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Old 09-12-2005, 09:47 PM
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ricki ricki is offline
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Default 8. Incredible High Wind & Sea Rescue in Australia

Here is a fascinating story from Australia from almost a year ago. Apologies for the slow surfacing but it should be worth the wait.
Some acts and stories are timeless, I believe this one falls in with that lot.

Looking small in a huge running sea.*

It is a story of a true waterman, Mark Barnett of New South Wales, OZ. He is an easy going, capable hand in the water in waves or high wind. A story of some of his remarkable high wind (50 to 55 kt.), exploits such as shown above will be passed along in a subsequent post. Mark is a low key guy and isn't prone to talk about himself so this came about after a couple of calls and several emails. I suspect some of this might even embarrass him, my apologies but it is a great story and should be told all the same! Special thanks to Rob Smallwood for putting me in touch with Mark and for the excellent images* and background information. Also, thanks to Trant for his detailed writeup about the incident.

Mark boosting with a kite.*

Mark's brother, Steve Barnett, Olympic Diver.

Checking around online, Mark and family have been shaking things up on and over the water in a big way for decades. His brother Steve shown above, won a bronze medal in the Athens Olympics last year for synchronized spring board diving. His mother was also on the Australia Olympic Diving Team and father a prominent diving coach and industry leader.

Windgraph from

October 28, 2004 was a strong wind day off Manly just north of Sydney, Australia, averaging about 15 to 25 kts. but with higher gusts not shown in the windgraph. The wind station is to the south of the riding area. The winds were southerly whipping over land and tall buildings before blasting over the bay causing it to be very gusty beyond what appears in the wind plot.

The Queenscliff bombie or Bombora was going off. The bombie is a underwater promentory covered with 2 to 5 m of water at high tide. When large deep water waves come across the Pacific they shoal suddenly over the bombie creating some remarkable large waves. The spot is famous with surfers including the tow-in variety.

The afternoon of October 28, 2004 was BIG, check it out 12 m or 40 ft. waves measured by the buoy off Stanton to the south. So, it was probably at least that big on the bombie. The winds became stronger and gustier as the afternoon, 30 kts. plus, wore on. Perfect time to throw a rider on the bombie and rip loose!

Manley is shown along the shore with Queenscliff, that intimidating mass of rocks jutting into the ocean to the right. The bombie is about 750 m (2500 ft.) offshore.

A color enhanced sounding and bathymetric chart showing the bottom contours that form the Bombora.
Figures from:

Mark had launched with a 14 m kite near North Steyne near the central part of Manly beach, along with two other kiters, Troy and Darren, see map below. The seas were up to 4 m and over triple that on the Bombora. The guys ran offshore having a great time shredding in the massive swells off the bombie. Nearing sunset, Mark was ready to call it a day, Troy and Darren had already landed. As Mark was heading back to shore at North Steyne, he noticed two tow-in surfers in a jet boat just south of the bombie waving at him furiously. He rode over to see what was up. They explained that they had been tow-in surfing all day and had run out of gas!

The boat may have resembled the one shown above.

The Bombora waits, checkout the wave!

The boat was drifting towards the bombie and massive pounding surf at this time. Mark promised to go for help. He rode upwind to the North Steyne Lifesaving Club or RSL at about 1.5 km (1 mile) to the south southwest in honking strong, gusty wind. As a subsequent account will establish Mark can handle a lot of wind but he would still get yanked off his board edge and blown down at times during this trip upwind. Go ahead and run upwind against 30 kt gusting winds with a 14 m kite in 4 m seas in failing light, easy!? He arrived at the RSL and asked the clubbies for some help for the surfers.

The North Steyne Lifesaving Club

It was approaching sunset, the Lifesaving Club has rowing surfboats and a little rubber ducky with a 25 hp outboard motor. The craft have been secured for the night. Mark gathered the impression from the delay in response and expressions that they weren't excited about a rescue in the dark with a small outboard against 4 m waves.

An Oz Surf Boat in action and getting some major air?

Before they had a chance to commit one way or the other, Mark suddenly volunteered to take some gas out to the boat if they would provide a jerry can. He loped off to a nearby friend's house to borrow a backpack. He came back, put the 25 L gas can containing about 5 L of gas in the backpack, launched and rode back 1.5 km downwind to the jet boat. He arrived and found only one guy with the boat, trying to swim it further offshore to the east, without success. He yelled, "here's your gas mate." The guy said, "I don't know how to put it in the boat, the guy that owns it left!" Mark could barely communicate by yelling with all the wind and water noise. They had one surfboard between the two of them and the boat owner took it with the idea of paddling to shore to get help. He left the other guy in the boat now drifting towards a violent collision with Queenscliff about 400 m (1300 ft.) or roughly 20 minutes away in the drift.

Queenscliff rocks and seawall to the south.

Mark is still flying his kite and thinking over options. He was getting yanked up and flown around by the gusts, lulls and waves as things went on. He asks, where's the guy? The fellow points off to the northwest and that is where Mark rides off to in failing light. Fortunately, Mark spots the guy paddling towards major waves hammering against Queenscliff and a probable smashup against the rocks himself. Mark drags the guy back to the boat under kite power. The gas is put in the tank and the engine fired up as they drift quite close to Queenscliff and the wave closeout zone. The surfers promise a case of beer to Mark for his troubles and take off to the south. They were going to put the boat on the trailer at a beach down there.

Mark, now on his own, thinks about getting to shore and landing. By bringing them the gas just upwind of the Queenscliff rocks he has put himself into a hazardous position. He was just upwind of the cliffs and catching very dirty gusty wind off the rocks. The inconsistent wind was making it very hard for Mark to ride upwind to the north side of the rocks and out of danger himself. It is pretty late at this point and the light about gone. If things don't work out Mark may have a severe wave driven mauling to look forward to on the rocks for all his trouble. He tries to make just upwind of the rocks and into a beach with a seawall around a saltwater pool immediately downwind. Try as he might he gets ripped off his edge and loses his board, keeping one hand on his quick release the whole time to pull the plug on some of the power if he has to. He manages to body drag in lacerating his feet on the rocks as he goes to just south of Queenscliff.

I asked Mark what he thought the odds were of the lone surfer padding into shore without getting slammed onto the rocks, he through perhaps 50-50. The guy couldn't have paddled back out but would have only been able to ask for help. This is what Mark had already done 30 minutes earlier. As night had fallen at this point, rescue probably would have been by helicopter and likely to late to avoid the surfer and boat being hammered against Queenscliff.

Mark had lost his board, a North kiteboard, that was fairly mangled against the rocks coming in unfortunately. No worries, he MAY get a case of beer to offset his loss, yeah right. As a side note, word of this was conveyed to Mark's countryman, Shannon Best who promptly provided a new board to the "hero," quoting Shannon. Don't know if the beer ever arrived or not.

After speaking with Mark by telephone, he prepared this great Adobe pdf document to help me better understand the layout of things. It did such a nice job of depicting things that I captured the image to use here.

Shelly Beach and the concrete boat ramp along the lower right side of the beach.

Mark gets things secured and heads way down south to Shelly Beach were the surfers are to pull their boat out of the water so that he can recover the gas can and his friend's napsack.

When Mark arrived the surfers were backing down the ramp with the trailer to pull out the jet boat. The surf was running pretty good even in sheltered shelly beach. One of the surfers managed to "launch" the SUV into the waves. He did this by backing way to far towards the water when it was receded in a wave. The water came in and totally swamped the car, filling up the interior while in 2 wheel drive. The car just floated around adrift in the wave for a while. The water receded again and the car settled allowing the rider to drive up. Fortunately, the truck was rigged with a "Safari Snorkel" a gadget that allows the engine to continue to run even if it goes below water for a limited time. A saltwater bath without extensive cleaning will likely not do the engine much good however.

Snorkeling in OZ.

A shot of Mark Barnett.*

It would be good to have a guy like Mark in the area should things go south in some weather extremes. Able kiteboarders/watermen continue to make a difference out there when the going gets tough. Telling their stories is why the "Way To Go" series was started, . More stories to come so stay tuned. If you know of a story about kiteboarders making a difference please let us know or PM ricki.

Great job Mark and Good riding!*
FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi

Last edited by ricki; 12-21-2017 at 05:22 PM.
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