Family of a Hamilton teen missing from a Raglan beach say they will continue to search for him until he's found.

Cory Edgecombe Lilley, 17, went missing while swimming with a group of friends at Ngarunui Beach about 4.20pm yesterday.

Police this morning changed from search mode to recovery mode, standing down search teams until low tide about 6pm.

But many of Cory's family can't sit still and feel helpless doing nothing so have congregated in the small beachside town to carry out their own search of the area, scouring the coast at Manu Bay, the next beach up from where he went missing.

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Cory's grandad, Brian Edgecombe, his wife, his kids and grandkids are currently checking out every square inch of land, including the large rocks which scatter their way along the coast line.

Mr Edgecombe said Cory wasn't much of a swimmer and he had accepted the fact that they were now looking for a body.

"We just have to bring him home now."

Mr Edgecombe said he used to do a lot of diving in the area, describing it as "adventurous and treacherous".

"Once the water gets moving there's not much room for error."

Cory was the oldest of three siblings, but was not surprised to find that he'd got himself into trouble.

"He's a bit of a little terror, bit of a horror. If anything was going to happen to any of them it was going to happen to Cory because he's such a mischief bugger."

Kristen Edgecombe and her children can only stand on the Raglan coast and wait for their cousin to turn up. Photo / Belinda Feek
Kristen Edgecombe and her children can only stand on the Raglan coast and wait for their cousin to turn up. Photo / Belinda Feek

He recalled an earlier incident when they thought he was missing in the Waikato River - turned out he was hiding under his bed.

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He and daughter, Kristen, said its with that sense of humour that they almost expect Cory to suddenly appear.

"I think that's what everybody was expecting, except nah ... There's no maybes about it, mate. You muck up out here, he's gone."

Kristen Edgecombe, Cory's first cousin, has been at Manu Bay with her five kids since about 8am today, watching as the waves crash over the rocks.

She and her children feel helpless as all they can do is stand on the rugged coast line and hope that Cory will magically turn up.

"It sucks when you're the person and (police) say they've called off the search and it's your family member and you're like 'why', far out ... You feel like a spare prick at a wedding, you don't know what to do. It's just a waiting game, I guess."

Cory's mum already didn't like the beach, she said, The pair said they and other family members will stay at the beach all day, all weekend, until they find Cory and can take him home.