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Dramatic beach rescue at Onepoto Beach

GIRL SAVED: Surf lifeguard veteran Peter Boyd (centre) saved the life of a seven-year-old girl who was swept out in a rip at Onepoto Beach at Hicks Bay on Saturday afternoon, backed up by new Ngati Porou SLSC lifeguards Morehu Nikora and Kandice Bevan.Picture supplied

A girl was saved from the surf at Onepoto Beach at Hicks Bay on Saturday afternoon by a member of the Ngati Porou SLSC after she was sucked out to sea by a savage rip.

The seven-year-old was swept out at the southern end of the beach at around 3.30pm, sparking a dramatic rescue.

“She was in the water well outside our flagged area when it happened,” said her rescuer, Ngati Porou Surf Life Saving Club coordinator Peter Boyd.

He grabbed a paddleboard, ran down the beach towards where the drama was unfolding and raced out to her through very testing surf conditions.

“The swell was one-and-half-metres-plus in size, and there was a lot of water moving around in rips.

“We had to shift our patrol flags half-a-dozen times during the afternoon because of the tricky conditions.”

Mr Boyd said they heard the girl screaming before they actually saw her from the beach, because of the rough, choppy conditions.

“Her family on the beach were screaming too and a family member was going to get in to help her, but I called the woman back.

“When I got out to her the poor girl was very frightened.

“She would have been 200 metres offshore when I got to her.

“The girl had some swimming ability and did very well to be able to keep herself afloat until I got there.

“She was dog paddling furiously.”

Mr Boyd said the girl was “on the edge” of going under when he reached her.

“I got her onto the board and paddled her along the beach to a place where it was safer to bring her back to shore.”

He did that successfully, much to the relief of the girl and her distraught whanau members.

“Her family were just so grateful. They kept coming up and thanking us all. It was really quite humbling.”

The 54-year-old lifeguard, who lives in Gisborne, joined the Wainui SLSC in the mid-1980s and is still a member of that club as well as Ngati Porou SLSC.

He was instrumental in the creation of the Ngati Porou club six years ago.

“We currently have a dozen active lifeguards and it was good that two of our newest lifeguards Morehu Nikora and Kandice Bevan were there to back me up on Saturday afternoon.

“We were all so pleased to have been able to prevent a potential tragedy.

“For me personally, I'm a papa (grandfather) and to be able to save the life of their mokopuna and take her back to her nanny (grandmother), who was on the beach, was pretty special.”

Ngati Porou SLSC patrols through January each year, and their final patrols will be next weekend.