A rescue that touches our hearts

Thursday, 16 April 2020

It’s not often that we write stories on a sensitive topic such as this, but there’s a recent rescue that we felt we had to talk about.

We’re not going to say when or where it happened, or who was involved – that’s not important.

But we are going to share the events that unfolded because this is a story that touches our hearts in so many ways – we simply had to share it with you.

This rescue was more than just helping a man out of the water. It was also about helping him out of the delicate situation he was in.


A volunteer Surf Lifeguard had taken the day off work and was at home when his phone alerted him to a person in trouble in the water at a beach just moments away.

“I put some gear in my car and shot down to the beach. I thought it would be a stock standard rescue.”

When the Surf Lifeguard got to the beach some members of the public waved him down and pointed to a person bobbing in the water about 200 metres off shore. The Surf Lifeguard stripped down to his underwear, grabbed a rescue tube and went in.

He swam out to the patient, who refused the Surf Lifeguard’s assistance.

“I told him I was there to help him, but he said he didn’t want my help, he didn’t want any help.”

The concerned Surf Lifeguard read between the lines and wondered if the man was suicidal.

“I just started talking to him. I just hung out with him. I kept telling him I was there to help.

“It was about 10 minutes of general conversation while we were floating out on the water.”

The Surf Lifeguard found out the man’s age and that he had a young child with a birthday coming up soon.

“I encouraged him to think about his child, and to keep going for his child.”

The man was very emotional throughout the encounter, often crying.

“He was bobbing down under the water a few times. I gently grabbed him by the hand or the arm to pull him back up.

“I didn’t want to get too close in case he pulled me down too.

“I think I finally convinced him to come in after talking about how much his child needs him, and offering him my hand to shake, and reminding him that I was just there to help.”

The man became concerned about the people watching from the beach, so the Surf Lifeguard told him to ignore everyone else and focus on heading to a part of the beach where nobody else was.

“I could see we had drifted several hundred metres and were slightly further in from a small swell pushing us in.”

The pair were walking out of the shallows just as more Surf Lifeguards, the police and a rescue helicopter arrived.

The Surf Lifeguards left the patient in the care of police and the rescue helicopter crew.

“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” the Surf Lifeguard says.


We think this rescue is outstanding – after all this wasn’t your typical rescue – our guys aren’t trained counsellors. Members of the public often don’t realise this type of situation is something our volunteers might deal with.

To the Surf Lifeguard concerned, you know who you are, and you know what you’ve done. Thank you.

From Surf Life Saving New Zealand, to everyone on the front line - thank you for what you do to keep people safe and help them get home.


Need help? Know someone who does?


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

Or if you need to talk to someone else:


Photo: Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash

For more information, please contact: 

Melanie Louden
Media and Communications Manager
Surf Life Saving NZ
021 757 433