The heroic actions of three young surfers saved a Rotorua teenager from drowning after she was swept off the rocks at Leisure Island on Friday.
Jaden Sloan, 16, Isiah Tama, 17, and Kobi Harrison, 17, were surfing near the Mount Maunganui island about midday when they saw a group of teenagers waving and pointing to the water next to them.
"We didn't really know what they were talking about so we just did what they said and we saw a girl's head bobbing up and down so we gave her a board to sit on," Kobi said. "She was just about to go under. It was pretty scary."
By then another surfer had made it over and helped the boys push the battered 15-year-old back to shore.
Tauranga police Senior Sergeant Nigel Ramsden said the girl had minor injuries from scraping against the rocks and was treated by St John officers at the scene but was not taken to hospital.
The outcome could have been very different if the surfers had not happened to be nearby at the time, Jaden said.
"She probably would have drowned. It looked like it."
The boys themselves took a battering from the wild waves as they tried to make it back to shore, Isiah said.
"The surf was pretty big," he said.
The nine Awhina School students, aged 14-15, were on a school trip over from Rotorua.
Awhina School principal Allen Perrott was with the girl at the blowhole when she was sucked out to sea.
"She was sitting on the rocks and a big wave came over and took her out to sea," Mr Perrott said.
"I asked the surfers to come over and immediately called 111. I'm really thankful to the surfers who came to her."
Mr Perrott said the rest of the students were traumatised by what had happened, including a boy who has since been upset that he didn't jump in to rescue the girl.
One of the students was handcuffed by police after a confrontation with a person taking photographs but was released a short time later, Mr Perrott said.
Mr Perrott said he was disappointed because the school trip was an end-of-term reward for his students, which had now been tarnished.
The Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service sent a rescue boat out to help the teenager but she had already been brought to shore.
Kobi said the girl was able to joke about the ordeal despite looking battered.
"She had a pretty puffed-out eye and scratches on her face. She was all right. It looked like she got beaten up."
A Mount Maunganui resident said the girl could have easily died.
The run from the blowhole to the surf club was a big one but the gravity of the situation kept him going: "It was pretty tiring but you just think of the girl and how tired she must be ... she did well to stay afloat."