Lifeguards at a notoriously dangerous west coast beach have heavily criticised a couple who got into trouble while swimming late at night.

Piha Surf Life Saving Club senior lifeguard Jonathon Webber said it could have been a tragedy if the pair hadn't been wearing life jackets.

"Swimming at night is extremely dangerous, and in other circumstances this decision to go swimming at night would have resulted in a double-drowning," he said.

Off-duty lifeguards were alerted to the two swimmers in distress at Piha at 11.30pm.


The police Eagle helicopter and volunteer and regional lifeguards were called in to search for the pair.

"Lifeguards subsequently located two Asian persons; a male and a female stuck on the front of Lion Rock," Webber said.

"Both were wearing life jackets having initially entered the water in the middle of the beach."

The pair had been swept north by the currents, and made a landing on Lion Rock when they realised they were out of their depth and in trouble.

One of them raised the alarm with a life jacket whistle, and a friend on the beach heard this and called 111.

Lifeguards helped the two swimmers off the rocks and took them to the surf club about midnight. One was treated for minor cuts and the other for mild hypothermia.

Webber said one of the people had limited swimming ability, while the other claimed they could swim 2-3km in a pool.

"Whilst the wearing of life jackets may have averted a tragedy and allowed one of the swimmers to use their whistle to signal for help in this instance, it does not excuse what was clearly a very unsafe decision to go swimming at night," he said.

"Police on scene have spoken to the two swimmers involved and their group of friends about the decision they made at a notoriously dangerous beach at night, less than a one month after a man drowned here."

A man in his 20s drowned near Lion Rock after he got into trouble about 6pm on December 17.

A second swimmer needed medical treatment from surf lifesavers. He had minor injuries.