Father-of-six Kane Gove-Larritt was meant to go camping with family this month.
Instead, they will gather on Saturday to celebrate the life of the 39-year-old, who died after being pulled unresponsive from the surf in Mount Maunganui last week.
Brother Dean Larritt said the family understood Kane suffered a brain aneurysm while surfing at Ōmanu beach on January 4.
A lifeguard found the Warkworth builder in the water and brought him to shore where members of the Ōmanu Beach Surf Lifesaving Club worked to resuscitate him.
A lifeguard found Kane in the water and brought him to shore where members of the Ōmanu Beach Surf Lifesaving Club worked to resuscitate him.
They managed to bring him back, albeit with a weak pulse. He was taken by ambulance to Tauranga Hospital's Intensive Care Unit where he died that night.
A week later, Dean said the family were still trying to comprehend what happened.
"It still feels like we are in a bit of a daydream. It's taken everybody by complete surprise.
"To have someone two years younger than you, to have your little brother taken in circumstances where there's no way anyone could have prevented or done anything to minimise what's happened, we are all very numb.
"I feel like I've lost half of me . . . I've lost my best mate."
Dean said he and his brother did their own things over the Christmas and New Year holidays but planned to go camping with their families later this month.
Kane was father to six children, aged 3 to 14. Three were his, and three were his wife Lara's. He cared for each of them as his own, Dean said.
The family had been visiting Mount Maunganui on their way to Ōpōtiki to spend time with family there.
They never made it.
"In my heart of hearts, I really believed he would pull through," Dean said.
"Kane was like the cat with nine lives. He would injure himself or cut himself or something and always come right. When I heard this, I thought 'oh, here he goes again' until I got a bit more information.
"Personally, I went to bed with fingers crossed, thinking I was going to wake up and he would be on the mend."
An hour later, Dean's father called to break the news.
Dean said it was hard to know how his brother's children were coping with the loss of their father but seeing them playing and laughing was helping the adults in the family to heal.
"Smiling and laughing is exactly what Kane did 90 per cent of the time. His energy and smile is a huge part of our lives. It's a legacy we want to continue," Dean said.
"He just lived for every day and wanted, and did, give his family all the experiences he could. That wasn't in monetary terms but going and doing stuff in our own backyard, giving them adventure and things like that."
Dean said his brother was "cheeky" and always managed to turn an awkward situation into a positive. He'll always remember him smirking and with a twinkle in his blue eyes.
"He always had fun, always had a laugh."
Dean paid a heartfelt tribute to the surf club and hospital staff who did everything they could to try to save his brother.
"Our deepest thanks go to the Ōmanu surf club. They were absolutely amazing in trying to do what they did. I know that they have found it a very, very tough process - what happened that day."
A private service for Kane will be held at his home on Saturday.
"We are not going to call it a funeral. It's a celebration of life, because that's what he was all about, a celebration," Dean said.
A Givealittle page set up to help support Kane's family had raised $65,270 by this afternoon.
The Coroner reviewed Kane's death and will not investigate it any further.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand posted condolences online to his whānau and loved ones, and paid tribute to the lifeguards and emergency service workers who tried to save him.
The organisation said lifeguards brought him to shore in an inflatable rescue craft and began CPR before ambulance and fire crews arrived to take over.
New Zealand has been experiencing one of its deadliest summers at beaches and waterways around the country.
The Bay of Plenty suffered another water tragedy yesterday, when a person was found dead after being swept out to sea while crossing a river near Omaio in the Eastern Bay.
On January 6, a man believed to be in his 50s, died after a water-related incident at Arataki, in Mount Maunganui.
During the holiday period from Christmas Eve to January 5, 14 people aged between 4 and 74 drowned in New Zealand, the highest toll since 1983.