Witnesses heard the man screaming for help and called triple zero.
Mary* said she was walking her dogs on the headland at around 8.45am when she saw people waving their arms.
“There was a guy just down below the cliff in the water being swept near the rocks,” she said.
“There were about eight of us who kept yelling out for him to ‘hold on, keep your head up, keep floating, helps coming’, clapping, whistling.”
They watched on helplessly as he hung onto his rod and tried to remain afloat on his back whilst being hammered by huge waves.
“He looked exhausted and disappeared a few times,” Mary said.
The man was being washed around for about 30 minutes before police arrived.
Life savers on jet-skis came to his rescue but were unable to get close enough to pull him from the water at first.
They then threw him a rescue buoy and eventually he was able to grab hold of the floating device and be pulled to safety.
He was taken to Tweed Hospital in a serious but stable condition.
*Mary asked to use only her first name for privacy reasons.