Four teenagers in inflatables had a lucky escape on Saturday afternoon when they were blown 3.5 kilometres off a Gisborne beach and a waterproof cellphone made the difference.
The group were playing in two inflatable kayaks and an inflatable raft just off the beach opposite the old Paokahu tip site, when they were caught by the wind.
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They were rescued by a father and son IRB crew from the Dawson Building Midway Surf Lifesaving Club.
The drama began at around 3pm when the group — three young men and a young woman in their late teens — called for help on the cellphone.
"It was fortunate that one of them had that waterproof phone. He called his mother and told her they were in trouble," said Midway patrol supervisor Rama Robertson.
"She googled the surf club, contacted our club administrator, who in turn notified our club chairman Dave Corrin and me."
Dave Corrin and his son Jacob, 16, happened to be driving near the surf club at the time, and Robertson responded from his nearby home.
"Dave and Jacob put an IRB in the water and I went along the beach on our ATV bike to spot them from the shore," Robertson said.
"When I got there I could barely see them, they were so far out into the bay. We estimate 3.5 kilometres."
The Corrins located the group and put all four of them into their IRB.
"They were very scared when my son and I got to them and relieved that help had arrived," Dave Corrin said.
"They told us they all got into trouble with the wind at the same time. They did the right thing by tying the three craft together.
"Otherwise, who knows where they might have ended up, scattered in different places."
The Corrins deflated the two kayaks and stowed those in the raft, then towing the raft, they made their way slowly back to shore.
"It took Dave and his son at least 20 minutes to get back to the shore, they were so far off," Robertson said.
Two of the group had been wearing lifejackets, but the other two were not. "They told us they could not swim, and they were all wearing light clothing or swimwear," Robertson said.
"They were not prepared for what they were doing, and the wind was quite strong offshore in that area of the beach.
"They told us they had been playing just behind the waves when the wind caught them."
Midway's patrols started for the season yesterday.
"So they were extremely lucky they had that cellphone with them and that we had people who were immediately available to go to their aid," Mr Robertson said.
"The incident shows up a few water safety lessons.
"Always be aware of the conditions, and when out in inflatables watch out for the wind. Always wear lifejackets when out on craft like kayaks or rafts.
"If you get into trouble, or see someone in difficulties, always call 111 to get assistance."
The group were all OK when they arrived safety back on the beach, and were extremely grateful for the help the Midway lifeguards had provided. - Gisborne Herald