TWO swimmers needed oxygen treatment at the beach and were then hospitalised after being stuck in a strong rip at Park Beach.
Lifeguards and a member of the public performed a rescue on Tuesday and later described the Armidale couple's ordeal as a " very close call".
The pair were seen walking into the water in front of the Hoey Moey where sand movement had created the strong rip conditions.
They got into trouble almost immediately and other beach users started swimming toward them while Lifeguards approached.
"If we had missed seeing them being caught up in the rip - which was a good kilometre from the Tower - I believe we would've had two fatalities," Council's Lifeguard Service co-ordinator Greg Hackfath said.
"Both the initial rescuer and myself got to them at about the same time and quickly got them onto a sand bank.
"The man was in a very bad way, and the initial rescuer was struggling with him, so I handed him the woman and the board and asked him to take her to shore which he did. In the meantime I brought the man to shore."
After oxygen treatment, the man was still in a serious condition and appeared to have ingested/inhaled a significant amount of water, while his female companion was in shock.
"This incident is a very timely reminder of the number one golden rule - always swim between the red and yellow flag on patrolled beaches. No flags = No swim," said Greg.
The swimmer who helped in the rescue left the scene before Lifeguards were able to get their name.
To find out about patrolled beaches or to get daily beach conditions, go to @chcclifeguards on Twitter or online.