Teens pull off daring rescue, just like on TV
A pair of teen heroes who rescued a swimmer from the Mt Maunganui surf are crediting a reality-TV series for showing them what to do.
When they spotted a swimmer in trouble in rough conditions at Mt Maunganui soon after the Surf to Sand Ocean Swim, Taupo boys Keegan Pook and Kyle Smith, both 16, paid tribute to Piha Rescue for informing them what to do.
The pair had just finished competing in the event, which had been moved from Pilot Bay because of rough conditions at the beach.
Keegan said they had headed around to check out the surf after their race because they had heard it was rough.
" . . . I was on the phone to mum telling her my results. Then dad said this guy had his hand up so I gave the phone to my friend and ran out to the water.
"Dad stopped me and said the guy with his hand up was not in trouble, it was the one further back, so I got to the guy and he was panicked and tried to climb up on top of me. We were a good 300 to 400 metres out, then Kyle came out and he was relaxed, then a surfer came out and got him back to shore."
Keegan said he had never had to rescue someone before.
"He was trying to climb on me as a natural instinct, so I heard you push them away, so I kept doing that and he relaxed."
He said the experience had been frightening: "I was shaking a good few hours after the rescue - just [thinking of] all the possibilities that could have happened."
Kyle said that, once he realised what was happening, he followed Keegan out.
"We swam out to get the other guy and then got a surfer's board and helped shove him back in."
Keegan said there were no flags up, but lifeguards were scattered down the beach and arrived just as the pair got the 14-year-old back on shore.
Kyle said he also found the experience frightening.
"It was pretty scary, but I had to be pretty relaxed about it. If I was panicking, it would make it worse.
"There were some big waves coming in, so I held him under because if he was up it would have been worse and he would have swallowed heaps of water."
He said running out to help was "just natural instinct".
Mt Maunganui Senior Sergeant Deirdre Lack said she had been competing in the Surf to Sand Ocean swim so had not been on duty, but heard about the incident and said it was a rough day in the water.
"I know the conditions, even when they are good it's a tough swim . . . unfortunately you get people going out thinking they're strong enough."