The kitesurfer, who had managed to make a make-shift liferaft from his kite, was incredibly lucky to be found alive after an hour of searching in darkness.

Lifeboat volunteers saved a kite surfer from drowning last night after a major search operations.

Appledore's two lifeboats were called out at 8.20pm to find a missing kite surfer, last seen at around 6.45pm.

He had been seen near the Taw/Torridge river mouth, where the tide runs fast, and was 'ebbing rapidly', said lifeboat volunteers.

Bideford Coastguard and the St Athan helicopter joined the search, scanning the area for the kite surfer.

Niki Tait, of Appledore RNLI, said: "After an hour of searching in the dark, the all-weather lifeboat reported seeing an object in the water which turned out to be the casualty, who they retrieved on board alive - although much shaken and extremely cold.

"He was quickly accessed by the first aiders on board the lifeboat, and brought back to the lifeboat station for to await an ambulance where he could be could be checked over by paramedics before going home."

The sea temperature at the time was only around 11.4 degrees centigrade, and the man was wearing a black wetsuit, making him difficult to spot.

However, he had wrapped the orange and blue kite into as large an area as possible, and bent the inflation tube to create a liferaft.

The crews said this had gone a long way to help save his life.

Niki added: "The RNLI was established to save lives at sea and it is a terrific outcome that this man is still alive to tell the tale."