A large scale rescue of swimmers caught in strong rips at a busy West Coast beach could have ended with devastating loss of life if it were not for the skilled life-saving crew on duty.

And last night the team at Kariaotahi Surf Lifesaving Club were recognised for their quick-thinking actions during a Waitangi Day rescue that saw 10 people rescued.

The team was awarded 'Rescue of the Year' at the Toyota Financial Services Surf Life Saving Northern Region Awards of Excellence.

The massive rescue has been described as "one for the record books" by surf lifesaving boss Matt Williams.

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At least ten people were rescued during the large scale rescue on Waitangi Day. Photo / Kylie Hall
At least ten people were rescued during the large scale rescue on Waitangi Day. Photo / Kylie Hall

"It was a really complex situation and the outcome could have been a lot different with loss of life if it wasn't for the skill of the crew on that day," Matt Williams said.

"It could have easily been a real tragedy with people out enjoying the beach not returning home that night."

Hot weather saw more than 2000 beachgoers flock to the popular surf beach with approximately 350 people in the water at the time.

Despite the challenges of a busy beach and an outgoing tide things appeared to be under control until 5pm at low tide when flash rips began to open up.

Numerous swimmers were pulled outside the flags and a rescue boat and five lifeguards with tubes and fins were sent in to help.

The lifeguards secured 10 swimmers in distress onto their tubes until the Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) arrived.

Four injured swimmers who had taken in water were taken back to shore and treated by St John's Ambulance staff.

The IRB then went back out to assist with the other swimmers.

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Due to the dangerous sea conditions the beach was closed by the Patrol Captain Tara Coe and swimmers came to shore.

The same day the crew - including some off-duty guards - were called to another rescue to an unpatrolled beach 25km away.

That rescue saw four guards navigate dangerous heavy surf to assist a group of distressed swimmers at Hamilton Bay.

Coe said the team took their work seriously.

"When you're on patrol your main priority is making sure the public are safe at the beach," she said.

Multiple rips saw the beach closed and more than 10 swimmers rescued by Kariaotahi Surf Lifesavers. Photo / Kylie hall
Multiple rips saw the beach closed and more than 10 swimmers rescued by Kariaotahi Surf Lifesavers. Photo / Kylie hall

"We're all glad to be able to make such a huge impact to the lives of our local community and while getting recognised for it is not expected we really appreciate the recognition."

Other finalists for the award included Bethells Beach Surf Life Saving Club for saving five swimmers from a rip and Orewa Surf Life Saving Club for a rescue involving members of a family who got into strife saving their pet dog.

Matt Williams said Surf Life Saving didn't take a break because of winter and were still involved in daily rescues.

The awards were important to raise awareness of the work the Surf Life Saving crew do and ensure

Surf Life Saving Northern Region (SLSNR) has four beach safety messages:

• Be prepared. Learn to swim and survive, always wear appropriate beach attire, and be Sun Smart.
• Watch out for yourself and others. Always swim between the flags, keep children within arm's reach.
• Be aware of the dangers. Always read the safety signs and talk to the lifeguard for safety advice.
• Know your limits. Never swim or surf alone.

In the 2018-19 SLSNR:

• performed 286 rescues
• 447 assists
• 894 first aid treatments.
• 181 searches
• 30,998 safety interventions involving 105,041 people
• educated more than 12,505 school-aged children in beach safety