Five Surfers died Monday evening off the coast of the Netherlands in a freakish mix of rough seas and thick sea foam.
According to a statement from the Mayor of Scheveningen, Johan Remkes, where the tragedy happened, it’s unclear how this came to pass among “young, physically fit, sporty people, who know the sea like the back of their hand…How is it possible that such experienced surfers were completely taken by surprise at a spot they knew so well?”
According to one man who was out kite surfing that evening in the same area where the men drowned, the waves were big and close together, coming one after the other, and the foam was making it hard to see. Willem Hooft posted a GoPro video of himself kite surfing the day after he learned five surfers had died in the same area he’d been in. He said in the video a point came in which he realized it was time to get out.
“I didn’t trust the situation anymore,” Hooft said.
He got out of the water and went to shore to wait for his friends. On the way home he said he heard on the radio that rescue teams were searching for missing surfers on Scheveningen Beach where he’d been kite surfing hours before.
You can watch the video here:
The Men Who Drown Included Lifeguards & Members of Surf Teams
According to Dutch News, it’s believed there were 10 people been in the water at the time when things went awry. Surfboards and kite surfing gear started washing ashore without anyone claiming it. By the time rescue workers arrived their efforts were hampered by thick sea foam making it hard to see.
Two men were pulled from the water Monday night and died later. Two other bodies were found Tuesday morning. One body is still missing, but the search is ended according to Dutch news site KNRM.
According to Surfer Today, the men’s ages ranged from 22 to 38. While the situation is still under investigation, “they might have drowned after getting trapped in a combination of high surf, strong wind and currents, tide, algae, and thick layers of foam,” Surfer Today wrote.
Mayor Remkes said in his statement, “People here understand better than anybody else that ‘The sea gives and the sea takes’, but the way in which so many young lives ended abruptly and so many families and groups of friends have been affected is incredibly brutal.”
Investigators Are Looking Into Whether Seafoam May Have Disoriented the Men, Causing Them to Drown
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, seafoam is naturally occurring and often comes from algal blooms. The foam can be agitated— whipped up — by wind and waves.
Dutch sea research institute NIOZ is investigating what kind of role the thick seafoam may have played in the men’s deaths.
“Several experts have suggested the surfers may have become disorientated in the foam, which according to some eyewitnesses was over two meters high [6.5 feet] as it approached the harbour wall,” Dutch News reported.
The investigation is ongoing.