TWO fishermen thrown from their boat when it capsized are lucky to be alive, according to their rescuer, Evans Head local Rick Jones.
After seeing a boat had been overturned by a "freak wave" close to Cahors Reef, south of Evans Head, Mr Jones and fishing buddy Christian Booker raced to the pair to offer their help.
"If there was another minute, maybe two, I reckon we could have had a death, that's how close it was," Mr Jones said.
One of the fishermen "was taking in water and he had just about had enough, he was nearly gone", he said.
The rescued pair were not wearing life jackets, he said.
They were visitors to Evans Head and got into trouble around 12.30pm on Monday.
Roads and Maritime Services confirmed it was investigating the incident
Conditions were rough, but not "real bad" and there was plenty of boats out, Mr Jones said.
"It was just a big wave that stood up, he turned to go into it, like you should do, but it just tipped right over him; there is not much you can do," he said.
"When they break like that you're gone. The skipper did the right thing to put his nose into it; if he didn't it would have been worse."
Both fishermen were treated by paramedics when they got to shore.
Yesterday they returned to the water to try and find their boat, or salvage what they could.
Boating safety officers have had an increased presence in the region this week during the fishing contest.