Tangled in metres of kitesurfing lines in stormy waters off the Muriwai Beach rocks as darkness fell, a lone kitesurfer didn't think anyone was coming to help.
But then they appeared - two strong lads ready to save his life.
Alex Widdowson and Louis Hahn don't consider themselves to be heroes.
But they just might be.
The Auckland friends were kitesurfing together at Muriwai last Thursday when they noticed the kite of a fellow kitesurfer fall, and then fail to reappear.
The man was kitesurfing 1 to 2km away, near rocks at the southern end of the beach, when he disappeared, Widdowson said.
"I said to Louis, 'I really think we should go down there bro'."
Once ashore they ran to the rocks and called to the man, who was struggling in the 1.5m swell several metres from the rocks, Widdowson said.
The rescue took place in pouring rain, as a thunderstom began and darkness was falling.
"I was yelling at him 'ditch the kite, it's not worth it'."
Widdowson couldn't hear the man's response, but discovered the reason after he threw the man a life ring and, in time with the swells washing dangerously onto the rocks, dragged the man to safety.
"I realised he was completely bound by all his lines. They had wrapped around his legs and his arms. There was no way he could've swum. His kite was the only thing keeping him above water.
"[And] he was stuck in a whirlpool. It was like a washing machine in there. When I pulled him onto the rocks we were both getting battered."
'It was just a good thing to pull him out.'
The man was so badly tangled in the four kite lines, which are each 20m long, it took 10 minutes just to free him enough that he could walk.
It was half an hour before the man was completely free of the lines, Widdowson said.
Despite the danger, his only fear during the rescue was for the man, he said.
Widdowson, a 22-year-old electrician, lives in Coatesville, but is originally from Whangarei Heads' Ocean Beach and well used to big seas.
Hahn, a 23-year-old Whenuapai handyman, was similarly non-plussed.
Asked if he felt like a hero, he said he did not.
"It was just a good thing to pull him out."
Hahn had called 111 during the rescue, but cancelled the call after the man emerged from the water shaken, but otherwise unscathed.
In the excitement, neither Hahn nor Widdowson got the man's name.
But they were left in doubt as to his gratitude.
As well repeated thank yous the man also let the pair know what a relief their arrival was on the otherwise almost-deserted beach.
The only other witnesses were a group of Asian tourists, who took photos but did not alert emergency services, Hahn said.
"I think he was pretty embarrassed, but he did say 'I didn't think anyone was coming'."