Source: New Zealand Police (District News)
Please attribute to Taranaki Police Search and Rescue Senior Sergeant Matt Prendergast.
Shortly after 3:00pm on Sunday afternoon Police were alerted to two windsurfers caught in rough waters about 300 metres off the north Taranaki coast.
The two men were windsurfing near the mouth of the Waitara River, when one of the men got into trouble. The other man came to his aid, but also got into trouble as a result.
The sea conditions at the time were reported as being very rough with large swells and an outgoing tide with a high-water flow coming from the Waitara River, due to recent heavy rain.
The alarm was raised with emergency services when the pair were observed being swept further out to sea. Taranaki Police Search and Rescue activated the call out to Taranaki Rescue Helicopter, Taranaki Surf Lifesaving and Taranaki Coast Guard to come and assist in the rescue.
During this time, onlookers started to lose sight of the pair due to the size of the waves.
Police SAR assisted on the ground and coordinated with the other agencies to locate the two men, who by this time had been swept about 1.9 kilometre offshore.
A surf lifesaving boat went out, and with guidance from the rescue helicopter, brought the pair back to shore around 4:15pm.
The two men were experienced windsurfers and appeared to have all of the correct equipment, however they were not from the area. Thankfully no one was injured in the incident, but it serves as a timely reminder from Police to check on local conditions and get advice from local windsurfers before getting into the water.
Fortunately members of the public on shore were able to see the pair in trouble and did the right thing by calling Police and remaining on scene, so emergency services had the best chance possible to locate and rescue the pair before it became dark.
Police want to make special mention of the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter, Taranaki Surf Lifesaving and Taranaki Coast Guard for their rapid response. The windsurfers are unlikely to have made it back onto land safely without their efforts. These groups are largely made up of volunteers who train for these types of events and were able to put their great skills to good use.
It was a close call but a good result in the end.
Issued by Police Media Centre