Surfer pummeled by giant waves against seawall; ‘I thought he was a goner’

A surfer was getting pounded by heavy surf against the seawall at St. Clair Beach in New Zealand.

A surfer was getting pounded by heavy surf against the seawall at St. Clair Beach in New Zealand. Photo: Courtesy of Barbara Newton

Strong waves smashed a German surfer against a seawall soon after he was warned not to attempt to surf because of dangerous conditions Sunday at St. Clair Beach in Dunedin, New Zealand.

The unidentified novice surfer was lucky to survive the horrifying experience, thanks to the rescue efforts of Jeff Patton, who tossed him a rope and helped him negotiate up a stairway that was getting pounded by the surf.

“I thought he was a goner, but by a miracle he got back up and on his board, and gave it another go to get out of trouble,” Scott James told Fairfax Media New Zealand. “He was very weak by then, he couldn't paddle.”

Patton, a local surfer who keeps a rope in his car, has rescued several other people from the area in recent years. Witnesses said the surfer could have drowned or been seriously injured.

James captured the dramatic rescue on video:

James said he videotaped the incident to “highlight the problems down there.”

According to 3 News, Dunedin lifeguards have been calling for urgent action to save St. Clair Beach, where erosion has made surfing more dangerous.

James, a former St. Clair resident who was in town to compete in the national surfing championships, told Fairfax Media, “He had a learner board so Jeff warned him to not go surfing as it wasn't a good day, but if he entered the water to do so farther [down the beach].”

A while later, James and Patton heard the surfer was in trouble, prompting Patton to retrieve his rope and perform yet another rescue.

The surfer had only been in the water 10 minutes before he began fighting the surf against the seawall, St. Clair Surf Life Saving Club chairman James Coombes told the Otago Daily Times.

According to local Barbara Newton, two other foreigners, a male and female, had to be assisted from the surf the day before.

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