Father pays tribute to drowned sons

Two young men who drowned at a popular surf beach north of Gisborne on Saturday were "really neat kids", their father says.

Paul Christopher Wakelin, 23, died after attempting to save his brother John Wakelin, 18, and a friend who were caught in a rip off Makorori Beach.

John Wakelin is still missing, presumed drowned. His friend, aged 20, was saved by a local surfer.

This morning their father Chris Wakelin praised his elder son for trying to save his brother, saying "that's Paul to a 'T"'.

"He was an absolute legend of a guy, gentle and caring and happy...[They were] just really neat kids," he told Radio New Zealand.

He later said Paul was the kind of person who "wouldn't give up".

"He would have seen the whole event unfolding and he would have been straight in there, even if it was a risk to himself, and that's Paul," Mr Wakelin said.

"He was a real generous, awesome guy, and I can see him running just straight in. He wouldn't have hesitated."

Mr Wakelin said the support the family had received from the local community had been "incredible".

"This is Gisborne, and everybody knows everybody here," he said.

"We've had a hotline from us to the police and SAR (Search and Rescue) and everybody involved, and we've been going back and forth [to the beach].

"We've got Paul home, so we've been looking after him. We've got a big heap of friends in both places, and if they found John we'd be informed within minutes."

Mr Wakelin said the family were working on funeral plans for the two brothers, and were thinking of a funeral service for Paul and a memorial service for John.

"You want to stay sort of half in the moment but we've got to move on," he told RNZ.

"I'm stuck for words here, but we've just got to move on and try to let them go, and we've just got to keep going forward."

It was believed John and his friend got into difficulty while swimming about 100 metres off Makorori Beach, which is 12km north of Gisborne, about 10am on Saturday.

Paul's body was found around half an hour later.

- Patrice Dougan of NZME. News Service

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