A 38-year-old Awanui man was lucky to have survived his swim at Taipa in the early hours of Sunday morning according to Far North Surf Rescue president Dave Ross.

A police spokesman said the man had decided to "swim out to sea," his fellow swimmers raising the alarm with emergency services at about 1am.

Far North Surf Rescue responded with a vehicle, a boat and a crew of four, along with three local police officers, about 10 members of the Mangonui Fire Brigade and a St John ambulance crew.

They spent some three hours on the beach, Ross saying his crew were not prepared to go out on to the water until they knew where they should be looking.

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There was a moderate swell, he added, but the water was choppy. It was very dark, raining, and generally miserable, "and we weren't looking forward to going out."

It transpired, however, that the man had swum ashore some distance along the beach, then walked about 100m to a friend's home.

"We asked him if he was aware that everyone had been out looking for him but didn't get much of a response," Ross said.

The man, who appeared to be affected by alcohol, did not seem to be any the worse for his experience, he added, although his slightly aggressive response to his would-be rescuers could have been a symptom of mild hypothermia.

"He had no real explanation," the police spokesman said, adding that the incident had been a "wasted three hours" for the emergency services.