Paddler ready to return to sea a day after swimming for his life

2015-07-08 20:38

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Cape Town - Despite suffering from hypothermia after swimming for over an hour when he was knocked off his surf-ski on Tuesday, Rian Liesegang says he is ready to get back in the water.

“I have been playing in the ocean since I was a child. I am absolutely set to return,” the 41-year-old said a day after his ordeal.

Rian and his paddling partner, brother-in-law Anthony Fryer, left Fish Hoek shortly before 17:00 on Tuesday for a downwind paddle to Millers Point.

“I checked the weather and the wind was 15 to 20 knots. As it was a 12km paddle, I estimated that it would take about 50 minutes,” he told News24.

But after he had passed Millers Point near Murdoch Valley, a gust of wind knocked him off his ski.

As he attempted to untangle himself, another blast “completely knocked [him] out”.

Fryer arrived at Millers Point where he told Rian’s wife Paula, who had been waiting for their return, that he had lost sight of her husband during a squall about a nautical mile off-shore.

“I knew he would pop up as he was wearing all his safety equipment,” Paula said.

Meanwhile, an exhausted Rian was about a mile and a half off-shore.

“I managed to swim with my paddle for about 45 minutes before I released it. I was in the water for about a hour and 10 minutes,” he recalled.

“I was exhausted, but knew that if I kept swimming, I would wash up somewhere soon.”

He eventually reached the shore near the Millers Point Caravan Park.

A short distance away, Rene Mashonga, her husband Kevin and her 6-year-old nephew had been struggling with their tent after a gust of wind “nearly blew the thing away”.

“We had our bakkie’s lights on so that we could see what we were doing when Rian approached us asking for help,” she said.

“I initially thought he was drunk because he wasn’t speaking clearly.”

When she realised he had hypothermia, Rene and Kevin helped him remove his wet clothes and covered him in blankets.

“We contacted his wife to confirm he was with us. When the paramedics arrived, he was already nice and warm,” Rene said.

The medical team from Cape Medical Response (CMR) then continued emergency re-warming treatment, whereafter he required no further treatment.

Rian said he was grateful for the “unbelievable” response by locals who came out in their ski boats, the National Sea Rescue Institute, CMR and the Mashongas.

“Everyone was phenomenal, especially Rene and Kevin. I really scared them, and the poor youngster who was with them kept staring at the crazy man who had dropped in,” he joked.

Rian’s ski is still at sea.

“It’s probably drifting somewhere in the South Atlantic,” he said with a laugh.

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