that can go 120 mph on Seattle City Streets when they put themselves and others at risk?”

      • NOT AN ADRENALINE JUNKY November 15, 2021 (12:53 pm)

        Hi Jort. I think you may be trying to change the topic, but let’s go with your comparison.  If I want to drive a car in Seattle, I need insurance that would help cover the cost of any emergency response.  If I  put myself and others at risk by driving ‘120 mph on Seattle City Streets’ I would be arrested and my insurance would go through the roof – assuming I could even get insurance at that point. Repeat violations would have even more sever consequences.The point I am trying to make is that the sailboarders are putting themselves and others at risk when they go out on days like today.  Shouldn’t they bear responsibility for that risk, especially when this is something that they are doing purely for entertainment purposes?

        • Jort November 15, 2021 (2:15 pm)

          What I am saying is that people tend to hyper-focus on the supposed cost to taxpayers of kite-surfer rescue attempts but almost never show even a passing concern for the astronomical, gargantuan costs that car drivers place on society, particularly in taxpayer-funded subsidies. If people were actually concerned with the “bill” for taxpayers, they would demand severe interventions to drastically lower the costs that car drivers impose on society, and not fussy themselves up about a kite-surfer in the wind. But, then again, most people are so insulated and incurious about the world that they think that the personal automobile is the single most essential element of a functioning society. So, yeah, the fire department sent out a few trucks. Big deal.

        • Hmmm November 15, 2021 (5:53 pm)

          You do not need insurance to drive. You need insurance to not get arrested if you get pulled over while driving. Big distinction. Meaning those people speeding on Seattle streets might not even have insurance.

          • Jort November 15, 2021 (6:47 pm)

            As much as I wish otherwise, police and fire don’t bill automobile insurance companies for the services they provide in managing the ongoing, repeated failures of the American automobile addiction. Maybe they should? Maybe car drivers should more directly have to pay for the costs they impose. Also, I only wish drivers were arrested for not having proof of insurance. 

      • Jason November 15, 2021 (1:05 pm)

        I have a place on Beach Drive that overlooks the sea, and I have seen a couple of kitesurfers regularly for years. I have never seen one in trouble, but they do need to rest on the water occasionally. I have never assumed that they needed help. I think the recent false alarms are from people assuming too much. Unless a kitesurfer is singaling for help, I think people need to stop calling for an emergency response. Kitesurfers should not be blamed for the assumptions of others.

      • takethelowbridge November 15, 2021 (1:37 pm)

        people drive cars to get  to work so they can have a job and pay taxes, they drive cars to take their kids to school or daycare, they drive to get groceries and essentials, especially if they are less fortunate and live in a food desert with no good options nearby. remind me again what is essential about kiteboarding again genius.also, no one drives 120mph on seattle streets. too many road diets.

        • BeNice November 15, 2021 (5:08 pm)

          Is everything you do essential?  Hikers are rescued.  Skiers are rescued. Treed cats are rescued.  Should they all pay, too?  No lawmakers seem to think so…   And the overwhelming majority on this thread, thank goodness, don’t think so. 

          • Tillmann November 15, 2021 (7:29 pm)

            What about the deputy fire chief who was recently lost in the woods during an elk hunting expedition and was the subject a search involving 60 different agencies and organizations and thousands of hours from professional and volunteer trained searchers…but, yeah, those damn kite surfers… 

        • Go gull November 15, 2021 (7:17 pm)

          A car is not truly essential for getting groceries or transporting kiddos, for the vast majority, it’s a modern luxury and comfort. Would bet the kiteboarder has a good argument for kiteboarding being essential to their happiness and joy. While a car might make aspects of life easier, they also cause regular stress, so don’t think the same argument or comparison cannot be made, by the majority.

        • bill November 15, 2021 (9:15 pm)

          If you think people don’t drive 120 mph in Seattle you’re not paying attention.

        • Travis Boothe November 16, 2021 (7:42 am)

          Wrong. Some people need to drive. Many people choose to drive unnecessarily. Many people that get in wrecks are driving non essential trips. Many people that get in wrecks drive while distracted. On their phone, under the influence… etc. Driving can do damage to more than the individual, including pedestrians, bikes, other cars, and property. They may or may not be insured, and insurance doesn’t automatically pay for the response, etc. I could go on. Nobody kills an innocent bystander because their kite goes out of control. 

    • Jeff November 15, 2021 (12:46 pm)

      Presumably the person that called it in, having made an incorrect judgement about the need for help.   I’m pretty sure that the person purportedly “in distress” hasn’t called in a single one.   Why would they be responsible for someone else’s misplaced worry?

    • Jeff November 15, 2021 (1:11 pm)

      Hi there,It was me out there…   While I appreciate people’s concern, the 911 callers are the problem here.  Fact is I was not in distress.  A quick word in the their defense, I wasn’t looking super graceful out there as the conditions were a tad challenging, but I repeat I was not in distress, I was actually having fun.Everyone reading this, please try to verify that someone is actually in distress before making the call.  Use binoculars, try to understand what is happening before you commit our first responders to unnecessary and wasteful calls.A little perspective: today’s wind was the equivalent to an average windy day in Maui or Hood River where folks flock to do these sports daily.  In those communities people understand what constitutes distress and they have turned these pastimes into a boon for their local economies.I spoke with the fire department upon return to shore and expressed concern that many people are calling in false emergencies, and asked for their advice…   They were stumped and said that they get calls every windy day.  I’m considering posting an informational video to help residents understand what we are doing out there.  FYI, I’m not an adrenaline junky either.  Risk assessment is a big part of going out in windy wavey conditions.  It would be difficult for people with zero exposure to these sport to understand.  Maybe we can help change that and save some resources.  What do you think?  Would you help me promote that video?

      • WSB November 15, 2021 (1:56 pm)

        We certainly would be interested in seeing it for a followup – TR (editor)

      • Joe Z November 15, 2021 (2:08 pm)

        Hey Jeff — did you learn to windsurf in West Seattle? Curious how one would learn this fun hobby….thanks!

        • Jeff November 15, 2021 (4:55 pm)

          Hi Joe…   I learned to Windsurf first in Long Island Sound, and then in Hood River and Maui.  You just need to buy the gear and get started, though I would recommend educating yourself and perhaps taking lessons.  Beach Drive isn’t the most hospitable spot for learning though there are several guys doing it there currently.  Wingfoiling, which is what I was doing today is a bit easier to learn, and more fun in Seattle because it requires less wind generally.  If you’re interested come down and chat up some of the guys on the next windy day.  As a group we are approachable and happy to share knowledge.  Urban Surf is a great local shop for all of the above Windsurfing, Kitesurfing, SUPing, Foiling, Winging.

      • Admiral November 16, 2021 (6:31 pm)

        We walk at the shore often and would not have any idea if someone was in trouble. If you do make a video, please let the blog know so we will be aware of what to look for in the future. 

    • herongrrrl November 15, 2021 (1:58 pm)

      Good for you that you don’t enjoy potentially dangerous recreational activities, based on your username. I for one would rather that people called in if they thought someone was in distress, because they just might be, and need EMS services. If people don’t like false alarms, maybe someone should do a better job of educating people who are new to the area and don’t know what normal water sports look like.  People call in drift logs to EMS too because they think they see a body floating in the water. Which world do you want to live in, the one where people ignore what might be people in distress?  I don’t mind my tax dollars paying to be sure they aren’t.

      • herongrrrl November 15, 2021 (5:06 pm)

        And Jeff, that was exactly my point in replying to Not an Adrenaline Junky. I live where I see you and other windsurfers out there, and from time to time I see one of you fall off your boards and watch to see if you get back up promptly or not. I don’t windsurf but I am a sailor and I know that people not familiar with different forms of on-the-water recreation may see things that aren’t a problem and think they are (and vice versa). I think a video letting folks know what to look for is a great idea, although there will always be those who don’t see it. Out of curiosity, do windsurfers use the same sign language divers do to check in with each other at the surface over a distance? That would be a handy thing to use from shore to be sure all is well.

        • Jeff November 15, 2021 (6:27 pm)

          I appreciate that herongrrrl!  We don’t have any specific sign language, but working some of this stuff out is a great idea.  I will now certainly make that video and pass it along to the West Seattle Blog Editor.

          • lamont November 15, 2021 (11:42 pm)

            Scuba divers use an OK signal.  Up close it is just the normal OK signal with your thumb and forefinger.  Further away if you have both hands free you can put up both of your arms and  put your hands together to signal an “O”.  If you don’t have one hand free then you can form an I by putting your free hand on your head.  It winds up where we usually just tap our heads lightly twice with our fist.

    • S.A. November 16, 2021 (9:19 am)

      This is what it means to live in a society. We share the cost of many services that serve the public good:  schools, firefighting, sewers, mechanisms for ensuring safe food and drugs and water (and in civilized societies, healthcare and basic income, sigh).  Rather than burdening individuals and thus making life bearable (and livable) only for the wealthy few, we all share in the costs and upkeep. “Why should I have to pay for YOU?” is the refuge of scoundrels and evil men.

  • sam-c November 15, 2021 (11:44 am)

    Thank goodness they are safe! thank you for the update.

  • Michelle November 15, 2021 (1:28 pm)

    I think we need to reassess who’s really in danger before calling 911.  Did someone see waving arms? How do we decide when to call?  Personally, you wouldn’t catch me out in the water on a day like this, but that doesn’t mean someone who enjoys it can’t be out there.   Wind water sports is a ‘do-it-at-your-own-risk’ event . Just like a cyclist has a helmet and a cell phone, water enthusiasts should have a marine radio and other protective gear.   Maybe a flare? Not sure what the appropriate safety gear is, but I think this is a great discussion. I would love to see more water sports happening on Alki. It’s fun to watch and takes a lot of athletic ability (and courage!). 

  • Community Member November 15, 2021 (7:42 pm)

    Maybe the 911 dispatch could assess whether there is an emergency? It seems they’d be more trained-up on what to look for than the average caller.

  • Marcus November 16, 2021 (4:00 am)

    Use to do a lot of windsurfing in the SF bay.  Feels like you can get up to 120MPH, but that is just a sensation. These guys are resilient and know what they are doing.  As long as there is land downwind that you can come ashore.  Yes, we do get tired and sit down and rest a bit.  They should have a flare for emergencies.  

  • Sue nagel November 16, 2021 (6:08 am)

    There are some very inexpensive ways to help reduce false reports. As simple as states requiring anyone participating in coastal waterway sports to carry a 5 mile whistle (any sport). Cities in key areas could also post signs explaining this and illustrating signs of distress and common non- distress situations. I kiteboard and outfitted my family’s gear each with safety whistles. I frequently talk about it with other kiters as well to encourage it. None have ever responded with anything but “great idea”, or “I already do”.  If all states required this, if beaches required this then gear companies will start incorporating into the year, further helping safety and education. The whistles are cheap and small.

    • Jeff November 16, 2021 (2:00 pm)

      Hi Sue!  Thanks for your input.  I know most of the fellas currently windsporting in West Seattle and we are discussing these issues on our community WhatsApp thread.  I will pass along your ideas…  Cheers.

  • K November 16, 2021 (9:22 am)

    If universal symbols for okay and not okay could be figured out (like what Lamont mentions regarding scuba diving) maybe someone could post some informational signage at the public beaches.  If you see this symbol, call for help.  If you see this symbol, we are fine.  Like that?  A public service announcement.

  • Auntie November 16, 2021 (10:18 am)

    After reading all of the above, I have to rescind comments I made about a previous kiteboarder who seemed to but did not need assistance. I commented that it seemed foolhardy for someone to be out in the severe weather, but I was uneducated on how this sport works and it seems like the severe weather is just what they need or want and most are qualified to frolic freely! Surf’s up, dude!

    • Jeff November 16, 2021 (1:55 pm)

      I appreciate that you’re willing to engage in a substantive exchange Auntie…   good on ya!  And yes what looks scary to some is a delight for us wind sport folks.

Sorry, comment time is over.