Lifeguard describes rescue of injured surfer who wrote 'help' in sand

A surfer who was rescued after writing help in the sand at a remote West Auckland beach was lucky he was even seen, according to Surf Life Saving.

Mercer Bay cliff area. Source: RNZ / Brad White

The man had been surfing at Karekare Beach in the morning but lost his board in a large wave and was swept onto rocks.

Unable to walk out through the tracks and after two hours of persisting, the man wrote the message in desperation.

Before collapsing, he was seen writing the message at Mercer Bay by a walker, who called United North Piha Surf Club about 3.30pm.

A Surf Life Saving rescue jetski set off from Piha with two lifeguards and first aid equipment to conduct a search.

The lifeguards found him and provided emergency first aid for his serious injuries.

Surf lifeguard Blake Porteous was one of those who got on the jetski to Mercer Bay from the southern end of Piha, where he was working.

"When we were in the water we saw a guy waving in the beach so we got to the sand... I ran over to the guy who was lying down at that point. I saw he wasn't in a very good state, he was in a bit of pain. He had a deep cut to his leg and a couple of other cuts and abrasions to his body," he told Morning Report.

"I was quite grateful he was talking to me and was alert ... he was quite relieved and grateful to see me."

Porteous said he didn't notice the 'help' message at the time because he was too focused on doing his job.

The surfer was taken back to Piha, where an ambulance was awaiting to take him to hospital.

About 5pm, the surfer's wife reported him missing to police after growing concerned at not having heard from him.

Surf Life Saving was able to confirm that the surfer who the lifeguards treated was the missing person.

Search and rescue supervisor John-Michael Swannix said the man was very lucky considering not many people are out and about under alert level 3.

"The message in the sand is not visible from the walking tracks at the northern end of Mercer Bay, so it was very lucky the informant and her friend were at the southern end and able to see it."

Swannix said with alert levels going back down, people should always go surfing or swimming with someone else.

"It just means there is someone there to look out for you or to get help if something does go wrong.

"We have 17 Emergency Callout Squads from Ahipara down to Raglan who are available 24/7 to respond to incidents like this. If someone is in trouble, people just need to call 111 and ask police for the surf lifeguards."

Weekday patrols at Ōrewa, Bethells, North Piha and Raglan wrap up at the end of this week, with daily patrols at Muriwai and Piha continuing until the first week of March.