Family members and friends of an Auckland man swept out to sea from a Northland sandspit are camping on the beach in the hope that his body will wash ashore.
Shoan Mafileo, 20, was caught in a freak wave on Monday afternoon as he walked with friends along the ocean beach of the Ngunguru sandspit.
Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe, who is heading the search for the Niuean, says about 50 people including Mr Mafileo's parents and rugby league teammates, are looking for his body.
Ngunguru residents have taken some of the North Shore family into their homes, while other mourners are camped out on the spit.
Mr Metcalfe says unusual weather and tides combined to form a dangerous rip off the usually safe beach on Monday.