When an ambulance arrived at Kai Iwi Beach in the evening of January 29 it found a big group of people, all screaming "He's on the beach. He's on the beach".
It was after 6pm and the lifeguards had finished work when a fit 66-year-old man collapsed suddenly in knee-deep water.
John Hamling had just managed to stay upright on a paddleboard coming to shore on small waves. His wife Kristen Hamling went down to the water's edge to admire the feat.
Instead she found him face down in the water. She pulled him out and was helped to carry him up the beach.
The two had gone to the beach with their young children, meeting other friends and their children, for a barbecue. It was a fine, calm evening and they swam for about an hour after arriving.
Luckily for John Hamling, two of their friends are a GP and a nurse. The GP put the unconscious man on his side, and felt for a pulse. The nurse knew there was a defibrillator at Mowhanau village.
She got the code to access it, and drove to the hall to fetch it. Meanwhile a crowd of helpful people had gathered around John Hamling.
"One was cleaning his chest of sand for the defibrillator. Other people were trying to block the sun out of his eyes," Kristen Hamling said.
One man rang an ambulance. Kristen Hamling walked up to the domain to direct it when it arrived, and a woman there saw her distress and took on the job.
An ambulance was rerouted from a less urgent job but by the time it arrived the GP friend had begun CPR. The unconscious man responded after just two rounds, so that when the defibrillator arrived it was not needed.
John Hamling was taken to Whanganui Hospital's emergency department, where "everyone has been unbelievable and amazing ever since," his wife said.
"The compassion, care and attentiveness has been extraordinary."
He was then flown to Wellington Hospital on January 31, and is still there. He's traumatised of course, because he doesn't know what is wrong with his heart, but he and his wife are both so grateful he's alive.
"When everything could go right, everything went right. If it had been two minutes earlier he would have been left out in the water and could have drowned," Kristen Hamling said.
"I was so happy to come home and be sorting out his stuff because he is in hospital rather than dead. Our boys, who are 8 and 11, can continue to enjoy their dad."
The evening John Hamling collapsed was a rare, fine, calm one at Kai Iwi Beach, Whanganui surf lifeguard supervisor Phil Gilmore said.
There was half-metre surf and a light northerly wind.
Conditions have rarely been that good this summer. Despite that, lifeguards hadn't made any rescues before a woman was rescued from a cliff at Kai Iwi Beach on February 5 - but they have taken a lot of preventive actions.
It's been difficult to find a safe place to swim at times, and Castlecliff and Kai Iwi beaches have been closed for large parts of January.
"There's been a big inshore trough running the length of the shoreline. There's been strong currents drawing a lot of water off the foreshore and creating a lot of rips," Gilmore said.
Rips can "pop up" any time, anywhere, and the lifeguards are constantly watching for them.
They cross their flags to show the beach is closed, or advise people not to swim, or not to go into water deeper than their waist.
"It's frustrating, because we would like to see people swimming," Gilmore said.