A man has drowned trying to save two children swept off rocks at a beach south of Sydney in a tragedy emergency services have described as "absolutely heartbreaking" .
Emergency services were called to Woonona Beach near Wollongong about 5.40pm on Saturday following reports that several people had been swept into the ocean.
NSW Police told AAP the man, along with several other family members, jumped into the sea to rescue two children.
They used jet skis and surfboards to help them back to shore.
The man, thought to be in his 40s, was pulled unconscious from the water.
Paramedics worked to resuscitate him but he died at the scene.
NSW Ambulance said it assessed six adults and three children upon arrival and transported three of the children to hospital in a stable condition.
"No words can describe the scene we were faced with today," NSW Ambulance Inspector Matt Sterling said.
"This is absolutely heartbreaking.
"The surfers and surf lifesavers that jumped in to save these patients are heroic. I can't thank them enough."
NSW Ambulance dispatched seven crews and two specialist teams via helicopter to the scene.