A family enjoying a day at the beach and cooling off in the Waipatiki surf quickly became panicked as a rip dragged them out to sea, only to be saved by a team of junior surf lifeguards training nearby.

One of Westshore Surf Life Saving Club Patrol captains Trina Wills said the squad of seven was preparing for the U14 Nationals on Saturday on the Hawke's Bay beach when they saw the family of five in trouble. "They were practicing their board rescue and tube rescue events that morning for the nationals - A member of the public alerted some parents on shore as a family were caught in a rip, treading water and slowly drifting out to sea."

Alerted to the danger, lifeguards Katie Moodie, Andrew Bowden, Liam Bowden, Erin Gourley, Shea Jefferson, Edward Parsons and Jade Wills raced to the drowning family on knee boards and pulled them into shore.

She said the relieved family could not imagine what would have happened if the lifeguards had not been there.


"It could have been quite a disaster. We were quite lucky they were all there training because it could have turned really nasty."

One of the children struggling to stay afloat said: "I thought I was going to drown."

The squad's head coach Katie Moodie said the family was extremely distressed when the team reached them beyond the breaking surf.

"I think they were quite surprised at how strong the rip was. They were very grateful and as they left the beach they waved and said 'thanks for saving the whanau, guys'."

This summer a trial period of full time lifeguards at Waipatiki Beach was funded by Hastings District Council and Napier City Council.

Napier City Council allocated $10,000 for the scheme while Hastings City Council had provided $7,000.

A Hastings District Council spokesman said the trial ended at the conclusion of the summer school holidays.

Waipatiki ratepayers association president Paul Evans said he would definitely like to see a more permanent lifeguard presence.

"There is only so much they can do, but it worked so well this summer and the feedback has been great. We are really keen for the two councils to continue funding the initiative in the future."