View Full Version : Accidents

22nd August 2007, 01:36 PM
Have you ever had a accident while you were sailing? What was your worst experience?
I personally think that windsurf (in normal conditions) is not dangerous, but my family is a llittle bit scared when I sail. Does anyone know how many people has die while sailing in the last few years?

22nd August 2007, 04:06 PM

This is an interesting thread.

I think everybody was in bigger or smaller troubles at some point when windsurfing. IMO the bigger water (open sea or large lakes) and waves the more troubles you can get into. When it's very cold you can get into troubles even on smaller waters.

I think it is very important to know and trust your equipment. And your spot. In strong wind also keep monitoring how tired you are. I wear a vest at all times (never had an issue of not being able to swim from under the sail).
And difficult situations give you experience and make you stronger, so I wouldn't avoid them at all cost.


22nd August 2007, 04:19 PM
Traffic is 1 BIG danger
- go to a place like Leucate in summer when its really crowded (some 1000 surfers). The traffic alone is dangerous, lots of -can't really surf AND whatch where the're going- types out there. Luckily not too much happens too often, but there are lots of close calls.

Radical conditions another
(like >=WF4 and big gear and big chop/waves)
(flat water and gusting in the likes of WF 2-9 (can really catch you somewhat by surprise))
- getting hurt can be real easy, just don't concentrate for a sec or 2 -> cracked rib or something else.
- seen people fall in their sails and come onshore bleading in gushes
- seen people have a second breakfast (the boom and then the bits and pieces that used to be firmly connected to their gums)
- dislocated all kind of things etc.

Introduction to Guy Cribbs Carve Gybe DVD: "Windsurfing is a dangerous sport that can be fatal"...

As soon as you start really going for it-> impact vest, boots, kneepads, helmet, facegaurd, ...

22nd August 2007, 05:46 PM
I know of a windsurfer in South Australia that disappeared a couple of years ago - all they found was a shredded sail, harness etc with some blood - presumed it was white pointer shark. Otherwise the greatest risk is damage caused by wipe outs in surf or speed runs. Many sailors now use helmets.


22nd August 2007, 06:00 PM
My fin crashed a plastic bag or bamboo caused me catapult so many times. But it'll never been your problem if you don't panic.

I got it 2 times.

First time I was so stupid. I just fell without crashing and I let go my boom then escaped toward the top of the 10sq.m. sail. So you can imagine, it's 4 meters distance instead of 1 meter if I escaped the side way.

Second time was a hard crash. It was very windy and I was pushing it hard trying to beat 2 of my friends, then my fin crashed with a big plastic bag and I was thrown through my sail and end up covered by the sail. My harness line was twisted and lie across a batten so it's very hard to un-hook. I was a bit panick and push it like crazy trying to unhook it coz I cannot hold my breath anymore. Then I found an air bag under my sail enough to breath just one time. I stopped panick finally and found that it's actually very easy to unhook and swim out.

I crashed so many time after that but I've never been panic since then and found that it's actually very easy to escape doesn't matter how hard I crashed it.

So I think the most important thing is "Don't panic" and you'll be safe.


22nd August 2007, 09:20 PM
in cabarete i was just initiating a gybe , i had looked around to see if the coast was clear and there was this guy to leeward of me bearing off on a broad reach so I headed up to bleed some speed off and clear this guy ,
I pulled my back foot out of ther strap and this guy who i though was below and clear was right there, i would have hit him.
i turned up hard and then off again and tyhe guy was still right there !!! a gust hit and being on broad reach ,i pitched over the front of the board front foot in ... the pain was agonizing, i was over the fornt of the board , my foot still in the strap...finally the board flipped over.
i headed to the beach popped a few advil and iced my foot, i contunied to sail but was very sore.
months later when the swelling in my foot went away , my knee started bothering me and it hasnt gone away i figure i may have torn ligaments on my foor but i also affected the cartilage in my knee



22nd August 2007, 10:38 PM

Depends on what normal is and how hard you push yourself.

Surf sailing & freestyle can have risks, but recreational lake or sea sailing is pretty safe if there isn't much boat traffic and the weather is good (not too cold or too windy). 90% of my windsurfing injuries have occured on the beach (flying / loose sails, sharp objects, rocks, etc.)

Never anything on the water that caused me to miss any sailing except one day for a sprained ankle at the Columbia River gorge 22 years ago. Been sailing and racing for 24 years, averaging about 50 days a year on the water.

22nd August 2007, 11:35 PM
i've been sailing for a while and i've never seen any windsurf injure themselves badly, i've seen a kitesurfer have to be taken in an ambulance once but i dont think it was too serious. I find even in really bads wipeouts i never do more than just the odd bruise, mainly i find equipment breaks more than poeple, e.g my brother breaking 2 booms in 3 sessions after a few bad catapults. for me number 1 cause of injury is slicing feet on the fins!!! pain! however windsurfing really is an "as dangerous as you make it" sport.

23rd August 2007, 12:33 AM
i once dislocated my ankle form foward and crashing bad with foot in strap.. :S

23rd August 2007, 06:42 AM
One time I was sailing in unfamiliar waters going over some rocks. Turned out the wave swell was so large that as I was planing the rocks sucked dry. In a flash I was at planing speed over dry rock. Needless to say I went over the handle bars onto the rocks. Cracked a rib. But the worst part was it was just off the beach with a bunch of people watching.....

23rd August 2007, 10:06 AM
On my local beach there are a lot of sharp rocks underneath. I got small cuts almost every weekend. Sometimes it's a bit painful. Especially when it's low tide. Some guys here wear shoes. I wore it sometimes but I think I like it better without shoes, so I just don't mind the cuts. Healing my wound through the week like a lion waiting for the next hunting session keeps me awake and gives me energy for the weekdays.

23rd August 2007, 03:50 PM
Hi Tony,

Try with ATAN boots, i use it allways after stay 1 month without sail because a cut. ATAN isnt the stronger boots, but it give you a barefoot fealing, and let you go for the straps easily.



24th August 2007, 02:42 AM
Serious accidents are rare in WS but as I know to my cost they do happen.
I broke 2 vertebrae in my neck in a bailed out (bigish) jump gone wrong. (landed on head back on board)Typical really ;only thing for miles around and I land head first back on board !
I`ve also broken 2 ribs.(Hit my own fin; again during a "sort" of jump).
There are risks in everything.Bear them in mind but dont let them affect your enjoyment.
Know your limits.(I didnt !) And stay within them. Get good reliable kit. Make your own decisions about going out.Helmet ? I wasn`t wearing one ??Not sure it would have helped; it might have?

Enjoy the sport. If you aren`t enjoying it go home.
There is an ego thing about sailing in rough/windy conditions.Ignore it.
The sports about having fun!
Take care.

24th August 2007, 04:35 AM
I've seen a guy compress his spine while downhauling (rigging) his sail on the beach, we had pack his gear away for him and he was taken away in an ambulance. Poor guy didn't even get to the water. Haven't seen him since.

24th August 2007, 05:32 AM
WHAAAA you cant be serious!!!


24th August 2007, 07:37 AM
WHAAAA you cant be serious!!!


seriously - changed my whole approach to downhauling!

24th August 2007, 04:50 PM
Well, I can tell that windsurf is a dangerous sport!
First of all i can give u a list of my friends accidents, wich have occured while windsurfing:
2003 strained knee joint (r): 8 weeks off
2003 achilles contusion: 4 weeks off
2004 spinal injury: 4 weeks off
2004 strained shoulder: 2 weeks off
2004 strained knee joint (l): 6 weeks off
2004 crashed headfirst: lots of cold sweat
2005 2x back injury: 10 weeks off
2005 strained elbow joint: 1 week off

And lately here in Estonia, a windsurfer died :(
He froze to death, he wore a lycra shirt and shorts, it wasn't very windy, but the water was around 18-20 degrees

24th August 2007, 05:41 PM
Well, I surf a lot in waves and with speed and crash a lot.
Many times nothing happens and usually i walk / swim away from a crash. I only once ruined a sail by jumping through it after catapulting at some height. And ruined some booms because of crashing into them. I had some minor injuries with footsoles (cuts), legs, arms, fingers and lots of brushes.

Last year I had a major accident. Windspeed 25 knots, overpowered with 6.9 sail, Ftype 158, speed on gps reaching 30 knots, hitting a small wave, crashed into the boom and into the board. Resulted in a damaged spine and dislocated arm. I didn't feel the spine, only started to really hurt when I was back on the beach. And luckely my arm snapped back after a few seconds so I was able to pull myself together and get back to shore. Could have resulted in tragedy because I was a long way from shore and the weather and water was cold. Took me a half year to recover and some more months to sail again with speed without fear.

25th August 2007, 03:06 AM
does anyone know how many camera men get hit in these waves places where you see loads of them bobbing around, surely they must get hit sometimes?

27th August 2007, 06:44 PM
First off:

Many years ago (15) I was sailing along when I spotted some shallows straight ahead, having lost many fins in this lake I though bailing out was the best option. I landed in the shallows and the sail promptly landed on top of me, pinning me under water against the shallows. I struggled for quite some time trying to get out but the sail had both the wind and water holding it down, I had no chance. I eventually had to take a breath and duly did so, of water. Just after that, by shear luck, the sail blew off me and I came up spluttering and very shaken. Of course when I told the guys back on shore how close it was, they just didn't quite get it.

Now for the recent bizarre one:

Speed sailing along at 37kts I lost it in the chop and had a very scary slow down. I eventually came off while still doing around 30kts in a very manageable wipe out, I ended up under the sail with my head through the harness line!!! I got out no problem but how the bloody hell did I manage to get my head through the harness line?

On whether windsurfing is dangerous, no, it's adventurous and carries an element of danger but it is by no means an extreme dangerous sport.

That is unless you're:

Wavesailing monsters or
Sailing in very cold conditions at the limit of your abilities, alone or
Generally ignoring common sense in your sailing.

Walking down the street is dangerous if you close your eyes, windsurfing is not an inherently dangerous sport.

Motocross is, BASE jumping is, free climbing is, streetluging is, freediving is... Windsurfing is not.

30th August 2007, 01:27 AM

Unfortunately, I know this 2 accidentes involving 2 people.
One guy hit a catamaran at full speed with his FW when sailing in 20 knots conditions. The sun was falling and there was the usual glare......no one see each other untill too late. Fortunately the catamaran sailor helped and recued the FW sailor who broke his pelvis. He quit sailing. He was well known at the NP forum (when there was one) under the nick name of Sidao.
Another guy I know was run over by a speed boat whose driver did not stop to help. He was lucky that a service boat from a local windsurf clube was near the place and collected and saved him from drowning. He had serious cut at his back and had to be transported by helicopter to a better hospital than the one near the accident place. I do not know of him as late but I know he survived.

30th August 2007, 03:09 AM
Hmm... Accidents. I'll set aside the stupid things I've done -- like heading out to sail 5 minutes before a thunderstorm/hailstorm arrived.

If people worry about hitting the mast, no matter what skill level, just wear a helmet.

For beginners, you can't get into too much trouble... I think the worst thing that happened to me was getting 'stuck' under the sail and trying to take a breath. Of course, once you have your wits about you again, getting out of that situation is easy.

For most advanced sailors, there isn't much you can't avoid by wearing a helmet and impact vest (ie, neoprene life vest). I do know of people who have gotten their feet stuck in the foot straps and have torn their ACL etc up during falls, but I've never experienced anything that severe in the 25 years I've been sailing.

Right now, I'm nursing some bruised ribs after messing up a duck jibe. If I had been wearing my wakeboard neoprene vest, this would have been a non-event. Of course, this won't stop me from sailing this weekend.

Everyone has different safety tolerances. I've made the (recent) decision to use a helmet in 4.8 (and smaller) conditions. This has served me well -- I have avoided at least concussion opportunities this year as a result. Also, it allows me to push the envelope when sailing instead of being cautious to avoid an injury.

I know people who take a cell phone with them in a waterproof bag. They wear US Coast Guard Approved life preservers. They wear helmets. They have extra downhaul/outhaul line in case they need it. I can't fault them for being careful, but I have never felt the need to go to such lengths.


30th August 2007, 03:30 PM
the main thing is not to panic, one of the worst things that can happen if the sail lands clew first on your head and you foot is stuck in the strap or when your foot gets stuck in the foot strap and ur harness line gets twisted

31st August 2007, 01:24 AM
o2bnme makes an excellent point about using a helmet to mitigate the chance of a head injury. Frankly, I always wear a Gath helmet windsurfing, regardless of sail size used. I know that many view wearing a helmet as being uncool and avoid the use of one at all costs. However, they do so at their risk. Most of the time, the helmet isn't needed, but there are those infrequent times where they can make a big difference. Kind of like wearing a seatbelt while driving.

31st August 2007, 06:03 AM
In a past life I used to leap off cliffs for kicks and one of the gear manufacturers gave me some great advice.

You might not look too cool wearing a helmet while jumping but you'll look a damn sight cooler than you will after an accident without a helmet with drool dribbling down your chin.

Once I feel I am sailing on the edge and want to push it that bit further than I'm sure I can handle, I put on my Gath.

Moral of the story, sail within your abilities and when you want to push it, wear whatever protection you feel you need. Of course if you want to take risks in a different way to me, that's your choice too.

31st August 2007, 09:56 AM
until i looked at the price, sure ya get what you pay for, and with the gath well its a nice lid, but i wear an old cycling helmet if things really ramp up,


31st August 2007, 10:00 AM
In a past life I used to leap off cliffs for kicks and one of the gear manufacturers gave me some great advice.

You might not look too cool wearing a helmet while jumping but you'll look a damn sight cooler than you will after an accident without a helmet with drool dribbling down your chin.

Once I feel I am sailing on the edge and want to push it that bit further than I'm sure I can handle, I put on my Gath.

Moral of the story, sail within your abilities and when you want to push it, wear whatever protection you feel you need. Of course if you want to take risks in a different way to me, that's your choice too.

With all due respect, I have looked into watersports helmets such as the Gath helmet. The ANSI criteria is that such helmets have impact protection for about 12 knots. The reason for this is that kayaking whitewater class 5 is estimated at a maximum of 12 knots. When I contacted the folks at the Snell foundation (a helmet rating organization), and explained my interest in a helmet for windsurfing at velocities of 20-30 knots, with a "worst-case" scenario of two windsurfers colliding head-on with an impact velocity of up to ~50 knots, they did not think that ANY watersports helmets provided sufficient protection. I asked what they recommended, they didn't have a recommendation; when I suggested a snowboarding style helmet, they thought that was as good a choice as any. That is what I use.

Some comments / concerns have been raised about water "catching" the EPS-cushioned design and putting a lot of torque on the head. I haven't had a problem so far. You might think that a head-on collision seems improbable, and I thought so too, until one day in Hatteras I was sailing along in uncrowded conditions and a sailor on the opposing tack (he on starboard, I downwind of him on port) suddenly got catapulted and his mast tip impacted the water about 1 foot from my rail at the front footstrap. Getting hit in the head, chest, or abdomen by a mast tip at 40 knots of closing speed would almost certainly be fatal.

Obviously, I think it's a very low-likelihood event. But I no-longer think it is a no-likelihood event. In my view, the Gath helmets are not adequate for windsurfing.

31st August 2007, 05:05 PM
Quite a few people were Gath helmets skydiving to prevent possible injury on landings, the speeds on landings would always exceed 12 knots. I personally have had a Gath save my life once when I landed poorly, head first into a fence post, stood up dazed but fine.

Whenever the debate is raised about sufficient protection, the answer always is that only motorcycle helmets provide full protection, need I comment on using one of them windsurfing.

Gath's may not provide total protection but they are a damn sight better than a bare skull.

10th September 2007, 06:39 PM
...a very tragic and fatal accident happened this weekend in the south-west of Sweden... I guess they still do not know if it was injury- or sickness related, since the guy was out on his own. Even though I am not from the area nor did I know him, but he was still a fellow windsurfer, and my thoughts are with his family.

12th September 2007, 12:54 AM
In May 2005 I went out on my Carve 111 wood (great board!) It was a perfect day - force 4-5 with only 12-18inch high chop, generally pretty flat, side shore winds. I'd been out for an hour & was getting some decent chop hops in. Then I got a nice floatly one, but half way through there was a 'bang' from the back end of the boom - the sail suddenly went very full which drove the nose of the board down.....& I did not bail out quick enough - as the board entered the water near vertically, & with all my weight going through my front (right) leg & not being able to take any force via the boom, I felt my ankle break.....& the force of teh impact had wedged my foot hard into the strap. As my body entered the water I grabbed hold of my heel & pulled my foot out of teh strap - damage was done though - I did not realise it at the time, but my foot had dislocated & was pointing outwards & backwards (at 4 o'clock position with dead ahead being 12 o'clock). I was a mile out - one a perfect day - a couple of fellow windsurfers sailed over to me - one towed my rig back, the other went to raise the alarm on the beach - I self rescued, paddling in on my board bending my lower leg at the knee to keep my bad foot out of the drag of the water. I did not dare look or touch it until I was safe on the beach.

My ankle was pinned & plated, but the real damage was to the soft tissue around the front of the ankle which had all been torn away from the bone. A ligament on the inside of the ankle had also become detached from the foot bone - the ligament was fine, but the bone it attached to had broken away so this had to be relocated & attached back to my foot too. The surgeon told me after the op that it was one of the worst, if not the worst, ankle injury he had worked on - he said that at point point in the two hour op he had both sides of my ankle opened up (approx 5 inch cuts on either side) with the skin being pulled back with clamps & he could have poked his finger from one side to the other underneath the soft tissue.

I was not allowed to put any weight on it for 6 weeks & had to go through 2 further ops to remove the hardware later in 2005 & then in late 2006.

I did not windsurf for the rest of 2005.

I spent most of 2006 trying to regain confidence windsurfing - I was, & still am, surprised at the psychological impact. I can't say that my windsurfing is back to normal yet either.

The op to remove the plate & remianing hardware in Nov 2006 was more intrusive than I expected too, with another spell of no load, but this did not stop me snow skiing in March 07.

I must finish by saying that this was my first significant windsurf injury in about 25 years of windsurfing - but the real scary bit was how easily it happened in conditions which were far from extreme, I could have understood & maybe accepted the accident if I had been pushing my own boundaries or been in 'survivial' conditions - but it wasn't even close, maybe I was lucky that I could self rescue so easily with no shore dump to worry about.

........but its still a great sport!