SADDENED members of a close-knit kitesurfing community have spoken out after the shock death of one of their own.
The 51-year-old, who has yet to be named, was from Hayling Island, and died after an incident at the weekend.
The grandfather, who had been kitesurfing for three years, was described as a lovely, friendly pillar of the community with a big heart, and a big family.
Friend Chris Bull runs the CBK Hayling Island Kitesurf School and Club and is the manager of safety at West Beach.
He said: ‘Ultimately what happened was down to adverse weather conditions, but we don’t yet actually know the cause of my friend’s death.’
Mr Bull, who is not naming his friend at the man’s family’s request, added: ‘On the day he died, the weather was very up and down, and when he went out on the water it was sunny and conditions to kitesurf were perfect.
‘The man was good at the sport and was very safety conscious and sensible.
‘He went out every single day – what happened is rare and a complete shock.
‘On this particular day he went out with an 11m kite, pretty standard for the conditions, but the wind speed quickly increased from 16 to 31 knots.
‘Still, he remained in control and was conscious enough to activate his kite’s safety system, but by the time the kitesurfer who rushed to help reached him, he was face down in the water.
‘People on the beach told me the cloud was quite far away when its violent effects hit, he might have seen it or he might not have.’
Mr Bull says the man’s death could have been caused by a number of things, like cold water shock.
The 51-year-old was a fisherman, and was a member of both the public and private Hayling Island surfing clubs.
Chris added: ‘There were 10 to 15 other kitesurfers out that day and as a community we want to know what happened.
‘This is the first fatality we’ve had at Hayling – one of the safest places to kitesurf in the UK. Between April and October every year I work on the beach controlling safety and doing rescues.
‘My heart bleeds because if this had happened one month later we might have been able to get to him more quickly.
‘The RNLI did a fantastic job though and got there within 12 minutes of being called, as did the kitesurfer who brought him to shore.
‘My friend was a real sea dog, always brought me coffee on the beach, just a lovely, lovely guy.
‘His family are devastated and so are we as a sporting community.’
RNLI crews from Hayling and Portsmouth were called, and the man was airlifted to Queen Alexandra Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Martin Evans is chairman of the Hayling Island Kitesurfing Association.
He said: ‘Our thoughts are with the friends and family of the deceased.
‘This loss of life is a great one to the local kitesurfing community. Those at the scene reported the RNLI reacted incredibly quickly. A rescue helicopter was also involved. Sadly this didn’t save the man, but every attempt was made, and we can only thank everyone who went above and beyond in trying to change the outcome.’