Todd Vercoe, a Northland boatie, was not wearing a lifejacket when he was swept overboard by a huge wave just north of Rimiriki Island.
The 36 year old was swept overboard in a moment of pure bad luck while his friends slept below deck, unaware of the danger he was in.
Todd had to make the decision to either float around in the freezing water in the hope of being rescued, or try to swim to shore.
Afraid of getting hypothermia if he stayed in the water, Todd decided to swim toward land.
Despite being a strong swimmer from his many days of surfing, Todd was weighed down by the heavy clothing he has wrapped up in on the boat for warmth.
His slow progress was not the only thing Todd had to worry about as he realised he was in a place well known to be the home to quite a few sharks.
Finally, Todd managed to reach Rimiriki Island, now suffering from mild hypothermia.
It was now almost dark and Todd knew that there was little chance of him being found after nightfall. In a last attempt at attracting help, Todd drew a huge SOS sign in the sand.
Luckily for Todd, his signal for help was seen by a rescue helicopter and he was safely flown back to the mainland.
Rescue staff say that Todd is lucky to have escaped the accident without any serious injury and he now tells his story to anyone who will listen to how he was rescued by 3 letters in the sand.
Article written by D Mulhern