The Wairarapa sports community is mourning a father and his young son who were "taken by the sea" while diving for pāua.
Two bodies were found yesterday evening by police divers searching for a missing pair who failed to return to shore from snorkelling off the Wairarapa coast.
Forty nine year-old Masterton man Darren Southon and his 10-year-old son Josh are understood to be those lost on Friday near Mataikona, north of Castlepoint.
"He was exceptionally helpful, always on the positive side of everything and was the life of the party," a family friend said of Southon.
"Exceptionally trustworthy and very, very hardworking."
Southon worked as a construction foreman for Tararua Builders, according to his social media profile.
Josh was a student at Douglas Park School in Masterton.
Darren Southon and his son Josh died while diving off the Wairarapa coast. Photo / Facebook
The family friend said both Southon and his son loved sport, especially cycling and motorcross.
A now-deleted Facebook post on the Wairarapa Multi Sports Club also remembered the pair's sporting relationships.
"Darren Southon and his son Josh, while not club members, were known to many of us in cycling. Tragically, they were taken by the sea Friday. Our condolences to their family," it read.
Southon's partner and Josh's mother were among a large group of family members and friends waiting at the beach yesterday.
It is understood they were returned to the family late last night.
Darren Southon was a keen cyclist. Photo / Facebook
A spokeswoman said police were not yet in a position to formally release the names of the father and son.
The friend said Southon and his family were known to go diving off the coast, but he wasn't sure how frequently Southon did so with his son.
Police Sergeant Tony Matheson, the search and rescue co-ordinator, earlier told the Herald: "They are a lovely family. It is just awful."
The dive squad found Southon and his son, who may not have been using fins, in a reef system, he said.
He speculated they may have been pushed by the tide into rougher water and struggled to get back to shore.
Matheson said the father and son were part of a family group of four from Masterton who visited the popular diving area, which is also known to be murky and affected by swells.
"Mataikona coastline is quite a rugged reef system. It's sort of protected by the weather a lot of the time. But the conditions can be quite rough."
The pair became lost off the Mataikona rocks after a third diver returned to shore.
"It appears they were looking to get pāua from the reef systems there, perhaps not looking to go out too deep, just in a channel," Matheson earlier said.
"Three of them went into the water. One decided the sea conditions weren't particularly good around the rocks and told the others that he was going back in."