Four children have been treated at Tauranga Hospital after getting into difficulty while swimming at Mt Maunganui.
The police are crediting surfers with preventing a likely drowning.
One surfer rescued a child struggling in the waves and, when he returned, saw another in a rip and saved them as well.
Two other surfers found a boy about 350 metres offshore struggling to stay afloat.
The three rescued children are aged seven, eight and nine.
A 12-year-old who managed to get back to shore by herself was also taken to hospital.
The police say the children were being supervised by an adult.
They say the surfers are heroic but the incident highlights the need to swim in areas patrolled by surf clubs.