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A 27-year-old Feilding man who drowned while swimming with friends at Himatangi Beach was believed to be swimming outside the flags.
Police found the body of Jarrett Simeon about 100 metres from the Himatangi Surf Life Saving Club just before 6am today after he drifted away from a group of friends while swimming about 2.30 yesterday afternoon.
Himatangi Beach Holiday Park owner Dennis Penney said the beach was patrolled by the surf club, and had flags, but he understood Mr Simeon had not been swimming between them.
It was about the third drowning he knew of in the 10 years he had lived in the beachside community.
He described the beach as not very deep.
"It runs very shallow, but there can be rips out there at times," he said.
"It's not like [Auckland's] Piha or somewhere, but there is rips just about anywhere you go."
The beach could be driven on, with many people making day trips to the beach.
"You can drive onto the beach ... if you go down there, as far as the eye can see north and south you'll see cars. It's just absolutely loaded."
Mr Simeon had been swimming with his partner and friends.
The large search included surf life savers from Himatangi, Foxton and Kapiti, with two vessels from the Manawatu Coast Guard, the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter and a helicopter from Heli Pro.
Mr Simeon's death had been referred to the coroner.