Five off-duty lifeguards have been honoured for their rescue of an unconscious woman in rough seas at Piha on Auckland's west coast.

Jackson Smith, of the Red Beach Surf Life Saving Club, near Orewa in northern Auckland, led the rescue of the 19-year-old from 50m off the beach, north of Lion Rock on a Tuesday last November.

Being mid-week before the holiday period, no lifeguards were on duty.

"I found the girl unconscious, face down in the water," Jack has previously told the New Zealand Herald. "I lifted her up and started to bring her back into the beach. Another guy came and helped me and when we got her on to the beach we started to do CPR."


Jack performed CPR for at least 10 minutes before the police Eagle helicopter arrived and officers started to help. Soon the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter landed and paramedics took over, managing to resuscitate the teenager, before she was flown to Auckland City Hospital in a serious condition.

Jack later learned, from the young woman's sister, that she had been in an induced coma in hospital for a week. "They thought she would either not wake up or wake up with brain damage. But after a week she woke up with no signs of damage."

She had been swimming with her sister and a friend when they were swept about 200m out to sea through large waves at low tide.

Jack won the Surf Life Saving Northern Region's rescue-of-the-year award at the organisation's annual awards last night.

The award was made jointly to Jack and co-rescuers Nick Tomkins, Simone Hollier and Leilani Fuemana, of the beach education team from Red Beach, and Duncan Clarke of the Piha club.

Jack had been on a day off at Piha with his girlfriend when he saw a girl who was hysterical and told him her sister and friend were in the sea.

His three clubmates had just finished running an education session when they heard the emergency siren, as did Duncan Clarke, and all four rushed to the scene, where they helped with the revival efforts and liaised with the incoming rescue helicopter.

"The rescue was a great example of team work," said Surf Life Saving Northern Region chief executive Matt Williams.

"The skills that all the lifeguards showed were a credit to their training and competency and were commended by the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and the New Zealand Police after the incident."

"It was also a perfect example of our volunteers being 'on duty' even when they are off duty."

Surf Live Saving Northern Region's 2016 awards included:

• Ollie Irwin, Bethells Beach - lifeguard of the year.

• Jake Hurley, Mairangi Bay - under-19 and open sportsman of the year.

• Danielle McKenzie, Mairangi Bay - open sportswoman of the year.

• Kyle Taylor, Ruakaka - regional lifeguard of the year.