A California filmmaker has revealed how his Apple Watch saved him after a kiteboarding mishap left him stranded a mile off the California coast in shark infested waters.
Stranded off Ventura, where a great white shark nursery was recently discovered, he used his watch to call coastguards – and was even able to direct their rescue boat towards him.
John Zilles, 49, has been kiteboarding for 20 years, and recently learnt to use a hydrofoil, an underwater ‘wing’ which allows kitesurfers to rise above the water.
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John Zilles was able to use the cellular capabilities of his Apple watch to call the coastguard after he was stranded a mile off shore – and even talked the crew of the rescue boat to his location
VENTURA’S GREAT WHITE NURSERY
Earlier this year a nursery for great white sharks sits just off Ventura and Oxnard — two of a half-dozen hot spots along the Southern California coast.
Chris Lowe, a professor at CSU Long Beach, and his team at the university’s Shark Lab searched 100 years of fishery records and identified hot spots for the juvenile sharks.
They have been tagging sharks in the areas for a decade to confirm their findings.
They found young white sharks stayed in the areas – Ventura, Oxnard, Santa Monica Bay, Huntington Beach and Dana Point – over the summer, before working their way down the coast and heading to Baja for the winter.
‘I was out learning to foil on a light wind, and was cruising along, proud of myself, and realized I was quite a way offshore,’ he told Dailymail.com
‘I had a huge wipeout, and my hydrofoil skated away from me.
‘As I was swimming away, my kite fell down, and because it was a calm day so I couldn’t get it to fly again.
‘Suddenly I was a mile offshore and my ride was over.’
Zilles said he spent 20 minutes desperately trying to get his kite to fly again.
‘I realized I needed to get everything together and start swimming to shore, which was difficult as I had a lot of gear with me.
He began swimming to shore, which he estimates would have taken him at least two hours.
However, he soon checked the time on his Apple Watch – and remembered it can make calls.
Earlier this year Apple revealed the cellular capabilities in its Series 3 range, which use the screen as an antenna, meaning it can work without a cellphone.
‘I was really surprised that I had a strong signal, so I called my kids, and said ‘don’t worry, I crashed and I’m swimming to shore, and will be home late.’
‘I then called my son back, and asked him to send me the number of the Coast Guard, just in case.’
John Zilles, 49, has been kiteboarding for 20 years, and recently learnt to use a hydrofoil, an underwater ‘wing’ which allows kitesurfers to rise above the water (stock images shown)
Zilles swam for another half hour, but was making little progress because of all the kiteboarding equipment he had.
‘I started thinking about all the great white shark sightings in our area, and although I realised I could probably swim in, I couldn’t stop thinking about sharks – it was a real mind bender.
‘It was maybe a 2 hour swim, so I probably had another 90 minutes – but there was a strong current and I had a lot of gear as well, so I was only kicking.’
Earlier this year Apple revealed the cellular capabilities in its Apple Watch Series 3 range, which use the screen as an antenna, meaning it can work without a cellphone
Soon after, Zilles said kicked something hard in the water, and was terrified it was a shark, although luckily it urned out to be part of his kit.
This made up his mind that he needed help.
‘I realized I had my watch – so called the Ventura Harbor Patrol, explained my situation and asked for help.’
John Zilles and his children, Jack, 14 and Finn, 12, who he called first when he became stranded at sea.
Earlier this year a nursery for great white sharks sits just off Ventura and Oxnard — two of a half-dozen hot spots along the Southern California coast
Officers sent a boat, and asked him to call back when he saw it.
’15 mins later I spotted the boat – by had to call them as it was going to wrong way,’ he explained.
‘So I called and asked it to turn 90 degrees and go 400 yards forward – and they found me straightaway.’
Zilles said being reachable all the time was one of the reasons he bought the watch in the first place.
‘I’ve seen people put phones in waterproof cases but, didn’t want to risk it – so when the Watch came out I thought this is awesome, I should do it.’
‘My wife was giving me a hard time, for buying more technology, but I leave my phone at home a lot now – I think it’s freeing us from the addiction of phones.
Zilles was so impressed he wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook to tell his story, and says he got a ‘short but sweet’ reply from Cook, saying ‘wow. happy to hear you are safe.’
APPLE’S LIFESAVING WATCH
John Zilles kitesurfing ordeal isn’t the first time Apple watch has helped users in dire circumstances.
Earlier this year Casey Bennett, from Laytonsville, Maryland, was driving home from school the night of April 6 when he was struck by another vehicle – sending him and his Jeep Patriot flying through the air.
Bennett, 22, found himself hanging from the driver’s seat by just his seat belt, but his iPhone was too far out of reach to call for help.
However, he remembered the Apple Watch included the SOS Emergency feature – he held the side button down and contacted 911 for help, who were on the scene in six minutes.
Several users have also used to heart rate monitoring capabilities of the Watch to alert them of problems.
Last months A 28-year-old reporter claims the only reason he is only alive today is because of a notification on his Apple Watch.
James Green credits the gadget, which costs between $329 and $1,399 for the latest model, with spotting a life-threatening blood clot on his lungs.
Apple’s Series 3 was released earlier this year – and has already saved lives
His timepiece notified him of a sudden rise in his heart rate – a sign of a pulmonary embolism – which he had already suffered once before.
It prompted him to seek urgent medical help, and doctors later diagnosed him with the clot – which can kill in minutes as it stops blood from reaching the lungs.
Mr Green, from New York, tweeted: ‘Never thought a stupid lil [sic] wrist computer I bought two years ago would save my life.
‘Saw my heart rate go up, ended up being a pulmonary embolism.’ His warming post has since been retweeted 11,000 times.
The firm is also working on a major heart health trial with Stanford, which will go live later this year.
Despite his ordeal, Zilles says he’ll carry on with the sport.
‘Although I’ve been kite surfing for 20 years, hydrofoil kitesurfing is really fast and different.
‘It’s harder, it has a lot of quirks, but you can be out much lighter winds, and spend much more time on the water.’