kite

Oswald Smith catching serious air off South Africa; photo courtesy of Oswald Smith

Oswald Smith lives for the wind, and for the incredibly huge airs kiteboarders can achieve when conditions are prime off South Africa.

The athlete also knows first-hand how terribly wrong things can go when gusts become too strong, or when the wind suddenly dies in mid-flight.

On Monday the professional kiteboarder informed his Facebook followers that he's feeling much better after suffering a shoulder dislocation five months ago, and for the first time he shared footage of the incident (posted here).

It shows "Ozzie" being lifted about 50 feet into the air and seeming to prepare for a smooth landing before things started going wrong, resulting in a high-speed crash landing that could have been disastrous.

The clip, which as of Tuesday had garnered more than 50,000 views, underscores the exhilaration expert kiteboarders experience, and the potential dangers that exist when conditions are extreme.

Smith said via email that winds were gusting at 45 to 50 knots at Maccassar Beach, and that when he reached the apex of the jump the wind abandoned his kite, "which resulted in me not having enough wind for a smooth landing."

The descent occurred so swiftly that Smith was sure he was going to break both legs. Making matters worse, moments before striking the water, his leash wrapped around his hand bar, resulting in the "death loop" viewers can see as the kite spirals out of control.

"The kite dragged me super far on the water really fast," Smith said. "I wanted to release it, but I couldn't because at the landing my harness broke and turned around, so I just had to hold on and hope for the best.

"I did a few cartwheels as the kite went into the death loop, then at the last loop, when the kite hit the water, it pulled me out the water and I fell with my shoulder bending back behind me. That's when I dislocated my shoulder."

Smith, 19, was fortunate to have been able to free himself from the kite, to have been helped to shore from another kiteboarder, and to have suffered only a moderate injury.

Has any of this slowed the athlete down? Of course not.

"I had to get an operation, but made a swift recovery and now I'm back on the world tour," he said.

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