Three young men heroically ventured half a kilometre out to sea to save a swimmer who was caught in rough conditions off the Mornington Peninsula on Wednesday.
The man, from Hampton Park, disappeared while swimming at Koonya Beach at Blairgowrie about 4.15pm on Wednesday and was then spotted drifting about 500 metres offshore.
Alastair Firth, 27, was bodyboarding when the alarm was raised and ventured out into the Bass Strait with diving equipment and a buoy when the alarm was raised.
Mr Firth said he reached the man along with Jack O'Sullivan and Liam Grigg, both 25, who had been playing soccer and hastily borrowed bodyboards from other beachgoers to use in the rescue effort.
"He was just too tired to hold on to the board and was getting flipped at every break," Mr Firth said.
"We were just trying to keep the waves off of his face and at one point I was clamping my hand over his face, because I'd rather have him holding his breath than sucking in breaking waves."
Mr Firth said the man was exhausted and barely staying afloat, but the trio was eventually able to start towing him to shore.
"If the other boys hadn't got their first, he might not have been there," he said.
After a nearly two hour ordeal at sea, the four men navigated through the rough break and onto the beach.
"We only thought we were out there for half an hour to an hour, so we were surprised to hear it was that long," Mr Grigg told radio station 3AW.
Mr Firth, an IT professional who splits his time between Melbourne and Rosebud, said he had been swimming at Koonya Beach for nearly 25 years and didn't feel he was putting himself in any danger by helping the man.
He did, however, say it could be dangerous spot for those unfamiliar with its rips, rocks and reefs.
"That beach at low-tide with not much swell is a beautiful place… [but] I've personally seen two people go out in that riff," he said.
Victoria Police said the three men were heroes who had acted courageously.