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Acting Sergeant Graham Perkins, of Dunedin Central Police Station, said people who had been watching the man surf at St Clair at sunset called police when they lost sight of him and did not see him return to shore.
Police descended on the Esplanade but about 6.30pm the man approached Sgt Perkins to assure him he was safe and sound, to the visible relief of the long-serving officer.
"He just approached me and made himself known, which was a bloody good result.
"So we stood down all the bells and whistles and other resources."
Swells of more than 4m, southwesterly winds and a high tide at 4pm meant the heaving waters were still lapping at the sea wall when the surfer turned up.