Stranded Kitesurfer Uses Third-Generation Apple Watch to Call for Help

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Here’s an interesting story of how technology and outdoor adventure continue to merge in unique ways. Filmmaker John Zilles was recently kitesurfing off the coast of California near Ventura when he found himself in a difficult situation that could have turned life-threatening. But, thanks to his new Apple Watch Series 3 he was able to call for assistance, even though he didn’t have his phone on him at the time.

A kitesurfer for more than 20 years, Zilles recently adopted the technique of adding a hydrofoil to the bottom of his board to help push him further off the water. While still mastering this technique, he wiped out more than a mile from shore, tumbling roughly into the water. To make matter worse the kite lost momentum and came plummeting down as well. Without any way to get the kite back in the air, the 49-year old found himself stranded in waters that are frequented by great white sharks with a long swim ahead of him.

Zilles says he tried for 20 minutes to get the kite back in the air, but to no avail. So, he started to collect all of his gear and began thinking about his long slog back into shore. It was then that he glanced at his new Apple Watch and remembered that it could make phone calls, even without an iPhone.

When Apple revealed the Series 3 back in September, its main selling point was that it has onboard LTE networking, freeing from the need to carry a phone with you wherever you go. The device can receive text messages, make calls, send alerts, and more, all without the need to be tethered to another mobile device. It was then that Zilles decided to call the harbor patrol and see if they could lend him a hand.

The harbor patrol immediately dispatched a boat, but asked the kiteboarder to give them a call once again when he spotted them on the water. 15 minutes later, he saw them, placed the call, and helped direct them to his location. A short time after that, he was out of the water and safely on his way back to shore.

Sometimes we lament the fact that technology has become so pervasive in our lives. But then there are times like this when you realize what great tools these devices can be. Glad to hear that Zilles came out of this okay and kudos to him for his quick thinking when using his new gadget.

Kraig Becker