Two 12-year-old cousins who have won official praise for their bravery are to meet the man they saved from drowning after he was swept out to sea by a rip on a Bay of Plenty beach.

Will White and Sergio Schuler are being hailed as heroes for rescuing a man who found himself in trouble at Bowentown beach on Saturday.

The Herald understands they will meet the man they saved, a 32-year-old Aucklander who identified himself as Vincent, next week in Waihi.

The two boys, both confident in the water, were swimming about 2.15pm when they saw the man waving his arms about 100m offshore and about a kilometre from the nearest lifeguards flags.


"We saw the guy struggling so we thought we needed to help him so we went out and tried to get him to come back in and sort of couldn't," said Sergio, of Te Aroha.

Will, who has been in training with the Waihi Beach Surf Lifesaving Club's little nippers programme for four years, said the much larger man was yelling for help as they got close to him.

He then tried to grab the boys to stay afloat as they battled against the rip to get back to shore.

"We were trying to encourage him to come in," said Sergio.

"But he was only just moving and the waves would hit him and he'd go under."

The rescued man last night told the Herald he feared the worse.

He said that the boys had saved his life, and he was looking forward to meeting them.

"I definitely want to say something to them ... they are certainly heroes for me," he said.

Vincent said he was caught in a strong current and swept out to sea.

"It was a full moon tide and the current was too strong, it felt like I was in a deep hole and then I was about 60 metres from the beach."

He was guided back to shore by the boys, taken to hospital, and discharged after three hours.

The boys' actions were greeted yesterday with praise.

Asked if they felt scared or worried for their lives at any stage, Will said: "Nah, not really".

Waihi Beach Surf Lifesaving Club captain and police sergeant Dave Litton said the two boys' bravery was remarkable, particularly because they were small and were fighting a 1.5m swell.