Lost Surfski Found after 6 weeks and 1000km! **update**

Monday, 09 August 2010 13:31 | Written by 
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The mysterious drifting surfski The mysterious drifting surfski

Sam Dawson was catching waves in his Fenn Mako XT at a favourite spot near South Sound, Grand Cayman.  Suddenly his world turned upside down - literally.  “I got caught by a wave and flipped off,'' Dawson said. “The wave took the surf ski away from me - I assumed never to be seen again.”

Long Swim Home

His leash snapped, Dawson was left sans-ski, 600m from shore being swept out to sea in a rip current.  The ski was the least of his concerns.  “I ultimately got back,” he said, “but it was touch and go and took a few hours to swim.”

And that, or so he thought, was that.

Six weeks later


When you see a kayak drifting in the open sea, the first thing you suspect is that the paddler might be somewhere close by.  So when Ocean Reef boat captain Michael Brooks spotted the ski, he immediately called the US Coastguard.

“I was mostly concerned somebody had fell off it,” Brooks said.

The coastguard immediately initiated an air and sea search, but found no sign of anyone in the water – and no-one was reported missing.

So where had the ski come from and where was the owner?

An obvious clue was plastered on the side of the craft – the Fenn logo – and a Google search quickly lead the coastguard to the Fenn Kayaks website.


A call the Fenn offices in East London, South Africa followed.  They confirmed that they had manufactured the ski, but had no idea who might own a light blue Fenn XT in the USA.  “Try our US agents,” they suggested.

Neither Ocean Paddle Sports in Costa Mesa, California, nor Venture Sport in Boca Raton had any idea.  But DeAnne Hemmens of Ocean Paddle Sports said she’d post a message on the Surfski newsgroup.

From: "Slyker, Daniel C" 

To: <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Sent: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:35 AM

Subject: FW: Reported found Kayak off Key Largo

Hello Ms. Hemmens,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding the found Kayak (pictured in attachments), and for your kind offer to post a note in your kayaker's chatroom.

Please have anyone with information on this kayak, found adrift 4 nm off Ocean Reef Yacht Club, Key Largo, FL, at 10:15 this morning (7/27), contact U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West at (305) 292-8727.

Thanks again for your assistance on this important matter.


Dan Slyker

Command Duty Officer

U.S. Coast Guard Key West, FL

From: "Patrick and DeAnne Hemmens" This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sent: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 10:05 AM

Subject: Found Fenn ski in Florida

If anyone has lost a Fenn surfski in Key Largo Florida, please contact me to identify. I have been contacted by the coast guard this morning about a ski that they located floating offshore.



Ocean Paddlesports, LLC

2177 Rural Lane

Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Meanwhile in Mauritius...

An hour or so later, on the Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius the other side of the world, Eddie Stafford was checking through his emails and spotted the note.  Some weeks earlier a friend, living in the Cayman Islands, had told him about a close call – he’d lost his ski in waves and had a long swim to shore...   Could it be the same ski?

A further flurry of emails and within hours the connection was made – it was the same ski.

From: "Sam Dawson" 

To: "Slyker, Daniel C"

Cc: <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Sent: Thursday, July 29, 2010 11:53 AM

Subject: FW: Reported found Kayak off Key Largo

Dear Mr Slyker

Thank you very much for taking the time to locate and contact DeAnne Hemmens regarding this kayak. It turns out it is definitely the kayak that I lost while out paddling in the Cayman Islands about 6 weeks ago.

Strangely enough the person who saw Deanne's online notice is now living in Mauritius however he is a friend of mine who I used to paddle with in Cayman. He knew I had lost my kayak and he contacted DeAnne on the off chance it was mine - and it was.

So we have a kayak that has drifted about 600 nautical miles from Cayman to Key Largo, to be picked up and notified to the Florida Coast Guard, who tracks down and notifies a dealer in California, who posts an online notice, which gets spotted by a guy in Mauritius, who contacts me in Cayman.

Crazy story. You couldn't think it up if you tried.

Thanks for all your help.


Sam Dawson

The Journey

According to Capt. Pat DeQuattro, commander of Coast Guard Sector Key West, the ski most likely drifted around the western most tip of Cuba, through the Yucatan Channel to the Florida Straits and then with the Gulf Stream current to Key Largo – a distance of over 600mi (1000km).

Drifting Surfski

Happy Ending

The ski is in almost pristine condition.  “It just had a couple of barnacles on it,” said boat Captain Brooks.  “That kayak really persevered!”

Turns out that Bruce Gibson, owner of Venture Sport in Boca Raton had sold the ski to Sam Dawson some two years ago.  He’s offered to collect the ski from Brooks in Key Largo and to ship it back to the Caymans at no charge.



Update - the real Happy Ending!

Sam Dawson - reunited with his XT

The conclusion of the story - Sam Dawson, reunited with his Fenn XT

From: Sam Dawson
Sent: 18 August 2010 04:21
To: cptmikekl; Daniel.C.Slyker; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.'; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.'; 'eddiestafford'; 'Bruce Gipson'; 'JKoger'
Subject: Return of the Wayward Surf Ski

Hi all

Just thought I would drop you a quick line to let you know the surf ski has arrived safety back in Cayman. I was back out paddling again this morning. Attached is a photo taken out the back of my place the day I got the ski back home.
Special thanks goes to:

Captain Mike who found the ski floating off Key Largo and took the time to pick it up out of the water and contact the Coast Guard.
The US Coastguard Sector Key West (esp. Dan Slyker) who took the time to locate and contact Fenn in South Africa after their initial search efforts on the water.
Fenn for putting USCG in touch with DeAnne Hemmens in California (and building such a hardy surf ski).
DeAnne Hemmens for posting the notice on the yahoo group.
My mate Eddie Stafford in Mauritius for spotting DeAnne's notice and getting in touch with me.
Bruce Gibson from Venture Sport, Boca Rotan, for going out of his way to uplift the surf ski from Captain Mike's place and drop it to the shipping company in Miami.
Joe Koger from Hyde Shipping for organising for the ski to be shipped the back to me.

As happy as I am to have the surf ski back, it was equally enjoyable to be part of such an amazing story.

Thank you all again

Sam Dawson

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