Tributes have been paid to a ‘wonderful’ kitesurfer and personal trainer who died in an accident on Saunton beach on Saturday.

The experienced kitesurfer, named locally as Ben Witts, was flown from the beach to North Devon District Hospital by the air ambulance but later died.

Ben, from Ilfracombe, was the owner and a senior instructor at Saunton-based North Devon Kitesurfing.

His Facebook profile intro says: "You can't buy happiness..but you can buy a kite and that's pretty close!"

Ben's love of the great outdoors started when he was growing up, and his family ran an outdoor activity centre of their own.

According to the North Devon Kitesurfing website, Saunton Sands was one of his local kitesurfing haunts, though Woolacombe took the top spot in his heart.

His girlfriend Cheylee Howson paid tribute to Ben in a moving public post on Facebook.

She wrote: "It is with a broken heart that I have to write this but I have to let everyone know that Ben was in a tragic kitesurfing accident yesterday morning.

"I am absolutely devastated to say that he didn't make it.

"I am so sorry that some of you had to find out this way but I and his family decided this was best before his name was released in the news.

"I did everything I could to pull him out of the water and help him before the paramedics arrived. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to the amazing people on Saunton beach who rushed to help me.

"Ben, I love you so very much and miss you even more.

"You were everything I've ever dreamed of and what we had was incredible.

"Nothing will ever be the same without you here. I miss your cheeky smile and the way you said 'I love you' to me and knowing I'm never going to be in your arms again hurts like nothing I can explain.

"Sleep tight my darling Ben, my soul mate. I love you. Forever yours. Squirrel."

Ben's friend Phil Parry paid tribute to him as a friendly face who loved being in the water.

"He always wanted to be running his own kite school and he achieved that goal last year," he said.

"He was looking forward to the new season. It's heartbreaking really.

"Ben was very involved with the local kite scene and he enabled so many people to achieve their goals of going from never kiting before, to being able to kite on their own.

"He was also a surfer and paddleboarder and was someone who was always wanting to push themselves further."

Ben was also a qualified personal trainer and instructor at Bourne Fitness, and it is understood from tributes paid to him on Facebook that he had a background in martial arts.

Campbell Bourne, of Bourne Fitness, said: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Ben and our thoughts are with Ben's girlfriend, and his family.

"Ben was a wonderful person, and a kind and supportive instructor.

"He had been with the club for over two years, and taught two of our classes every week.

"He was well respected and liked among all our members, and helped us build a little community within the gym. Ben will be deeply missed by everyone."

If you'd like to pay tribute to Ben, email newsdesk@northdevongazette.co.uk