A fisherman was swept off rocks at Piha Beach but managed to have his life saved by lifeguards taking part in a training exercise.

Off-duty lifeguards from United North Piha Lifeguard Service received an urgent callout to an area known as Fisherman's Rock at 10am today, after a fisherman was swept off the rocks.

The man's fishing partner threw his mate an "angel ring", or lifebuoy, to help him stay afloat while using a radio to talk with family to alert emergency services.

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Two IRBs were sent to the scene where he was plucked out of the water and driven to shore for further assessment.

Victoria Mulrennan, director of lifesaving at United North Piha, was involved in the rescue and said it was a case of lifeguards "being at the right place at the right time, and the fisherman having the right water safety gear".

"As soon as we were alerted to the incident we were ready to respond with trained lifeguards and the right gear," she said.

"Rescues along the rocks can be tricky and lifeguards were managing a particularly large surf. Thankfully, the rock fishers also did all the right things, both the angel ring and lifejacket made them easier to spot."

Surf Life Saving Northern Region Lifesaving Manager Ari Peach says that both floatation devices saved the rock fisherman's life.

"We continue to urge all rock fishers to use a lifejacket at all times. Both the lifejacket and angel ring undoubtedly saved a life by keeping the rock fisher afloat prior to being rescued.

"While lifeguards are well trained and prepared for incident responses, beachgoers and fishers have a responsibility to be prepared. This fisherman followed all our safety advice and thankfully avoided tragedy. Without a lifejacket this rescue could have ended much differently."

Auckland Council Senior Ranger Stuart Leighton said angel rings were installed in 2009 as part of the West Coast Rock Fishing Project, a joint agency campaign between Surf Life Saving Northern Region, Drowning Prevention Auckland and Auckland Council.


"The angel rings are another important 'layer of protection' in the water that have been placed in high-use high-risk rock fishing spots along the West Coast," he says.

"While they are an important safety measure, lifejackets are still vital for members of the public taking part in recreational rock fishing."