Steve Houkamau was at school on Wednesday doing what he does best – making people safe.
The Centralines linesman spent the day at Pōrangahau School teaching children how to be safe with electricity, dismissing anything was "heroic" about saving a struggling boy from the surf at nearby Te Paerahi Beach on Sunday.
Central Hawke's Bay Senior Constable Andy Walker told Hawke's Bay Today the public response and particularly 47-year-old Houkamau's unhesitating leap into the sea "saved the boy's life".
The boy, 13, was taken to Palmerston North Hospital with breathing difficulties and hypothermia.
Houkamau, who grew up around Omakere, learning to dive around the beaches and rocks of Porangahau, Aramoana, Blackhead and Pourerere, brushes off suggestions of being a "hero".
He says it was more about knowing the local conditions and a timely early-summer reminder to respect the conditions of the ocean.
"You've got to realise the sea doesn't have feelings," he said. "It doesn't care about you.
"You've got to know your limits, you've got to know the local conditions, and if you don't, stay within your limits and don't get out of your depth."
About 2pm on Sunday Houkamau was concreting for a fence at his Makaramu St home when his neighbour alerted him to the boy with a board struggling beyond the breakers.
"Has anyone gone out to get him?" Houkamau asked as he grabbed a boogie-board and ran across the beach into the sea, about 100 metres from the boy, working out that the boy was likely to be carried by the current towards him.
"He was too far out, between the first and second breakers, but not too far beyond the wave, but I knew what to do," he said.
"I let him come to me, I didn't grab him or drag him to shore, I just assisted him."
The boy was in panic mode but was soon being helped by others on the beach as emergency services were called, including a rescue helicopter, although the boy was ultimately taken to hospital by St John Ambulance.
"It could have been a lot different," Houkamau said, as he described a mix of passion for the coastline, its attractions of a sandy beach and nearby bounty of seafood, and conditions with the need for care.
"It can be quite treacherous on parts of this coast, and it was an outgoing tide. If he was beyond the next breaker I don't think he would have made it if he had fallen off his board."
He said others, possibly whanau and friends of the boy, were nearby in the water but hadn't been able to reach the child.
Houkamau said it was possible they, too, were getting into waters out of their depth, and ultimately had done the right thing by not diving into conditions they might not have been able to handle.
"It could have been a multiple tragedy," he said, recalling as a much younger man, aged about 20, getting into difficulty with up to 10 others doing "teenage" things at Pourerere in what became a "full-on" rescue dragging struggling people from the sea.