The 57-year-old man narrowly escaped death after his home-made canoe capsized in the Kaipara Harbour last night.
The Hamilton man activated his personal locator beacon, and rescue services were able to locate him at around 9pm.
He was found clinging to his canoe with severe hypothermia, and it is believed the man had been in the water for two hours.
A Northland Emergency Services Trust rescue swimmer was lowered from a helicopter to rescue the exhausted man who simply "let go", Search and Rescue Mission coordinator Dave Wilson said.
"This canoeist was found just in time.
"He did the right thing by carrying a distress beacon. When he was struggling to get ashore through breakers and his canoe capsized, he was able to raise the alarm."