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Perry Farrell was just in the right place at the right time.
The 18-year-old University of Otago health sciences student decided to find a more picturesque place to study on March 18 and ended up at St Clair Beach, where he saved a woman from drowning.
Fortunately, Mr Farrell is also a lifeguard for the Mt Maunganui Surf Life Saving Club, and his actions have earned him a special award from Surf Life Saving New Zealand.
A woman on a surfboard got caught in a rip near the rocks at St Clair and was having trouble getting back to shore.
St Clair Surf Club was closed at the time, so Mr Farrell grabbed a kneeboard and headed out beyond the breakers to help the woman.
After bringing her back through the breakers to the safety of the beach, he noticed she had very blue lips and looked fatigued.
He sat her down and realised she needed treatment for hypothermia.
She was later taken to Dunedin Hospital by ambulance.
Each month, Surf Life Saving New Zealand selects a winning rescue from each region.
Mr Farrell's rescue was named the top rescue of March for the Southern Region.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand chairman Geoff Hamilton said the ''extraordinary'' effort shown by Mr Farrell was outstanding.
''Had Perry not been there that day, the woman had a fair chance of drowning, as she was very tired and hypothermic,'' he said.
''Admiration of the skill and professionalism shown by those involved in the incident is testament to qualities valued by Surf Life Saving New Zealand and BP.''
Mr Farrell was unable to be contacted for comment.