Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Surfer rescued off 'treacherous' beach

Kevin Hester spotted a surfer in trouble out at Muriwai beach on Monday at dusk. He quickly dialed 111 and a helicopter was able to locate the surfer a short time later. Photo / Nick Reed
Kevin Hester spotted a surfer in trouble out at Muriwai beach on Monday at dusk. He quickly dialed 111 and a helicopter was able to locate the surfer a short time later. Photo / Nick Reed

A surfer was rescued in the dark and in rough waters after he drifted to a "treacherous" area of Muriwai Beach.

And had it not been for an Auckland man who decided to delay his trip to the beach by a day, the stricken boarder would not have been seen.

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The surfer got into trouble in the water just before dusk on Monday night. Muriwai Volunteer Lifeguard Service president Tim Jago the surfer, named Jeremy, had been in the water from about 3pm. He appeared to be a competent surfer and very fit.

"He was probably just having a good time out there and didn't realise how far he'd drifted," Mr Jago told the Herald.

"He found himself swept into a gut and into quite treacherous water. He was unable to get out of there and so he got himself up on the rocks in a sheltered position.

"Some people walking along the headlands saw him in trouble and rang 111 to raise the alarm. The surf lifesaving club after hours squad was also activated."

The man that called 111 was Herne Bay resident Kevin Hester. He was at Muriwai with a friend to watch the sunset and had just reached a viewing platform when the drama unfolded.

He'd planned to go on Sunday but, luckily, rescheduled.

"Pretty much straight away I saw a surfer who was obviously in trouble. He raised his arm, waved and we could just barely hear him yell 'help'," said Mr Hester.

"I whistled out to him, waved back and it was clear that he knew we could see him and that he was in trouble. I called 111 and was patched through to the police."

As Mr Hester spoke with police his friend ran to the surf club to get help.

"The surfer was being thrown around and was unable to stay on his board," Mr Hester said.

"He looked very tired and his cries for help sounded more and more plaintive."

The police Eagle helicopter soon arrived and hovered over the area where the surfer was as the team of volunteer lifeguards made their way to him.

"We had about 10 minutes of light left," said Mr Jago.

"By the time we worked out where this guy was it was pretty much dark.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter arrived and flood-lit the area. One of our members paddled out on a board and three others swam."

They found the surfer, coaxed him off the rocks headed back to shore.

Mr Jago said the return was challenging due to "boisterous conditions".

"It took them about 45 minutes. It was difficult because they'd make 50m progress against the surf and tide and then they would get swept back 25m and have to start again.

"We couldn't use the boat because of the location, and because we had lost daylight. The only way was a good old fashioned manual rescue."

Mr Jago said if Mr Hester had not been on the rocks the surfer would have been in for a "cold, miserable and scary" night.

"There was no way he was going to get himself out," he said.

Mr Jago said his team did a great job on the rescue.

"Last Sunday we did a body recovery instead of a rescue. It's always nice to have a happy outcome."

On 3 May a man was knocked from his kayak by a powerful wave at Muriwai and drowned.

- NZ Herald

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