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Surfer saved by lifesavers practising rescues

Published: 4:17PM Tuesday September 20, 2011 Source: NZN

An unconscious surfer was given the best chance of survival when he floated into view of 17 senior lifesavers practising fake rescue scenarios at a Christchurch beach.

Veteran surfer James Tuhikarama remains in critical condition in intensive care unit at Christchurch Hospital after nearly drowning during a surfing competition at North Beach on Sunday.

His rescuers say he got the best rescue support on offer, with a team of high-ranking lifesavers standing just metres away when he washed up on the beach.

"It was pretty incredible really," said senior lifeguard instructor Hira Edmonds, who was training 14 staff at with two other instructors when he noticed a body floating in the water.

"We raced down to the water and performed everything we'd just been talking about."

"The timing was really something. He really must have had someone watching over him for things to have happened quite as they did."

Tuhikarama, a member of the North Wai Boardriders club for 25 years, was unconscious when found but the rescuers managed to semi-resuscitate him before an ambulance crew took him to Christchurch Hospital.

A hospital spokeswoman said today his condition remained critical.

Edmonds, usually based at Auckland's Bethells Beach, said he wanted friends and family to know the lengths they went to to rescue the man.

"The team performed incredibly well, the best you could hope for," he said.

"There's nothing like a real-life scenario to put your skills to the test.

"We only hope he pulls through."