Lifeguards have spoken about a dramatic water rescue that hospitalised one teenage boy and put four other swimmers at serious risk.

Emergency services descended on Tairua Beach shortly before midday on Wednesday after five people became stuck in a rip and were dragged out to sea.

Rescuers have been on high alert over the summer period as a spate of drownings and water deaths cost more than 10 lives in New Zealand.

Tairua Surf Lifesaving Club Patrol Captain Matt Kerr said the swimmers were down the far end of the beach away from the patrolled lifeguard area and a member of the public phoned the lifeguard station to alert them of the drama unfolding.


"Two lifeguards responded on an IRB [Inflatable Rescue Boat] and arrived at the scene to find we had a mass rescue on our hands," he said.

"Five people were in the water and in trouble."

Mr Kerr said one of the victims was a 14-year-old boy who was "taking on a lot of water".

It was understood he was swimming with his older brother and got sucked into the rip along with two other young men and a teen girl.

"[These victims] were way down the other end of the beach and it was a pretty dangerous day to be honest, there was lots of rips running up the beach and they just pulled into a feeder current and that pulled them into a rip and they went straight out."

The swimmers were pulled about 40m offshore, he said.

One of the men who required rescuing had paddled out on a boogie board to try and help, but ended up needing to be saved himself.

"We had four lifeguards involved, two on the IRB and then another one, myself and then another two came down to provide extra support with the stretcher and ambulance."

The 14-year-old boy, initially reported by emergency services as being 16 years old, was transported to Thames Hospital by St John in a moderate condition at about 12.45pm.

Auckland-Coromandel Westpac Rescue Helicopter was called to the scene but stood down, said a spokeswoman for the service.

Mr Kerr said that the mass rescue was yet another reminder for people to take care around water -- and to swim between the flags.

"It's so easy just to wander down to the beach and go for a swim, but it is so important to get between the red and yellow flags because that's the safest area the lifeguards have chosen on that particular beach."