'I owe my life to them': Kayaker rescued in strong winds off Wairarapa coast

5:31 pm on 9 January 2024
Ngawi Sports Fishing Club on Thursday advised divers not to go near Kupe's Sail (which can be seen on the left) after a reported shark attack.

Palliser Bay where the kayaker was rescued. Photo: via Wikimedia Commons / Karora

A kayaker says he owes his life to rescuers after capsizing in strong winds and being pulled out to sea in Palliser Bay off the South Wairarapa coast.

Police received a distress call at 7.30am on Tuesday that a man was struggling and could not get back to shore.

The kayaker had set-off from the beach south of Lake Ferry at around 6am with a phone and an emergency radio locator beacon on him.

A strong offshore wind carried the man further out to sea than expected, capsized the boat and left him lying on top of it.

He managed to call police and activate his emergency radio beacon which alerted the rescue team at Maritime New Zealand.

At around 8am the Police Maritime Unit left Wellington Harbour in Lady Elizabeth the Fourth to rescue the man, with a 40 minute travel time ahead.

Meanwhile, the Westpac helicopter had arrived at the kayak's location but gale-force winds meant it was unsafe to attempt a winch recovery.

About 8.45am the police boat arrived at the scene and pulled the kayaker aboard to assess for injuries. He was taken closer to shore and paddled to the beach himself.

The man expressed gratitude to all involved in the rescue, saying "I owe my life to them".

"The bay is huge, and I didn't know where or when I was going to be washed ashore. At one stage I thought I might end-up in Ngawi, or it might be the South Island.

"The key for me was keeping calm and that was helped by the reassurance that help was on the way. I had my phone in a waterproof pouch and I got a lot of reassurance from the person on the other end of the line, who gave me updates on when the boat would arrive.

"I encourage everyone who's going out on the water to get a locator beacon, it saved my life," he said.

The Police Maritime Unit said the man was well-prepared for kayaking and was dressed in a full-length wetsuit, wetsuit boots and wearing a lifejacket.

But police warned today's incident showed how quickly the weather and environment could change for even well-prepared adventurers.

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