Jet skiers found after stormy seas search

Two inexperienced jet skiers were found safe and well after disappearing off the Catlins coast on Saturday afternoon in what emergency services staff described as "horrendous" weather conditions.

The Dunedin man and woman, both thought to be in their late 30s, were with a group of experienced jet skiers and surfers who had ventured into the stormy seas at Papatowai.

Constable Andy Denny, of Balclutha, said most of the group took to the rough seas to try to catch large waves that were battering the coast.

Swells higher than 4m were reported in the area.

There seemed to be some confusion over how long the pair had been missing before their disappearance was reported, he said.

The area has no cellphone coverage and someone would have had to come ashore to raise the alarm.

Emergency services were alerted about 1pm and the pair were found about 3pm.

The pair said a faulty fuel valve on their jet ski caused the engine to cut out, leaving them drifting in the stormy waters, Const Denny said.

The appalling weather conditions made searching difficult at times, he said.

"It was just awful out there."

The jet-skiing group joined firefighters, police and the Dunedin water rescue team to try and find the missing pair.

A small group of jet skiers found them near Long Point, several kilometres away.

The pair had managed to paddle back towards land.

Both were safe and well and did not need any medical attention.

They were both "well kitted out" with heavy wetsuits and other equipment, which Const Denny said probably helped them endure the cold water for so long.

glenn.conway@odt.co.nz

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