Lifeguards have criticised recreational boaties after rough seas at Riversdale beach hurled a man to the floor, breaking his leg yesterday morning.

Riversdale Surf and Lifesaving Club chairman Dave Rose said the decision to launch the boat "wasn't the best idea for the men in hindsight, but unfortunately accidents happen".

Lifeflight's Westpac rescue helicopter airlifted the Upper Hutt man in his 50s from the beach to Wellington Hospital at noon.

"After the wave hit, the boat immediately came back to shore, not far away from the flagged area," Mr Rose said.

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"The lifeguards responded immediately and a decision was made then to get the Westpac rescue helicopter.

"We were very lucky there were a couple of doctors who are staying at the beach who responded immediately.

"So, together with a nurse who had just been jogging around the beach and saw the incident unfold, there was enough medical help there."

Mr Rose said the man was given painkillers and after about 20 minutes he was put on to the stretcher and lifted on to the back of the chopper.

"Without being too harsh, it's very windy here, there's a very strong northerly that's chopping the waves up, so it's not ideal conditions.

"These guys made the decision to go boating, a decision that could have been far worse if the injured man had fallen into the sea.

"It's about everyone being aware of the conditions, being aware of the sea, and just applying the risk assessment to that.

"I think these guys possibly didn't do that as well as what they could have in hindsight. They probably thought it was a good idea at the time but they hit a wave in the wrong place."

Mr Rose said the beach was quite safe and that lifeguards are out on the water's edge, "ensuring that if people do get into trouble, that we'd be able to get them out of it".