Two men nearly drowned in a dramatic rescue at Stanwell Park Beach on Monday evening, just three days after lifeguard patrols had been cut back at the end of the swimming season.
A 58-year-old was caught in a rip and tried to swim against it before sinking below the water.
A 17-year-old surfer who attempted to save the man then got into trouble and needed rescuing.
Surfer Ben Rennie joined in the rescue attempt and found the older man, pulling him to safety with the help of friends.
Paramedics were called to the scene about 5.30pm, where they stabilised the victims after local surfers had pulled them out of the water and performed CPR.
A helicopter took the older man to Wollongong Hospital and the teenager was admitted later that evening.
They were both discharged by Tuesday morning.
Rescuer and local surfer Ian Pepper said it was a "horrible" chain of events - he thought the older man would die.
"I couldn't believe it when he came back," he said.
"Most of us can't get the images out of our heads.
"When I helped him onto the shore, he was in a bad way."
Mr Pepper said two friends performed CPR and the man's pulse and breathing quickly returned.
The teenager was also struggling when he was pulled to shore.
"He vomited a lot, he was hysterical," he said. "He was trying to be brave but maybe he shouldn't have gone out there."
The council's patrolled service runs from the last weekend in October to the last weekend in April every year.
Mr Pepper said it would have made sense for the service to continue until daylight saving ended this Sunday.
"It's not logical to pick an arbitrary date," he said.
"I think it would make sense to have it all the way.
"In this case, it would have been unreal if [lifeguard] John was there - he could've been down there in a flash with all his gear," Mr Pepper said.
Senior Wollongong City Council lifeguard John Boyle was called to the scene, but was off duty and arrived after the rescue had taken place.
He praised the local surfers for saving the man's life.
"He would have died had they not pulled him out and had the knowledge to do CPR," he said.
Mr Boyle did not want to comment on whether patrol hours should match daylight saving, which ends on April 6.
Council beach services co-ordinator Jason Foye said beachgoers should not swim without the flags.