This week, we're profiling the 10 finalists for the Herald's New Zealander of the Year, and they're all aged under 30

They didn't think it was a big deal then, and they still don't. But 16-year-olds Josh Jarvis and Fletcher Swan, and Jayden Rutten, 12, don't deny their actions saved the life of a drowning man at Mt Maunganui last summer.

On February 12, the young members of the Omanu Surf Lifesaving Club were at Omanu Beach when a 47-year-old who had been boogie-boarding was caught in a rip and began to struggle.

In a move believed to have been a life-and-death decision, Jayden went out on his foamboard and tried towing the man, holding on to his feet. When that failed, the then 11-year-old put the man on his board and kept him calm.

Meanwhile, Josh and Fletcher, who had been waiting for training, heard what was happening and, in their first major rescue, jumped on their kneeboards and paddled out 70m.


Josh, fit and strong from a training regime, didn't think about any danger and said at the time: "I didn't think about it too much because the adrenalin was just surging and I was thinking, 'I have to help him'."

The man had kept falling off Jayden's board and was barely afloat. Eventually, they made it to the shallows, where another club member helped them.

The boys remember the ordeal clearly, and though acknowledging the man was close to drowning, they didn't see their efforts as anything special.

Yesterday, the trio remained surprised at the publicity and at their nomination for the Herald's New Zealander of the Year award.

"Anyone from the surf club in our situation would have done the exact same thing," Josh said.

Other under-30 finalists so far

Steven Adams
Ella Yelich-O'Connor (Lorde)
Ben Uffindell
Lydia Ko
Kieran Read