Analisa Tipu and Leilani Wong struggled to find the words to thank one of their rescuers, who did not think twice before swimming out to save them at a Hawke's Bay beach.
The cousins muttered a shy thank-you and gave Lucan Battison, 14, a tentative hug when they met him yesterday just metres from where they nearly lost their lives.
"It's kinda hard to thank someone who you owe your life to. Thanks doesn't seem enough. We're so very grateful that they were there," Miss Tipu told The Dominion Post.
The 21-year-old and Miss Wong, 18, became too weak to swim out of the swells at Waipatiki Beach, about 40 kilometres north of Napier, on Saturday afternoon. Lucan rallied his friends to save the pair and another teenage girl who were struggling in the water.
The reluctant hero awkwardly accepted their thanks with a small smile. He said he just did what anyone else would have done.
Ruth Wong had taken her daughter and niece, who was visiting from Hamilton, to the beach on Saturday. The girls decided to venture out without their boogie boards.
"It was crazy. One minute we were diving under the wave and you could touch the ground then we dived under the next and we were being pulled further out to sea and we couldn't touch the ground," Miss Tipu said.
The young women struggled to breathe with their long hair sticking to their faces.
"I was really tired and at that point I knew we weren't going to get back by ourselves," Miss Tipu said.
A woman on the shore heard their screams and asked Lucan and his friends to help.
Lucan swam the third young woman, also in trouble, back to shore while a boarder helped Miss Wong back to the beach.
Mrs Wong wrapped her daughter in her arms and prayed for her niece. "We were like, ‘please, Father in heaven, don't let this be it'," she said.
Callum Williams, 15, swam out to Miss Tipu.
"I remember being put in a lifejacket and him telling me when to breathe and then I sort of blacked out," she said.
Miss Tipu was hypothermic and kept in Hawke's Bay Hospital overnight. Miss Wong and the teenager did not need treatment.
- The Dominion Post