Andre Volant intended to celebrate Labor Day with a quick windsurfing jaunt, but instead he ended up swimming for his life as darkness fell on San Francisco Bay.
The 70-year-old San Bruno resident’s day took a turn for the worse when his carbon-fiber mast snapped and he spent most of the next five hours swimming with his board from Coyote Point to just past the San Mateo Bridge. Foster City police eventually rescued Volant.
“I was scared that I wasn’t going to survive,” Volant told The San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday, adding that the current pulled him south. “I had to swim in the dark under the San Mateo Bridge, yelling ‘help’ every minute or two. It was quite the experience.”
He was unharmed, aside from ingesting copious amounts of salt water, but Volant was shaken by the experience and said it could’ve been easily avoided.
Volant entered the water at Coyote Point around 6 p.m., only expecting to windsurf for about a half-hour, but his mast broke almost 4 miles north of the park. With no way of returning to shore, his van remained in the parking lot after the beach closed at 8 p.m.
“It is the Coyote Point rangers’ duty to call Coast Guard, but for some reason they did not call,” Volant said.
Petty Officer Ryan Roberts confirmed that the Coast Guard received no notification of a missing windsurfer Monday. Had park rangers called, search-and-rescue could have been on the scene within a half-hour, Roberts said.
Coyote Point could not be reached for comment.
Rangers have had to locate owners whose cars remained in the parking lot after closing time.
According to Roberts, if the car’s owner cannot be located, a mobile Coast Guard officer will go to the scene and launch a search involving a boat and helicopter.
But on Labor Day, Volant was all alone until the headlights of several Foster City Police Department cruisers landed on him in the water just offshore at 1679 Beach Park Blvd., about a half-mile past the San Mateo Bridge.
After handcuffing Volant’s windsurfing equipment to a pole, Foster City police Officer David Orlando drove the soaking-wet Volant, who was sitting in the back of the squad car, to his van that remained at Coyote Point.
Volant said he’s thankful that this happened to him and not someone else. He had a similar experience four years ago when he floated for seven hours in San Francisco Bay before the Coast Guard found him.