10 people rescued in rough seas

By Kiri Gillespie

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Lifeguards carried out a desperate search for a surfer who was swept nearly a kilometre out to sea.

The surfer, who spent two hours struggling in rough conditions, was one of 10 people rescued on Saturday as powerful rips emerged on Mount Main Beach.

On the same day as the State New Zealand Surf Life Saving Championships, the 36-year-old surfer was swept about 800m offshore.

Lifeguards at Mount Maunganui Surf Life Saving Club were alerted to the man's plight at 8pm after a 111 call was made by someone on Moturiki Island who noticed the surfer waving in distress.

Patrol captain Kent Jarman said it was dusk when they headed out in an inflatable rescue boat and they struggled to find the surfer in the fading light.

"There were people on the Blow Hole pointing for us, which was good because we knew he was there but we didn't know where. To be honest, we struggled to see him.

"We were headed in the right direction then I just saw the dark shape of a head in the water. Not the board or anything like that, just the head."

Mr Jarman said the surfer appeared grateful for the rescue and had mild hypothermia. He had been in the water, without a wetsuit, for two hours.

"The rip by the Blow Hole was extremely strong."

His rescue was one of a series carried out by the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service on Saturday.

"We had a variety of swimmers, boogie boarders, surfers, we had the lot.

"There were surfers a bit out of their league and a few swimmers who shouldn't have been there."

The surfer was incredibly lucky to have been found when he was, Mr Jarman said.

"It was completely dark when we got back in with him."

Mr Jarman said he had a feeling he and his crew would be needed and deliberately hung around the surf club after finishing patrol duty at 5pm.

"I put the boat on standby. I just felt when we finished that we had not finished ... you get a feeling for it over the years."

A man suffering from vertigo on top of Mauao yesterday was also helped by lifeguards.

Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service general manager Glenn Bradley said the lifeguards did an amazing job given how busy the beach was with the national championships.

"We had our volunteer guys on patrol and they've been kept really busy with a strong rip," Mr Bradley said.

"They are really the unsung heroes of the weekend. That's obviously the core focus of what we are here for.

"Ten rescues is a busy weekend."

Lifeguards at Papamoa spent more than three hours searching for a missing man yesterday, after family raised concerns he might have drowned.

Patrol captain Sam Casey said the 19-year-old was found walking along a street nearby.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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