Family's tribute to 'cheeky and adventurous' kite-surfer who died at favourite beach
- Credit: Carl Bushfire
The mum and sister of a popular kite-surfer, who died at Walberswick beach doing what he loved most, have paid tribute to the 52-year-old's "kind, caring and generous soul".
Andy Smith's body was found washed up at Walberswick beach on Sunday, February 7, and despite efforts to save him he tragically died at the scene.
The 52-year-old, from Darsham, was a successful kitesurfing instructor for the last nine years, teaching hundreds of people across the world, and most of those that learned to kite in Suffolk and Norfolk through his company Airbourne Kitesurf.
In the winter he would escape to sunnier climates, teaching his passion in places such as Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and St Lucia.
Andy was described by his sister Deb Smith, 55, as her "travelling sidekick", having ventured to India, Zanzibar, and Dubrovnik to explore their cultures and cuisines.
"He was very well-travelled, he loved exploring and he has kited all over the world," she said.
"We hired mopeds, stayed in beach huts along the coast, and ate some crazy foods. I will miss him and our adventures so much."
Growing up, Andy went to Edgar Sewter Primary School, Halesworth Middle School and then Bungay High School "occasionally", said his mum Cora Smith, aged 74.
He then joined the airforce, before moving to Brixton Prison to work as a prison officer for 12 years, and then took a job with the NHS in Ipswich as part of their 'Live Well' programme.
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It was a trip to India which spurred Andy onto making kite-surfing his full-time job, after he visited a school in Goa with his sister.
From there it became his one true love, with his mum Cora describing her youngest child as an "adrenaline junkie".
She said kitesurfing gave him freedom. He would relax on the water and it gave him space to forget about all his troubles.
"Andy was loving, caring, generous and a bit of a handful at times from a mum's point of view," said Cora.
"He looked after me and everyone else and he was always there to help you out. The kite-surfing guys used to call him 'Mr repair guy' or 'Mr Safety'.
"I will miss everything about him; his smile, his whole demeanour and him coming round to eat all my leftovers. He was such a big character."
Cora said her son was "tall, dark and handsome", taking after his dad Geoff, who died 10 years ago after having a heart attack.
Before he passed, they would play guitar together, having a jamming session every year. This tradition has been carried on for the last decade with Geoff's brother and Andy playing the guitar to remember him at an annual BBQ hosted by Andy's step-mum Christine, who married Geoff 35 years ago.
One of the family's fondest memories is a recent trip to Las Vegas, in February 2020, to celebrate Andy turning 52 - when really, he was turning 13 as he was born in a leap year.
Andy was joined by his sister Deb, mum Cora and partner John, and step-mum Christine.
Besides kitesurfing, Andy enjoyed stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and skiing, he also used to play football.
He also "liked a pint", made his own beer and wine, and was described by his sister as being a great cook.
His family said the hundreds of messages, cards and flowers they have received have given them great comfort at this difficult time.
Deb said: "He could have been anywhere in the world when he died, but he was at his favourite beach. That means so much to us.
"He was doing what he loved most."
Deb said the family are still unaware of what really happened, as the coroner was unable to establish a cause of death, but they are hoping to get more answers soon.
They are planning a celebration of Andy's life at Walberswick beach in the summer, Covid-permitting, as it was his favourite place to be, and will be collecting donations on behalf of local lifeboat services.