Wind Surfer Stranded in the Rehoboth Bay for Hours
DEWEY BEACH, Del.- One man in Sussex County shared his story of survival, when he was stranded for six hours on the Rehoboth Bay.
Dr. Victor Gong went out wind surfing on Friday, Oct. 11, and was located early Saturday morning at 7:45 a.m. by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
It was a typical evening for Gong: wind surfing on the Rehoboth Bay near Towers Road. Gong has been wind surfing for over 15 years and this sport is one of the many reasons that led him to the Eastern Shore. He set out from Towers Road near Dewey Beach around 6 p.m. Gong was a quarter mile away from the shore, when things took a turn for the worse.
"The sail came off the board and then I decided I was just going to swim it back in. I started kicking for about a half hour and I wasn't moving to much. I started drifting a little bit and say okay that's not working," explains Gong.
He went out that night not realizing the nor'easter conditions. Gong says at 6 p.m. the tides were calm and that they did not pick up until he was a quarter mile away from the shore.
"The wind, tides and current kept pushing me out. While I was out there, the wind direction had changed also. It wasn't that bad when I left Dewey," Gong says.
On the night of the incident Gong wore a life jacket, a wet suit and he carried a whistle. Gong says while he was drifting farther and farther from shore, he started to blow the whistle. He said he could see that their was no more cars in the parking lot and it started to get darker. Gong began to blow his whistle. However, with the high winds and strong tides no one was able to hear him. He says if he had a water proof phone with him that night, it could of changed the situation.
Gong was stranded for six hours and started to feel the beginning stages of hypothermia. As a former doctor at John Hopkins in Baltimore, he has worked with hypothermia patients. He knew what signs to look for out on the water and knew his time was of the essence. Gong says he was fortunate to avoid both drowning, starvation, and hypothermia.
"So I knew that's something I had too try to avoid. However I knew there wasn't really much I could do. Also my legs started to cramp up, I was in a fixed position for 6 hours on the board," says Gong.
He says that after five hours, Gong says no one could hear his calls for help. He says he started to have dark thoughts.
"Well I thought about dying and I tried not to think of it too much," he says. "It was about three or four times an hour I would think about that."
Meanwhile back on shore, Gong's girlfriend and his family started to worry and called for help. His girlfriend woke up in the middle of the night and realized it had been hours since she heard from her boyfriend. She called his cellphone and the police.
Fortunately, Gong happened to have his phone with him. The police went to Towers Road in Dewey Beach where they saw a car opened with gear, during past hours. His girlfriend thought she was dreaming when the police called her back. She was able to make calls to the Coast Guard, more police, and friends and family. Gong's family was very concerned and drove from New York and Virginia.
The Coast Guard, state police helicopters, and local police boats started their search for Gong. However, they could not find him as he drifted to the other side of the Rehoboth Bay at Bay City off Long Neck. He got out of the water and knocked on someone's door in Millsboro. Gong says he then he called his girlfriend to let her know he was safe.
"I don't know how many wind surfers actually land on the other side of the bay. I asked the guy and he said no one ever came to his house before," says Gong.
Gong says this experience has not kept him from going back into the water to wind surf. However, he says for the next time he says his safety must come first.
"I decided to continue with it; I'll just be more careful next time. I will make sure to carry more safety gear, watch the wind conditions, check my gear, and carry a cell phone," Gong says.
After the incident, Gong was embarrassed at first to share his story with others. He asked the police and DNREC to not release his information to the public. As a experienced doctor, Gong decided he wanted to share his knowledge to the world. He realized that his harrowing experience could teach others a lesson.