REPORTS of a kitesurfer in difficulties sparked a full-scale search and rescue alert on Saturday afternoon.

Humber Coastguard received a 999 call at about 4.20pm from a member of the public, reporting a kitesurfer in difficulties several hundred yards off the beach at Coatham, Redcar.

The town's two RNLI lifeboats were alerted and quickly discovered the kite.

However, there was no sign of the kitesurfer himself.

The police helicopter was sent to the scene and a full search of Coatham Bay was begun.

While the search was in progress, a second 999 call was made to Humber Coastguard, reporting that a person fitting the description of the missing kitesurfer had been seen walking along the beach at Redcar.

Enquiries by coastguard officers at the scene revealed that the man, a 29 year-old from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, had lost control of the kite and it had been carried away by an offshore wind.

Dave Cocks, of Redcar RNLI said: "It turns out that this was the first time the man had used this particular kite.

"He was preparing to set out when he lost his grip on it and it blew out to sea.

"A member of the public then saw the kite on the surface of the water and, quite correctly, alerted the coastguard in case someone was in difficulties.

"We had been searching for about ten minutes when the man turned up on the beach.

"He called at the lifeboat station to collect the kite. He told us he hadn't attached the safety lanyard before trying to use the kite and the wind pulled it out of his hands.

"He came back in to the lifeboat station later in the afternoon and left a case of beers to say 'thank you' to the crew."

Mr Cocks added: "We've had this type of incident before. Last time, in 2002, there was a massive search for a missing kitesurfer in the middle of winter.

"He was sat at home all the time our volunteer crews were facing freezing conditions looking for him.

"He hadn't thought to inform the coastguard that he'd lost his kite, and a member of the public then saw it in the sea and dialled 999 because they thought someone was in trouble.

"We would urge anyone who loses their kitesurfing equipment like this to let the coastguard know what has happened.

"Our crew will happily go and recover the kite to prevent more false alarm calls coming in."

The RNLI has just released a free DVD which gives safety advice on kitesurfing and other watersports. Go to for details of how to obtain a copy of the DVD, called Serious Fun.