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Offshore wind warning for kayakers

27 November 2013

Ferocious winds along the Fleurieu Peninsula are catching kayakers off guard resulting in abandoned vessels and desperate swims for shore.

The geography of the area can create wind that’s impossible to paddle against, SA Sea Rescue Squadron Wirinna Flotilla Leader Phil Richards said.

“Last summer we pulled a guy out of the water who was lucky to have survived,” he said.

“Together with his partner he’d set off at 9pm to paddle from Rapid Bay to a nearby inlet to camp.”

“Once they got past the jetty the wind was so strong it started forcing them out to sea. The partner abandoned the trip and paddled back to shore to raise the alarm.

“We pulled the exhausted male out of the water some 800 metres off shore at about 12.15am. He’d started to show signs of hypothermia and spent the rest of the night in hospital.

“Fortunately he recovered but was very lucky.”

The winds, which can be stronger than 40 knots, are caused by the nearby hills. The cooler temperature makes the air heavier, which starts it on a downhill roll.

By the time it gets out on the water it can be four times as strong as the wind speed predicted for Adelaide.

In another incident last summer a kayak made it across Gulf St Vincent from Rapid Bay to Troubridge Shoal (near Edithburgh) after a paddler abandoned it on a windy day.

“It doesn’t seem that windy on the beach but it’s usually a lot stronger on the water,” said Phil.

“But by the time you feel the full force of the wind it can be too difficult to paddle back in against it.”

The offshore winds can be particularly strong north of Cape Jervis, including popular spots such as Normanville, Wirrina, Myponga Beach, Yankalilla, Rapid Bay and Carrickalinga.

The kayak safety reference guide suggests always checking conditions before taking to the water, including getting some local knowledge if possible.

Tips for safe kayaking:
• check the weather before going out from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and seek local knowledge
• stay alert for signs of approaching bad weather
• tell someone where you are going
• paddle in a group
• check the wind strength guide

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