Six people had to be rescued after their waka ama was swamped by a wave on the Whanganui River bar late Wednesday afternoon.

At 5.37pm, Coastguard Wanganui volunteers received an emergency callout after police were notified that six people were in the water. They were on the scene within 15 minutes of the call being made.

The six paddlers were coming back over the bar when they were swamped by a wave from behind, causing them to end up in the water, nearly 500m from shore, as the waka quickly submerged.

"It was already dark when our pagers went off, so we knew we had to get out there quickly," said Coastguard Wanganui president Garry Hawkins.

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Despite the outgoing tide, the group were able to stay together by holding on to the submerged waka.

"Three of the paddlers were wearing headlamps so our crew could see where they were in the water, on arrival they quickly got to work pulling everyone on board Wanganui Rescue and checking everyone was ok.

"Two of the paddlers were showing signs of hypothermia, I'd say they'd been in the water for around 30 minutes when we got to them. The water is about 14 degrees at the moment so they were lucky they weren't in there for any longer," Hawkins said.

The six paddlers were coming back over the bar when they were swamped by a wave from behind. Photo / File
The six paddlers were coming back over the bar when they were swamped by a wave from behind. Photo / File

Upon arrival back at land, the paddlers were taken to hospital and have since been discharged.

"We could have all been facing a very different outcome," Hawkins said. "Thankfully we're not and six people are safe and home with their families tonight."