Plaudits continue to roll in for the teenage rescuers of three men who came close to drowning when they were caught in a powerful rip.
The drama began about 3pm on Sunday when a group of Indian men on their way home to Auckland stopped at Matauri Bay for a swim - and ended with nine people taken to hospital, three of them by rescue helicopter.
The first to head out when the men got into trouble at the northern end of the beach were 15-year-olds Amohia Afeaki and Sabrina Parsons, who used their boogie boards to rescue two of the men. One weighed an estimated 150kg and was near drowning, alternately panicking and becoming unresponsive with his eyes rolling back in his head.
Aucklander John Davis, who witnessed the drama, was holidaying at Matauri Bay with his son Jonathan and his 17-year-old friends Christian Burg-Watson and Tom Reutlinger.
A local had warned him about the rip shortly before he saw the Indian men sucked out to sea.
''I put a foot into that rip and thought, 'I'd better get out or I'll become another casualty','' he said.
Tom and Christian, however, jumped into the rip and pounding surf ``like a couple of labradors''.
Christian helped the girls support the big man while Tom went to the aid of a third man struggling near the rocks.
With no board to rely on Tom had to try to hold him up as the group was swept around the point and out of view.
Mr Davis said the teens were 200-300m out by that time and Tom came close to having to make the terrible choice between drowning and letting his man go.
Meanwhile, local man Mark Helms and his son Bryce commandeered a holidaymaker's inflatable and raced around the point to help. They were joined by another teen, Alex Whiter, the owner of a boat called Pig Dog, and two kayakers.
It was a huge effort to get the big man onto the boat with rescuers having to drag him in while others in the water pushed him from below.
''I was sh*tting myself because I didn't know where my boys were. When they finally got back a couple of the rescued guys looked like death warmed up''.
Mr Davis said he was immensely proud of everyone involved in the rescue.
''All those people really risked their lives and deserve recognition. It wasn't a case of just picking them up and bringing them back to the beach. This wasn't Piha Rescue, it was everyone in the camp pulling together.''
In total nine people were taken to hospital in Kaitaia and Kawakawa. All were discharged after check-ups and observation.