12-year-old Josh McQuoid said the rough surf took him by surprise as he was playing along the water's edge with a friend.
"It was only knee deep - that was what surprised me, and it swept me off my feet," he recalled.
Josh had a hard time keeping his head above water as the waves crashed on top of him one after another. "The waves smashed me so much, there were five really big ones," he told TVNZ. "They flipped me around quite a few times."
A passer-by and two Napier police constables rushed to his aid, but the waters proved too strong for them.
Josh thought he was a goner for sure, but Constable Bryan Farquharson wasn't quite done trying to save him.
Thinking quickly, he called on other beachgoers to form a human chain Voltron-style, anchoring Constable Bailey as he made one more attempt to save the boy.
This time it worked.
Josh echoed the woman's sentiments: "I'd love to thank them so much for what they did, they saved my life, if it wasn't for them I'd be dead."
Napier's Marine Parade beach has been the scene of just five drownings since 1996, but authorities are warning the public to remain vigilant particularly following the end of live-saving season on March 3rd.