It was a lucky escape for one fisherman after a rogue wave tipped and sank his boat off Waimarama Beach at the weekend.

The 4m vessel has since been recovered, but "written off".

Police were called just after 1pm on Sunday to reports a boat had sunk just offshore.

Hawke's Bay Surf Lifesaving callout squad co-ordinator Phil Harman said it was believed a "rogue wave" had tipped the boat.

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He said the waves had been quite big and the boat was a smaller 4m model.

The boat's owner - a Waimarama local - had managed to get back to shore safely, but the boat had sunk and was submerged about 200m offshore.

When police were initially called to assist in retrieving the boat, it was believed to be about 25m below the surface.

A buoy was attached to the sunken vessel, but due to strong ocean conditions it began drifting down the Waimarama shoreline.

Rather than risk putting divers down to retrieve the boat while it was moving, Mr Harman said they were "letting nature take its course" and would wait for high tide before trying to retrieve the vessel.

Swimmers had been warned to stay out of the area near the Waimarama boat ramp. Boats out on the water were also advised to stay aware of the situation.

Yesterday a police spokeswoman said the boat had "rolled in" with the surf by 4pm.

It was recovered but reportedly "written off".

It had already been a busy day at the popular Hastings beach - Mr Harman said even though conditions weren't the best for swimming, during the afternoon there were about 300 swimmers in the water, with another 600 people enjoying the sun on the beach.

A similar incident occurred at Waimarama in 2012. A boat sank about 50m from the beach shortly after being launched when it was swamped by a wave. The three occupants were unharmed.