A man who was trying out a brand-new jet ski ended up being rescued in the early hours of the morning after his new purchase malfunctioned.

Search and rescue members using night vision goggles spotted the man on the Whanganui River north of Kaiwhaiki at around 2am.

Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter pilot Lance Burns said the man was drifting on his ski but was uninjured and was wearing a lifejacket.

"It was a successful rescue, it took about half an hour to spot him," Burns said.

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"He was cold and tired but uninjured."

Burns said if he hadn't been rescued he would have been on the water for some time.

"He had a paddle but the current was taking him further away," Burns said.

The rescue crew were able to using a helicopter search light to guide him to a point downstream where he was retrieved to shore. He was airlifted to Whanganui.

Police are using the rescue as a timely reminder for people to tell someone where they are going before heading out on recreational pursuits.

The man had not told anyone he was heading out and police were only alerted when a concerned member of the public saw a car and trailer at the slipway on Anzac parade at about 10.30pm.

Enquires with family identified the missing jet-skier as a local man who had purchased the brand new jet ski and had gone to test it out without telling anyone where he was going.

"This incident is a timely reminder for those choosing do any water sports, go tramping, day walking or even swimming at this time of year to be prepared.

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"Know your limitations and be aware of the likely weather conditions and carry appropriate means of communication."

Police urged serious outdoors people to carry personal emergency locator beacons.

As well as taking an appropriate means of communication, police would also urge everyone to remember the five simple rules of the outdoor safety code:

• Plan your trip
• Tell someone where you are going
• Be aware of unpredictable weather
• Know your limits
• Take sufficient supplies