Wairarapa's football fraternity is in shock after the body of a star player and coach was found wedged in rocks at Castlepoint yesterday.
Searchers retrieved the body of Miroslav Tvaroh, 34, of Greytown, from Castle Rock, a rocky outcrop on the Riversdale Beach side of The Gap, at 7.45am after it was spotted by an Amalgamated Helicopters crew, on low tide.
An inflatable craft belonging to Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club was brought in to help with the recovery of the body but could not retrieve it because of the swell.
Special equipment aboard the helicopter was eventually used to lift the body from the rocks.
The Czech national had been reported missing by his partner Simona on Christmas Eve after he failed to return from his solo drive to the coast and a major search and rescue operation was mounted when his Mazda stationwagon car was found abandoned near a church on Jetty Rd.
Mr Tvaroh had been in New Zealand for eight years, and his lifelong friend Simona arrived here from the Czech Republic to join him about two years ago.
Police have confirmed the death is to be referred to the coroner and that it resulted from Mr Tvaroh falling from Castle Rock.
A restoration walk can be used to access Castle Rock from Jetty Rd or Balfour Cres.
Wairarapa United's head coach Phil Keinzley said Mr Tvaroh had loved New Zealand and he and Simona were in the process of applying for citizenship.
Regarded as a lynchpin of Wairarapa United's premier football team, Mr Tvaroh - a holding midfielder - played over 100 games for the top team and was part of the Chatham Cup winning side in 2011.
He was employed as Wairarapa United's development coach and coached its second side, winning promotion from Capital Football division three to division two.
He was also the head coach of the Heartland Wairarapa under-20 side.
The team is to play its first game in the national youth league on January 11.
Mr Keinzley described Mr Tvaroh as "a really awesome guy" and one of his best mates.
"Miroslav has been a very important part of Wairarapa United.
"He took on a massive development programme, coaching at colleges, primary schools and all the country schools," he said.
Heartland Wairarapa chief executive Sam Rossiter-Stead said the club's players were "gutted" by the news.
"He's spent the last few months preparing this [under-20] team for our first ever foray into the highest level of age grade football," he said.
"Miroslav was such an inspiration to them.
"It's devastating he won't be there."
He said the Wairarapa football community were grateful to Football New Zealand and Capital Football for their support.
"Parents and players have sent many messages of support - many of them offered to help with the search."
He said their board, players and parents were planning a tribute to Mr Tvaroh.
Simona is employed in Mr Keinzley's Carterton business as a shop assistant although being highly qualified with a degree in farm business management, was looking at better opportunities in the future.
The loss of the star sportsman comes 18 months after the sea claimed the life of an up-and-coming Wairarapa rugby player.
Fijian Eroni Gaunavou, 22, played for Puketoi and had just made the Wairarapa-Bush squad when he was lost at sea at Akitio at Easter last year.
He had been swimming with friends and disappeared under the waves.
His body was never recovered and a coronial inquest established the cause of death as drowning.