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What began as a training session ended as a real-life rescue operation for two Omanu surf lifesavers. Ben Cochrane, 19, and Max Beattie, 24, were riding back into shore on surf skis on Thursday evening as the lifesavers began packing up when they spotted a swimmer struggling in the water. Mr Cochrane, a former head boy at Mount Maunganui College, said he was surfing the wave all the way in when the man began "screaming" for help. "Max had managed to get off the wave and had the guy hanging on to his ski for flotation," Mr Cochrane said.

The guy was on his last legs and his screams for help had been getting pretty muffled with water.
Ben Cochrane
"Meanwhile I paddled into shore as quick as I could and flung my ski on to the beach. "One of the younger girls was coming in on a board so I grabbed it and paddled back out. We got the guy on the board and paddled him in." Mr Cochrane said if it wasn't for his friend, the swimmer would have gone under. "The guy was on his last legs and his screams for help had been getting pretty muffled with water." Mr Cochrane said the man was frantically trying to stay afloat, surf lifesavers call it "climbing the ladder". "If it hadn't been for Max having the ski right there the swimmer would've been in a bit of trouble. The lifeguards were in the middle of packing up, it was right on 6 o'clock." Mr Cochrane said the timing made all the difference. Read more: Bay set to buzz this Anniversary weekend "The guy got swept out so quick. "That's the thing - members of the public think 'oh there's lifeguards there, we'll be sweet if we do get in trouble', but it is such a timing thing. In these situations it can go downhill so fast." Mr Cochrane said a lifeguard came to help as quickly as he could but if Mr Beattie had not been right there with his ski the swimmer would have gone under. "In my opinion, Max saved his life." He said the man was fine once standing on two feet on the beach, and shook their hands "very graciously". "He was a bit shaken but he had just been out of breath and panicking in the water," Mr Cochrane said. While the lads had been training they saw Omanu lifeguards save three swimmers at once after being swept off their feet into deep water. "There was a bit of a hole where, 10 steps into the water, it got really deep," Mr Cochrane said. The best mates were based in the Gold Coast, with Mr Beattie surf lifesaving at Surfers Paradise and Mr Cochrane at Northcliffe, but had come home to compete in the Eastern Regional Championships at Mount Main Beach over the weekend. They met while racing for Omanu Surf Life Saving Club.