Surfer swept out to sea

RESCUE workers have today told of a dramatic operation to save a stricken kite surfer who was swept out to sea off the Suffolk coast in strong winds.

RESCUE workers have today told of a dramatic operation to save a stricken kite surfer who was swept out to sea off the Suffolk coast in strong winds.

Lifeboat crews said it was a miracle the man escaped unhurt after he was carried off by strong tides in the area of Shingle Street, near Woodbridge, when his kite failed to inflate.

Emergency services were alerted to the drama shortly before 8pm on Thursday by the man's kite surfing 'buddy'.

An RAF rescue helicopter from Wattisham was alerted to the scene and launched a full search of the area, along with the Aldeburgh inshore and all-weather lifeboats and a Thames Coastguard crew.

The man, who is believed to be from the Woodbridge area, was located a quarter of a mile out at sea by the helicopter crew and had been in the water for 45 minutes.

A crew member was winched down to check his condition before he was rescued by Aldeburgh Lifeboat and brought back to shore. He did not require any medical treatment.

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Lee Firman, Aldeburgh Lifeboat coxswain, said the kite surfer got into trouble after parting from his board.

“As it came down he couldn't get back into the air and drifted out of the mouth of the river and was being carried out to sea by the tide,” he said.

“Luckily the inshore lifeboat was already at sea on exercise and the rescue helicopter had just landed at Wattisham so they were both sent along with the all weather lifeboat from here.

“He was carried off pretty quickly and was a quarter of a mile out. He had tried using his kite to get him back to shore.”

Mr Firman said the man had been incredibly lucky nothing more serious had happened.

“One of his friends who he had been kite surfing with raised the alarm. If he had been there by himself, it would have been a different outcome,” he said.

“He was a very lucky chap. Thankfully both the lifeboat and the helicopter was in a position to help otherwise there would have been a five or 10 minute delay.”

But Mr Firman said the kite surfer had acted responsibly. “They did everything right. They had means of calling if they got into trouble and there were two of them so they were keeping an eye on each other,” he said.

“If you get into trouble, dial 999 straight away because tides are quite strong, especially down at the entrance of the river.”

Flight Lieutenant Lee Docherty, from RAF Wattisham, said: “He was a long way off the coast and it would have been a good swim.

“We were just providing top cover before the lifeboat team turned up.”

Neil Watson, who was among the group of kite surfers, said the man was an experienced windsurfer and was wearing the correct equipment at the time, including a wetsuit which would have fought against hypothermia.

“It was a worry when we couldn't see him. We were all happy to see him back,” he said.

“We're really thankful to all the services for their quick response and we were all very impressed.”

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