The young boogie boarder lost his footing in the infamous west coast surf and got caught in a rip that dragged him out to sea.

Two other children swimming near him at Kariaotahi beach then also got in too deep and struggled to keep their heads above the water, while a second young boogie boarder also got caught in the rip.

A woman swam over to try help the children, but she too got into trouble.

In less than two minutes, six people needed saving at just one of New Zealand's patrolled beaches.


And in total across the country, so far 91 have been pulled from the water around just the Surf Lifesaving's Northern Region.

Head of lifesaving at the Kariaotahi Surf Club, Guy Hornblow, was on duty in the tower when the trouble started on January 11.

He spotted the young boy to the south of the flags get further and further out then lose his footing.

"He started bobbing and when people start bobbing when it gets too deep, they get further and further out until they can't control themselves."

The patrol sent out one lifeguard with a rescue tube, but as more and more people got in trouble, they sent out an IRB and another lifeguard with a tube into the swell.

Guy Hornblow, head of Lifesaving Surf Life Saving Kariaotahi, helped with a mass rescue this summer. Photo / Supplied
Guy Hornblow, head of Lifesaving Surf Life Saving Kariaotahi, helped with a mass rescue this summer. Photo / Supplied

Luckily, no one was injured or needed medical attention and after they'd said their thank yous, three of the six ended up going back in the water after the scare, Hornblow said.

At the young age of 25, Hornblow has already been a volunteer for Surf Lifesaving New Zealand for 12 years, after qualifying in 2008.

He said the mass rescue on January 11, which in total was wrapped up in less than five minutes, really showed the importance of swimming between the flags at patrolled beaches.


"And if you see someone in trouble somewhere that's not patrolled, call the police on 111 and they'll dispatch lifeguards."

But one of the things people might not realise is that sometimes lifeguards help in emergencies away from the beach.

This summer he was called away from the sand to help with a motorcycle accident where the driver went over the handlebars and broke his spine in two places.

The lifeguards were the first responders and helped the man until the ambulance arrived.

"A lot of people don't realise lifeguards see more trauma than you'd expect."

The 'bad boys' of the beach that Surf Life Saving NZ wants banned
Between the Flags: Waihi Beach Surf Life Saving Club reveals how much it really costs to save lives
Surf Lifesaving NZ history: The guardians of the beaches
Surf Life Saving: Mount club makes history with win at TSB Surf Life Saving National Championships 2019

Lifesaving manager at the Surf Lifesaving Northern Region, Ari Peach, said so far this summer they'd seen fewer rescues than other years, which was really positive.

A lot of what lifeguards now do is preventative, and stopping people from getting in trouble in the first place.

They do this by raising public awareness of the importance of swimming between the flags, monitoring the conditions and cautioning swimmers if they look like they might get stuck.

But Peach said there was "always a challenge" with fishermen, who often fish away from the patrolled areas, so it's vital they wear lifejackets and have the right equipment.

"This summer we had a fisherman washed off the rocks at Piha but he was wearing a lifejacket so was able to be rescued and that's really encouraging to see."

And this long weekend for Aucklanders is shaping up to be a busy one on the beaches, with good weather forecast and three days to enjoy it at the beach.

10 ways to stay safe at the beach

1. Choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the flags.

2. Ask a lifeguard for advice as conditions can change.

3. Don't overestimate your ability.

4. Keep young children within arm's reach at all times.

5. Never swim or surf alone.

6. If caught in a rip current, RELAX and FLOAT, and RAISE your hand to signal for help and RIDE the rip until it stops and you can swim safely back to shore.

7. When fishing from the rocks, always wear a lifejacket.

8. If in doubt, stay out!

9. If you see someone in trouble, call 111 and ask for police.

10. Be sun smart - slip, slop, slap and wrap.