Friends said four men were standing in the water when a strong rip current swept them off their feet. Only one was able to get back to shore on his own.
"The wave was pretty strong," said Sai Yaag, one of the rescued men. "It was a strong current. I guess that's what pulled us into the ocean. We're not very experienced swimmers."
Authorities said John Lee, 24, and Shao Moua, 20, were swept into 7-foot-deep water, then disappeared into the ocean.
Lifeguards said the conditions Saturday afternoon were dangerous, especially for those with little swimming experience.
The tragedy serves as a reminder of what anyone should do if they find themselves overpowered by the ocean.
"I don't know how to swim and I don't usually go in the ocean, I'm too afraid," said Irvine resident Patricia Collins, who was at the beach Monday.
"Make sure that you don't panic," Beuerlein said. "Try to swim to the side if you can. If you can't get out of the current, wave your arms, yell for help and the lifeguard will be there."
Friends said the victims belong to an evangelical church group in Banning visiting Huntington Beach for a wedding. They decided to enjoy some time together at the beach.
"They're out having a good time," Collins said. "Before you know it the wedding happiness turns into tragedy. It's just really sad."
Lifeguard patrol vehicles will continue searching for the two men until midnight.