Dozens of beachgoers watched armed police make a dramatic arrest at sea from Omanu Beach this afternoon.
A chase through Mount Maunganui, which saw a school briefly locked down, ended with members of the police Armed Offenders Squad and lifeguards rescuing a man after he tipped off a stolen surf ski.
Senior Sergeant Chris Summerville said the man was first spotted in a vehicle on Macdonald St about 10.30am.
He saw police when he was returning to the vehicle about 12.30pm and fled on foot.
"He ran across a local golf course, where he stole a bike before attempting to swap it for a car at a nearby house," Summerville said.
Failing to get the car, the man fled toward the beach and took a surf ski in front of the Omanu Beach Surf Life Saving Club.
"Unfortunately for him, he didn't steal a paddle with the surf ski and quickly tipped into the water."
Summerville said the pursuit became a water rescue, with members of the Armed Offenders Squad going out with lifeguards in a rescue boat.
The man was pulled from the water and arrested.
Summerville thanked the public and the surf club for help locating the man.
A builder on a site overlooking the beach told the Bay of Plenty Times he saw dozens of people on the beach watching the rescue and arrest unfold over about 20 minutes.
He said the fleeing man flipped the craft just out the back of the breakers and was struggling to get back on when the two IRBs containing lifeguards and police officers headed out.
They rescued him, then detained him.
He was brought back to the beach before being handcuffed and taken to the police cars.
Police said the Armed Offenders Squad were called to help with the search as a precaution.
According to an email sent to parents, Mount Maunganui Intermediate was asked to go into a lockdown at 12.10pm while police searched for the man nearby.
All staff and students were kept safely indoors for the 25-minute duration of the lockdown, the email said.
Police said the man was wanted on firearms and drugs charges, and would likely face further charges.