It takes only a second for things to go wrong.

One big wave can knock you down and wash you out to sea before you can ask, "How did that happen?"

Too often we read about drownings or near misses off the Hawke's Bay coast.

Just last week a coroner praised the actions of a man who selflessly tried to save his nephew before rough seas took them both.

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Read more: Kids alone in dangerous sea

Sage Smith, 22, and Kustom Blandford, 7, drowned last November near Iwitea Beach about 15km north of Wairoa.

A local farmer warned Mr Smith and his three young charges that the beach was not safe enough for swimming in.

Despite that, the group paddled in shallow water, holding hands for safety.

That did not stop a rogue wave bowling them off their feet.

Mr Smith plucked one child from the water before he was washed out to sea with Kustom. The incident devastated their whanau.

There could have easily been another tragedy at the weekend when four children, aged 7 and under, were found swimming alone off Marine Pde. The children aged 3, 4, 5 and 7 had slipped out of a family gathering and ridden their bikes to the pump track.

They then decided to cool off in the water.

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Fortunately a member of public noticed the absence of an adult and called the police.

All four made it ashore safely. But it could have easily ended in tragedy.

The beach is unpredictable and has a troublesome history.

Parents need to be vigilant and keep a close eye on their children. And if they are at the beach, supervised of course, make sure everyone swims between the flags.