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A Nelson kitesurfer who lost his kite in gusty winds triggers search

A Nelson kitesurfer who lost his kite in gusty winds at Tahunanui Beach yesterday afternoon is embarrassed he prompted a pointless search operation. The Nelson Surf Life Saving Club and a Nelson City Council launch warden were sent to search for a supposed kitesurfer in the rough water near Rocks Rd, after the kite was spotted in the sea. Moral: If you lose gear on or near the water, report it so it doesn't trigger a search call-out.

The surf life-saving club is regularly called out to save kitesurfers in trouble and is urging enthusiasts to be better prepared.

The kitesurfer, who was too embarrassed to be identified, told the Nelson Mail the strength of the wind ripped the back of his harness which the kite's safety leash was attached to.

The kite took off and he chased it down the beach, but it ended up in the water.

He had been flying the kite on the beach, but did not intend to hit the water as it was too windy. On the way home he saw police and stopped to tell them what happened.

He had given up on the kite which he thought had gone.

"I should have called the cops straight away, but didn't have a phone."

Yesterday was a big day for enthusiasts of the sport, with southerly gusts reaching 45 knots and many heading to Back Beach to hit the water.

Nelson Surf Life Saving Club president Marcus Gardener said two volunteers were involved in the search, which lasted about 25 minutes. He said it was a "yucky" day and nobody would have wanted to be floating in the water.

The club did about 12 rescues of kitesurfers a year which meant it was their "major source of activity".

Mr Gardener said it was frustrating that kitesurfers were not better prepared with safety equipment.

Many just wore wetsuits, but should have some sort of buoyancy vest plus a fluro helmet and mini beacons.

"He lost his kite so you are looking for a head in the water."

He said the number of kitesurfers needing to be rescued was increasing because the sport was becoming more popular.

"Visitors who aren't local and aren't familiar with weather can get caught out.

"When things go wrong they go wrong quickly."

At Back Beach, kite-surfer Brian Pollock said that he saw the kite off Fifeshire Rock.

He said it was the strongest winds he had ever experienced during the three years he had been involved with the sport.

Windsurfer Mark Steel was also heading there and said the conditions were exciting.

"It's full on, there's a lot of carnage like wiping out and damaging equipment.

"I get adrenalin. If I see wind and I am at polytechnic I want to put everything down and come out here."

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