WAIKANAE surf lifeguard Matt Cairns was the right man in the right place at the right time on Saturday afternoon when he helped a surfer hooked in a kontiki line at Wainui Beach — and he did it an hour before he got married.
The 30-year-old was at the beach making final preparations before getting married later that afternoon.
He is the commercial manager for the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union, based in Tauranga, and trains with the Mount surf lifeguards.
The drama started at about 2.30pm when a French tourist went for a surf opposite the Chalet.
At about the same time, a motorised kontiki fishing line was launched from the beach.
The 25-year-old boardrider was hooked by the hand as the line was towed out through the surf break, and he was dragged out to sea.
Mr Cairns had been staying at the Chalet and had gone for a swim before going back to get dressed for his wedding to fiancee Joy Williams.
“I had just got to the beach from my swim when I heard screaming out in the surf and saw the surfer being dragged out.
“Other people started to look at him too, so I reacted,” Mr Cairns said.
He alerted bystanders and got one of them to call 111 for help.
“I got another man to join me. We swam out about 150 metres to get to him.”
Mr Cairns said he still did not know at that stage exactly what was wrong.
“But the guy kept on screaming, and he was holding a hand up. When I got closer I could see he was hooked up in the fishing line, and he was trying to show it to me.”
When he arrived at the surfer’s side he got him back on to his surfboard.
“I grabbed the fishing line, and noticed straight away there was a hell of lot of tension on it.
“The offshore movement of the line was causing him quite a bit of pain.
“I was able to locate the clip in the trace line where the hook was attached, and was able to detach the trace from the line.
“The 3 to 4 inch hook remained firmly imbedded in the fleshy part of his hand, between his thumb and first finger,” Mr Cairns said.
The surfer was able to paddle his board back to the beach.
“I swam alongside him to make sure he stayed on his board. When we got back to the beach I got the concerned fisherman to take him to Wainui Surf Life Saving Club, to wait for the ambulance.”
Mr Cairns went back up to the Chalet to get ready for his wedding.
The injured man was cared for at the surf club until the ambulance arrived and club members launched an IRB to assist in the emergency.
St John Ambulance picked up the injured surfer and took him to hospital, where the hook was surgically removed in the emergency department.
“He was treated and discharged,” a hospital spokeswoman said.
Matt and Joy were married on a property at the top end of Sirrah Street an hour later and the reception was held at the Wainui surf clubhouse.
“The wedding went off beautifully.
“Joy and I, and our families, had a great time,” Matt said.
He wanted to make the point that the rescue was the sort of thing surf lifeguards did all the time.
“I was just pleased to have been able to help the guy.
“Doing a rescue on my wedding day was certainly the last thing on my mind, though.”