A Canadian tourist is recovering in New Plymouth after being severely lanced by a stingray which he mistakenly stood on while kayaking.

Matt Brazeau, 36, had fallen out of his kayak in shallow surf at a beach near Waitara this week when he placed his foot on the stingray and immediately felt a stabbing pain in his thigh.

The Taranaki Daily News reported that the barb entered his leg above his knee and came out the other side halfway up his thigh, leaving a wound which needed 40 stitches.

"It was as though something had bit me but with electrical impulses," he said. "It was really fast, in and out within a second. There was no movement, no action in the water except for me jumping back into the kayak. It had to be a stingray."

Friends saw blood gushing into the water when Mr Brazeau called for help and an ambulance was called as he tied a belt around his leg to try and stem the blood.

The barb narrowly missed an artery and Mr Brazeau said it appeared he was lucky to escape without damage to muscle or tissue.

He said he would continue his six-month holiday here once he had recovered.