A man rescued after wind and a strong current swept his tiny inflatable dinghy out to sea off Uretiti Beach described his perilous experience as "shocking, frightening and embarrassing".
He was picked up 1.5km offshore by a Ruakaka Surf Life Guard patroller who had belted down the coast from Marsden Pt on the club's jetski after the alarm was raised on Wednesday afternoon.
The rescue took place off the Tip Rd beach entrance about 6km south of the surf club.
The rescued man, who had only one short paddle with his toy-like craft and no lifejacket, described the life guard as "a hero".
The Auckland man had been crab fishing with a line when he got in to trouble after 3pm.
The water was choppy and it was impossible to paddle against the rough, offshore wind-driven current, the man said.
"I could only hold on tight and wave the paddle in the air. I thought, 'I hope my friend back on the beach sees this and realises I am in trouble'."
The friend did see it and called 111. However, two Bream Bay police officers patrolling on the police beach buggy kept at the Ruakaka surf club for the purpose, had also seen the man's predicament and called the surf club.
"We raised the alarm straight away. We were in the right place at the right time," Constable Hayden Dragicevich said.
A surf club spokeswoman said Wednesday's conditions were "very choppy and really windy, he was getting blown out very fast".
The Chinese-born New Zealand citizen declined to give his name but said he lived at Gulf Harbour, north of Auckland. He had been crab fishing at Uretiti in the past, but usually set traps from the beach, he said.
"I thought it was a good idea to take the fishing line out. I don't think it's a good idea now. I was shocked and frightened at how quickly I got into trouble - and I'm very embarrassed.
"I want to thank those people and my friend who saved my life," the man said.
The surf club's $25,000 jetski was provided last summer when the Northern Advocate joined forces with Whangarei Lions and Surf Life Saving New Zealand to pay for the fast-response craft.
It followed three drowning deaths in Bream Bay in previous summers in areas away from surf patrols.
The last was in November 2015 when a 35-year-old Chinese man fell out of a blow-up plastic dinghy about 400m off-shore.
Waipu Police Constable Martin Geddes said this week's incident was disappointing in that it showed the safety message wasn't getting through to people.