A Toronto man kiteboarding in Lake Erie Monday is being credited with saving a woman’s life. Mark Bowser, 40, was out on the water near Augustine beach in Wainfleet shortly before 3 p.m. Monday when he noticed people on the beach frantically waving their arms.
“I finally realized that I’d better go see what’s going on,” he said. “I started heading in towards shore.”
He saw a woman struggling to keep her head above water among the waves, after being pulled out from shore by the rip tide.
The same windy conditions that were ideal for kiteboarding Monday also made the beach dangerous for swimmers, “and I guess the current dragged her out.”
He said the unidentified 37-year-old woman was yelling “Help! Help!” as he approached her.
“She was so tired, I don’t know what would have happened,” he said.
Bowser pulled the exhausted woman on his board and headed to shore using the kite to pull them both to the safety of the beach.
“It was lucky I was there, and lucky I saw her,” he said.
By the time he carried her to safety, he said she was too exhausted to even stand up.
Karry Clarkson, from Lewiston N.Y., was on the beach as Bowser came pulled the woman to safety. He said there’s a strong undertow at the beach, and “it starts pulling you out and you just get exhausted.”
Clarkson said he watched as the kiteboarder surfed into shore, holding onto the kite with his left hand, while wrapping his right arm around the swimmer.
“In the meantime, the fire department and police showed up and they were over on the rocks waiting for her. They didn’t even get wet. The kiteboarder brought her right into shore,” he said.
“Kiteboarders, thank God for them, eh.”
Wainfleet fire Chief Harry Flagg said the swimmer is safe and healthy because of the actions of the kiteboarder.
Although emergency workers were on scene to pull the woman from the water, “it was Mark who did the pulling,” he said.
Flagg said paramedics transported the woman to Welland hospital, “just for observation.”
Bowser was at the beach with several other kiteboarders, including Burlington resident Kristian Wolf and Dirk Bylsma from Hamilton.
“We were just talking last week about how kiteboarders are probably the best at saving swimmers, when they get pulled out. We can get into these waves. A boat can’t get into that,” he said.
Bowser said he has been kiteboarding for about eight years, and travels to the beaches on Lake Erie about twice a week during the summers because it offers better conditions for the sport.