Kiwi Surfer Rescues 11-Year Old Stuck Two Kilometers Out To Sea

As reported on

Eleven-year-old Jahkai Graham was only a dot on the horizon when Justyn Selby got on his surfboard and saved the boy’s life.

It took Mr Selby around two hours to bring Jahkai back to the Patea shore where he was wrapped in a towel by his waiting mother.

It is not the first time the New Plymouth surfer has plucked a child from the sea.

“I’ve always got my surfboard and wetsuit in my van. I’ve rescued a few kids who’ve got in to trouble down Back Beach,” Mr Selby said.

“This is the same thing,” he said.

On Monday afternoon, Jahkai had been playing on his bodyboard with a cousin at the mouth of the Patea River when both boys were caught out by the unpredictable undertow.

While his cousin managed to make it back to shore on his own, Jahkai was swept further out, ending up almost two kilometres from his family on the beach. Mr Selby, who had been whitebaiting, said he was down at the car park when he saw “this dot” way out to sea.

“I got straight out, I paddled and by the time I got to him he was a couple of ks out. I got him to hold on to my leg rope.”

By the time Mr Selby reached Jahkai the boy was so exhausted he could hardly speak.

He was in shock, Mr Selby said.

“He wouldn’t have lasted much longer,” he said.

“I just put my head down and paddled.”

They paddled for more than an hour, battling huge swells along the way. Mr Selby reassured Jahkai, telling him of his plan and not to be scared.

They made it back to shore as rescue helicopters and the coast guard reached the scene.

Jahkai was immediately taken to hospital where he was checked out and discharged.

The hero said the day had been calm and the children had been under supervision but were swept away without warning.

Mr Selby said that his feat was what you would expect from someone who knew the sea and despite being a little sore and tired he “felt good”.