Three swimmers could have faced a tragic end at a Hawkes Bay beach if not for the "heroic efforts" of fellow swimmers, police say.

A 21-year-old woman was caught in a rip and carried about 250-metres off-shore at Waipatiki Beach, north of Napier, about 4pm yesterday, Senior Sergeant Mike Stevenson said.

Her cousin swam out to help, but was also swept out.

A 15-year-old Hawke's Bay boy at the beach swam out and found the 21-year-old and kept her calm, conscious and above water, Mr Stevenson said.


"They were joined by a kayaker who gave [her] his life jacket."

A surfer put a life jacket on her cousin and they all made it back to the beach.

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A 16-year-old girl, who also went out to help, found herself in difficulty as well, and was helped back to shore by an unidentified person, Mr Stevenson said.

The 21-year-old woman briefly lost consciousness on shore where her 15-year-old rescuer's mother, an off duty nurse, treated her.

"Several doctors on holiday at Waipatiki beach also helped with medical treatment until St Johns ambulance staff arrived," Mr Stevenson said.

The woman, who had been in the water for an hour, was flown to Hawke's Bay Hospital by the Lowe Walker Rescue Helicopter suffering from hypothermia and was reported to be in a stable condition.

Her cousin was been taken by St Johns Ambulance to hospital.

Police understood the woman was from out of the region but was holidaying at the beach with family.

Mr Stevenson praised the people who helped in bringing the females to shore and said the 15-year-old boy's efforts were "admirable".

"This is a story that could have ended tragically but some heroic efforts have prevented that from occurring."