The diver who died near Seatoun, Wellington, on Christmas Eve was beloved family man Gary Hibbs.
Christmas Eve was the anniversary Hibbs shared with his new partner.
Emergency services rushed to the eastern side of the Miramar Peninsula, around 4pm, where the 58-year-old was pulled from the water unconscious, according to police.
Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
His son - also named Gary - told the Herald the family was "in disbelief".
His father was "a big family man" known for his selflessness - the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back.
"He was a proud dad."
Born in Christchurch, Hibbs raised his children in Levin and lived on and off in Wellington before moving to Upper Hutt more than a year ago.
"Dad was one of those people that lived everywhere," Hibbs said.
"He was a free-spirit, roamer, traveller."
He would be remembered for his love of people and his family - especially his three grandkids.
"When he was in the room he was the loudest person in there. He had this presence that I am yet to see matched by anyone."
The 58-year-old was an experienced diver who had been around the water since he was a teen.
"He taught me how to dive," his son said.
First kina, then paua and fish were all caught or collected under dad's watchful eye.
"He loved cooking for people and he provided for people.
"He was a competitive pool and snooker player.
"He loved music and he loved to play the airguitar."
In true hardcase fashion, Hibbs would often joke that he taught his son - once a professional guitarist and vocalist for Under the Sun - to play guitar despite not having mastered the instrument himself.
The family were "so humbled" by all the love and support they had received since the 58-year-old's death.
"We all knew he was pretty special. But you know just seeing people we don't even know sharing stories about him ... it just blows us away."
A police spokeswoman said they extended their sympathies to family and friends of Hibbs.
"The death has been referred to the coroner, who will rule on the cause of death."