A man who rushed to help two drunk swimmers stuck in a rip in Dunedin at the weekend has been labelled a hero who prevented a certain drowning.

The identify of the mystery Good Samaritan who dived in to rescue the men at a beach near Brighton on Sunday can now be revealed as Dunedin man Fraser Hawker.

He was a reluctant hero yesterday, explaining he only did what the surf life-saving advertisements told him.

The 46-year-old GEA area sales manager said he had just caught up with friends and was heading to Brighton with his wife to walk his dogs.

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"We drove past Brighton Beach and saw it was chocker, so we went up the coast a little bit.''

Upon arrival at the stretch of beach just south of the Brighton Domain, they immediately spotted two men in trouble in the water.

"The people at the beach were yelling. They were yelling back.

"There were a fair few people on the beach but everyone was sort of looking at, watching.

"I said to my wife 'Look I'll just shoot off,' I didn't really know what I was going to do.''

He made his way past the first man, who was stuck in the rip in shallower water and whom he advised to calmly make his way back to shore.

But the other man further out was in much deeper trouble, and was intermittently falling under the surface.

"I got out to him, told him 'Don't grab me', and said 'We're just going to lie on our backs, I'll be here with you and we'll sort it out'."

The pair floated together about 300m down the beach before the rip started pushing them towards the breakers and he managed to drag the man back in.

Hawker credited radio advertisements for helping him know to stay calm, float and raise a hand.

While he had surfed a lot in his younger days, it had been a long time since he had even swum, he said.

"My lungs were burning.''

He was reluctant to claim too much credit for the rescue but conceded he was pleased with the outcome.

Senior Sergeant Craig Dinnissen, of Dunedin, said the two men, aged 41 and 35, were intoxicated when they became caught in a rip at the unpatrolled stretch of beach.

Hawker said the men smelled of alcohol.

Rob Lee, of Wellington, was walking on the beach with his wife and saw the incident unfolding.

"He was a hero and in my opinion definitely saved a life.''

A Brighton man yesterday called the ODT to say he was one of the people rescued.

He denied he was drunk, saying he was stuck in the rip, but was not panicking, and managed to make his way to shore himself.