The teenage lifeguard who saved three young boys from a rip admits he was terrified someone was about to die.

17-year-old Finn Meredith was at Foxton Beach with family on Saturday when he saw three younger boys swimming near where a rip was forming.

Despite being off duty, Meredith yelled a warning to the boys about the rip, and started heading back to shore himself.

But soon the yells of the younger boys turned to panicked shouts, so Meredith and a friend grabbed their fins, and swam in to help.

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"It's fairly hard to believe, to be honest. You never really think you'll be in a situation where it's life and death," he said.

Finn Meredith says the adrenaline from the rescue left him shaking. Photo / Supplied
Finn Meredith says the adrenaline from the rescue left him shaking. Photo / Supplied

"There were about five moments in there, where if anyone had made a different call or something went wrong, the situation would have gone drastically worse.

"As proud as I am, I do keep in mind that we got lucky."

During the rescue, Meredith purely focused on getting the boys in to shore. But once back at the beach, the seriousness of the situation sank in.

"It's the only rescue situation where there was a genuine good chance where someone wouldn't make it out.

"I was terrified. When I got out of the water I was just shaking from the adrenaline."

Meredith warned that beachgoers should only go in the water when there are lifeguards present, and then stay within the flags.

He said anyone who got caught in a rip should fight what they naturally want to do, and not swim directly to shore, as they would tire themselves out.

Instead, if lifeguards are present, a swimmer in a rip should go with the current and put their hand up to signal for help.

If no lifeguards are present, trying to swim sideways out of the rip, and then back to shore, is the best bet.