An avid windsurfer was rescued on Friday about 30 minutes after he was reported missing from his craft in rough waters in Peconic Bay, Southampton Town Bay Constables said.
The windsurfer, Jan “John” A. van der Wolf, a 67-year-old Center Moriches resident, explained on Monday that he has been windsurfing for 25 years and often seeks out extreme conditions all over the world to participate in the hobby, which he called his “life medicine.”
“When it’s windy, we go out windsurfing,” he said. “And we look for the most extreme conditions, because that’s what it’s all about.”
On Friday, he had gone windsurfing with two friends, when the top of his mast and sail came undone. “I kind of started rolling everything up so I could pull it back on my board, but a big wave came and just ripped everything out of my hands,” he said.
His fellow surfers lost sight of him, he said, then returned to shore and called police.
A Suffolk County Police helicopter spotted Mr. van der Wolf at 12:22 p.m., standing in the water on a shoal on the northwest side of Robins Island, wearing a wetsuit, constables said.
A few minutes later, Bay Constables Richard Franks and Albert Tuzzolo picked him up and transported him to the Robins Island dock in Southold, where Cutchogue Fire Department Ambulance officials checked him for hypothermia, and he was released.
Mr. van der Wolf said he was thankful for the rescuers and that his feet had been getting cold. “From the shins on down, I felt like I was walking around on stumps,” he said with a laugh. He said his body temperature dropped to 93 degrees, but he was fine the minute he was “yanked” from the water.
“No doubt,” he replied when asked if he would go out again.
Southampton Town Police said they received a 911 call at 11:50 a.m. regarding a man missing from his windsurf board in the bay and drifting toward the Shinnecock Canal. The bay was “extremely rough with seas of approximately 4 to 7 feet,” with a southwest wind of approximately 25 mph and gusts up to 45 mph, constables said. The water temperature was about 40 degrees.
Southold Town Police and the U.S. Coast Guard were also dispatched in the search.