Kite Surfer Uses Rocks to Save Himself on Northern California Beach

By: David Donovan | Published: Jun 11, 2024

Firemen came to the rescue of a lost kite surfer in northern California after the man used rocks to signal for aid.

The surfer wrote “HELP” on rocks on Davenport Landing Beach, northwest of Santa Cruz, according to a Facebook post about the Sunday rescue by Cal Fire’s San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit.

Helicopter Help

A private helicopter recognized the man from the air and his message and called 911, the organization said.

Red helicopter in the sky

Unsplash user Isaac Benhesed

The man was airlifted off the beach and was reported to be in good health, but he needed to be flown off the beach.


Statement from Fire Captain

According to California Department of Forestry Fire Captain Skylar Merritt, who spoke with the Los Angeles Times, “That was a different type of 911 call than we usually get.” 

California Dept. of Forestry "Super Huey", formerly an UH-1H, assigned to the Bieber Helitack crew, takes off from the Mojave Airport

Wikimedia Commons user Alan Radecki

Merritt went on to say: “At the very least, the helicopter that spotted him made it much quicker, where he didn’t have to worry about hypothermia or dehydration.”

Difficult Weather

Merritt let the paper know that the rescued man was an accomplished windsurfer however circumstances in the water turned out to be uncommonly difficult.

Shark Tooth Rock at Davenport (or San Vicente) Beach at sunset with people on the beach and birds flying.

Flickr user Elaine with Grey Cats

In 2021, three fatalities occurred within a three-mile radius that included Davenport Landing. At the time, Cal Fire officials posted a safety alert on social media.

Dangers of Wind Surfing

The fact that you only need a breeze to propel the enormous sail that is attached to your surfboard rather than a boat to propel you across ocean waters is one of the benefits of windsurfing.

man surfing on top waves at sunset

Unsplash user George Desipris

The unfortunate thing about the hobby is that when the breeze bites the dust — or is shielded by great bluffs — you may very well need a boat to return to where you began.

Dire Circumstances

One well-versed windsurfer ended up caught in that lamentable scenario and compelled to take shelter on a distant Santa Cruz County beach Sunday evening with no real way to get his sail and board back moving.

California coast, 10 miles North of Santa Cruz, CA, USA at sunset showing cliffs and sea.

Wikimedia Commons user Adorabutton

He quickly found himself stranded between massive oceanside cliffs and a rising tide meaning he had no way out.


Lifeguard Intervention

California State Parks lifeguards had the option to swim around to the beach, making contact with the man — deciding he was physically ok, yet truly stuck, Merritt said. 

Beach at sunset showing the rolling waves and cliffs in the distance

X user CAStateParks

The unidentified windsurfer was stranded about 200 feet above firefighters when they arrived at the top of the bluffs.


Swift Rescue

Merritt said the man was spotted within a couple of hours of being stranded on the beach, making for a less complex rescue effort.

Skylar Merritt talking with young boy about fighting fires in a swimming pool area.


The multi-agency rescue team decided that it would be best to remove the man from the beach because of the conditions of the surf and the rising tide. 


Tactics for Extraction

Merritt claimed that they carried out a “static pick,” which involved attaching the man to rescue equipment that had been dropped from the helicopter and propelling the aircraft to a height above the bluffs where support teams were waiting for him.

Beach viewed from cliffs with some fog in the background and waves coming in.


According to Merritt, the man was an experienced windsurfer, but the conditions that day became extremely challenging, even for someone with sharp skills and familiarity with the region.


Harsh Conditions

“It was a combination of decent size surf and what they call a wind shadow,” Merritt said, which he portrayed as the condition when bluffs block the ocean from the breeze, diminishing windsurfers’ capacity to control their boards.

Firetruck on a highway overlooking the coast and beach with hills in the background.


He went on to say: “It can be a hard area to predict what the conditions are, with conditions changing very, very fast.” 


Rescue Relief

At the point when he was spotted on the shore, the man was exceptionally invigorated, sending a signal to the private helicopter that he later laughed may have given a misleading impression, Merritt said.

Firefighters posing in front of a helicopter for a training exercise.


Merritt stated, “He felt very lucky when he first saw the helicopter, and he gave them a thumbs up. He was so happy to see them, … [but] he wasn’t exactly sure that communicated he needed help.”


Emergency Help

Fortunately, however, the helicopter pilot called 911 and returned with additional assistance for the stranded windsurfer.

Helicopter taking off on a tropical island with the beach and ocean visible.

Unsplash user James Coleman

Merritt stated, “It turned out well and we’re really lucky we have all our partnering agencies who made it such a quick and successful operation.”

Water sports enthusiasts should be cautious then of adverse conditions before heading out to the waves in the coming summer months.