A stroll along the beach quickly turned into a life-saving mission for a Wellington man holidaying in Hawke's Bay.
Chris Solomon, 54, was walking along Waimarama Beach after breakfast yesterday when he saw two teenage girls waving in the surf.
"Help, my friend can't swim, she's drifting out," the girl closest to the beach told him when he waded out.
Solomon sent the first girl back to shore to get help, and swam out to the second girl, grabbing her hand.
They then fought their way through the undertow, with waves crashing over their heads.
"You just go, ‘I've got to do something'," Solomon said afterwards. "There was no-one on the beach who could really help, and if I'd turned around to go back and try and get someone, I would have been too late."
Solomon, who took a life-saving course when he was younger, said neither girl had panicked throughout the ordeal.
But he collapsed with exhaustion once they were safely back on the beach. "I think on the way back I was just knackered.
"A lady who was fully dressed came wading in and grabbed me because I was just about to pass out. She dragged me on to the beach, and put me in the recovery position."
Medical services soon arrived and the girls were given the all-clear.
"To know that they're OK, I think that was my biggest concern when I was lying on the beach," Solomon said.
"I was just so relieved we got her back, as I've got three young girls myself."
After being airlifted to Hawke's Bay hospital for a checkup and rest, Solomon was discharged later in the afternoon.
The two girls had tried to get in touch while he was in hospital, and hoped to pay him a visit before they headed home.
Solomon, an IT consultant, had been staying at a beachside bach with his wife and daughters. The experience had not put him off the beach, he said, and he would be heading back out into the water this weekend - with strict rules for his own daughters.
"I'm sure I'll dream about it tonight. But it all ended happily, which is the key thing."
- The Dominion Post