Police are heaping praise on Pōrangahau Beach locals for their swift response to a swimmer in distress on Sunday afternoon.
The swimmer, a 13-year-old male with limited swimming ability, had been playing in surf on a boogie board when he was swept out to sea by a rip, which took him approximately 500m before he was seen waving his arms for help.
While rescuers raced to get boats in the water, one local resident swam out with a boogie board and reached the swimmer and was able to bring him ashore.
Senior Constable Andy Walker said the boy was hypothermic, exhausted and had swallowed a lot of water.
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"The rescue helicopter was dispatched but was stood down and the boy was taken to Palmerston North Hospital by road ambulance," Walker said.
"It was a standout response from Pōrangahau Beach locals, especially the man who swam out and brought the boy ashore. The family is extremely thankful for his actions as he undoubtedly saved the boy's life."
Walker says the incident is a reminder that children and young people - especially those who can't swim - need to be actively supervised when in the water.
"This could have been a tragedy."