TWO young swimmers had the fright of their life on Saturday when they got caught in an unlikely rip at Blacks Beach.
If it wasn't for the quick thinking efforts of Airlie Beach man Jimmy Daly, the incident could have ended tragically, with the younger boy going under water within minutes.
Despite the surf being seemingly flat in appearance, the teen and boy (thought to be about 16 and 10) became stranded, panicking and unable to get back to the shore due to an underlying current.
Mr Daly and his friend Belinda Beumers had been walking two dogs along the beach and were about to leave when they heard a cry for help.
They turned to see three heads in the water, two struggling to stay afloat and get back to the beach.
Mr Daly dropped the leads and sprinted to the water.
"Being low tide it was at least an 800-metre leg," Ms Beumers said.
He ran and then swam out to reach the younger boy first; he was further out and had just gone under, struggling to keep his head above water.
Mr Daly reached him, threw the boy over his back and started heading back for the teen who was struggling as well in shallower waters.
"I just grabbed him by the arm, he was starting to lose it too, just got him on the bicep and dragged him in," he said.
"I got to about waist deep and let the teenager go because he could reach. The other fella, when we got to the shore, started throwing up all the water he'd sucked in.
"As we reached there two other people ran down and a guy walking his dog was freaking out, told them to grab the kid, and we all kind of just fell and caught our breath."
Luckily, in the end both boys were okay and when they had recovered Mr Daly reminded them that that's why they should never swim unsupervised without being between flags, even at a flat beach.
With rips, jellyfish and crocodiles in Mackay waters, they were lucky someone was around to help them.
The elder boy shook Mr Daly's hand and thanked him, saying "Have a lovely Christmas, we will because of you."
While Mr Daly insists he is no hero, his friend had different words to say about the ordeal.
"You are one hell of a human Jimmy," she said. "I'm honoured to have you a part of my life."
The 30-year-old super yacht painter has since returned to work in Airlie, glad that he could help a family out during the Christmas season.