Four men who got into difficulties swimming and five teenagers who went to their aid were taken to hospital after a beach rescue drama at Northland's Matauri Bay yesterday.
The men, believed to be foreign tourists aged 19-25, got into strife in the surf in front of the Matauri Bay Holiday Park about 2.30pm.
The Kaeo Volunteer Fire Brigade was called to what was termed a "near drowning", and the summons was also answered by the Northland Electricity rescue helicopter and St John ambulances from Doubtless Bay and Kerikeri.
Kaeo chief fire officer Lindsay Murray said it took firefighters only 20 minutes to get to Matauri Bay.
"But when we got there the ambos were there and the four people who were the main victims were sitting in an ambulance with thermal blankets around them," he said.
A Kaeo firefighter who is also a member of St John, 17-year-old Nadia Martin, spoke to ambulance personnel and others at the scene.
"From what I gather two girls aged about 14 noticed the men were in trouble and went in to help them," she said.
The girls, understood to be southerners on holiday in Northland, had got hold of one man each and shouted for help.
Three boys aged 17 or 18 had gone out with a surfboard, which was used to get all nine people back to shore.
Ms Martin said the rescue helicopter had flown three of the men to Bay of Islands Hospital in Kawakawa to have their condition checked.
The fourth man and the three boys followed in the Doubtless Bay ambulance and the two girls were taken to the hospital in the Kerikeri ambulance.
Northland District Health Board staff said all were treated and discharged.