Surf lifesavers called out by police to a rescue had a full boat of four-legged friends and a PlayStation when they returned.

But that wasn't all.

When father and son lifeguard team Hamish and Campbell Reid were called to help they came back with a household of four adults, a newborn baby, two older children, three rottweilers, four hunting dogs and a PlayStation.

It was all after a storm rocked Whakatāne on July 5, Hamish said.

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"It was a really intense bit of weather, and it dumped a lot of water into the Urewera Ranges, and that came down the Whakatāne River like a flash flood, so it was very high."

And to make matters worse, it coincided with the rising tide.

"The river gets pushed back with the incoming high tide, and the river had actually breached the stopbanks up near Taneatua, in the build-up to high tide, which was coming at about 8.30am."

The family, in a house on Rewatu Rd, woke just before 5am to find overflowing river water surrounding the house and rising around them.

It was already more than 2m in places and too deep to escape safely.

The Reids picked up the club's IRB (inflatable rescue boat) and the club's 4WD which meant they could drive straight through the storm debris and shallower flooding to the deep end of Rewatu Rd, and launch the boat right into the water.

"It was pitch black, the water was coming up fast, and there was lots of stuff in the water," Hamish said.

"A lot of plant debris had come up from the maize paddocks, and it was like a blanket of maize husks on the top of the water that we had to manoeuvre through, and get past things like fences hidden under the water."

The family came out to meet them, and the lifeguards made four trips back and forth with an assortment of children, dogs and adults.

"They were calm, but they'd been starting to get a bit nervous as the water was coming up their driveway.

"When we got there the dogs were jumping around having a ball, and jumping in and out of the water, and the kids thought it was a bit of an adventure, one of them had made sure to rescue his PlayStation."

As the crew drove to safety Hamish said he remembered a deep gurgling rushing noise which he later realised was water gushing over the flood banks.

"Once the river starts going over it can rise pretty fast. It was up at least another metre while we were out there, and it was like, 'I'm glad I'm heading in the right direction'."

Hamish, who is president of Whakatāne Surf Life Saving Club, said this was the third job he had been to this winter, including a job two weeks ago where they helped rescue a man who called police to say he was floating about 2km off the coast holding on to a log.

"It's vital for water rescues that we are there to help, with the right equipment and the right skills for these sorts of challenging situations," he said.

"Most of our callouts are bad weather, in the dark, and normally pretty dangerous situations for the people who need help.

"When we can bring them back to dry land safely it's all worth it, that's a pretty special feeling."