Jumping into a freezing, raging surf to rescue an 8-year-old tourist "one minute from death" was just human nature, says an heroic Napier fisherman.
But witnesses and health professionals are calling Stephen Fraser, a 43-year-old labourer for Mainstream Insulation, a "national hero" for his gallant efforts which they say saved the child's life.
Mr Fraser was surfcasting at Tangoio Beach, north of Whirinaki Mill, about 2pm on Sunday when a family of Korean tourists arrived at the beach, and their young son started playing near the waves.
"He was there with his family, where the waves break on the shore, wading around to his ankles, when one just washed him out," he said.
"He got sucked out and my friend Steph saw and yelled out, so I looked over and saw he was in a bit of trouble, so I went in and pulled him out.
"It was quite hard to get back in, but I got him and his father jumped in to help pull him out of the surf."
His friend, Steph Ballingall, said the waves were "massive" and the suction was so great that Mr Fraser and the boy's father were crawling on their hands and knees trying to get out.
Once on the sand, Napier man Rick Brown was among those who helped perform basic first aid on the boy before he was taken to Napier City Medical by St John Ambulance.
"I tell you what, that kid would have been dead and there could have been two or three more," he said. "I think the boy's father could have died trying to help - I watched a national hero rescue a boy less than a minute off dying.
"When I got down to the kid he was pretty crook, and this guy was prepared to risk his life and he did, there were some pretty big dumpers out there."
Mr Brown said the waves were "nasty, dumpy rollers," and an accident waiting to happen.
"We thought 'oh God something's going to happen' and next minute this little head was bobbing out in the sea and this guy was just off with his boots and out there."
However Mr Fraser was modest about his efforts, leaving the scene shortly after and playing down his bravery.
"The attention is a bit embarrassing actually, I was just there and it's just one of those things that anyone would do, you don't think about, you just do.
"But when you do stop and think about it, well, it was all a bit much, I'm still a bit shaken up because he nearly died - it could have gone horribly wrong.
"I had to have a couple of beers last night to calm down, and we went fishing where no one was around today."
St John Ambulance Hastings Operations team manager John Plastow said the young boy was "a very lucky child".The waves were "massive", yes when something near-tragedy like this happens the waves will most certainly not "mild". Thank God for Mr. Fraser's heroism!