A kayaker is lucky to be alive after volunteers from Coastguard Maketu plucked him from large waves and cold water on the Maketu Bar.

Coastguard Maketu volunteers were about to head out on their rescue vessel about 3pm Saturday when a passer-by yelled out of their car window that someone had capsized on the Maketu Bar.

Other members of the Coastguard unit ran out to the end of the groyne where local fishermen had seen the man fall out of his kayak and had called the police. They quickly spotted the kayaker and could see the grave danger he was in.

"The man was about 30 to 40m away from his kayak," Coastguard Maketu president Shane Beech said.

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"The outgoing force of water over the bar meant he was trapped in the surf break and getting hammered by the waves. There was no way he could swim to safety, he was in desperate trouble."

The crew of six quickly located the man and positioned themselves head on into the waves on the bar to perform "a very difficult rescue". The man was exhausted and very cold. Waves crashing over the bow as they pulled the man on board made for a challenging rescue for the skipper Andy McRae and helmsman Roger Hintz, testing their many years of training and seamanship.

The Coastguard volunteers quickly set to work removing his wet clothing and communicating with their crew members on land.

Once recovered the man was found to be extremely cold with a very low body temperature, and had swallowed a large amount of water. Call for assistance was sent to St John's to meet them at the new coastguard jetty on the Kaituna river.

Eastpack Rescue brought the patient back to the jetty and St John's took the man to hospital.

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"Another couple of minutes and I think it would have been a very different outcome this afternoon. This is a rescue our volunteers can be very proud of, there is no doubt they saved a life today," Beech said.