A man died and three children were taken to hospital on Saturday evening, after the children were swept into the water at Woonona Beach.
Emergency services were called to the beach about 5.40pm to reports several people were in trouble.
Wollongong police have been told the children were playing on the rocks north of Woonona rock pool when they slipped and fell into the water.
Members of their family entered the water to try to help them.
Surf Life Saving Illawarra's Anthony Turner said members of Woonona Board Riders went to their rescue, helping keep them afloat in the water until lifeguards on duty at neighbouring beaches arrived.
"We praise the efforts of local board riders who were able to keep multiple people afloat until emergency services and lifeguards arrived on scene and they were able to be brought back to shore," Mr Turner said.
The lifeguards were met on the sand by paramedics, who assessed six adults and three children.
Unfortunately one man, in his 40s, was not able to be revived.
The three children were transported to hospital for assessment, and five adults did not require hospital treatment.
Two rescue helicopters with doctors on board were also called to the scene, and landed near the surf club.
Mr Turner said such a tragic event leading into summer emphasised the importance of swimming between the flags.
Surf Life Saving Illawarra wished to pass on its condolences to the family of the man who died.
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