New Zealand's drowning toll has this year topped 100 after eight water-related deaths during the holiday period.

That compares with a toll of 90 for the whole of 2014.

Since Christmas Day there have been eight deaths in the water. Seven people have drowned, including four on Christmas day, while 12-year-old Jack Martin was killed on Boxing Day when he was riding an inflatable sea biscuit and was hit by a passing vessel on Blue Lake in Central Otago.

A 50-year-old local was free diving with family when he was caught in a rip just after 2pm at the private Puatai Beach on the east coast today.

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His family were trying to revive him on rocks when the Gisborne-based Eastland Rescue Helicopter arrived on the scene.

Chopper pilot Neil Dodds said he hovered overhead and let two emergency workers out, before landing nearby. By that time, the man had died.

"He was diving with a party of four, who were friends and family. They were the ones that helped him on to the rocks and proceeded to do CPR. When they found him he was in an unconscious state," he said.

"[The two emergency workers] did a good job but, unfortunately, with a negative result, which we all struggle with."

A St John spokesman said the man's companions lost sight off him and his body washed on to the beach afterwards. He was not wearing a wetsuit.

This morning, the body of a 22-year-old man was recovered from the surf at Mt Maunganui.

Police believed he was a 22-year-old foreign national, who had been living in New Zealand for some time. They were working with his homeland to identify next-of-kin.

Senior Sergeant Karl Konlechner said a woman walking her dog alerted police to a body in the surf about 500m down from Mount Maunganui Surf Club about 6.30am.

"We also received further calls from members of the public," he said.

On Boxing Day, as well as the sea-biscuit death, an 82-year-old British woman drowned at Opito Bay in the Bay of Islands when she returned home from a walk, suffered a medical event and fell into a pond.

Four people drowned on Christmas Day, including 3-year-old Jimmy Atilua Fatipule Laulu. He died in a lagoon at Ocean Beach in Hawke's Bay and was yesterday described by his mother as a "little angel" at his funeral.

Jimmy Atilua Laulu drowned at Ocean Beach, Hawke's Bay, on Christmas Day. Photo / Facebook
Jimmy Atilua Laulu drowned at Ocean Beach, Hawke's Bay, on Christmas Day. Photo / Facebook

He was found by his uncle about an hour after he was last seen.

A foreign pair drowned at a beach near Raglan, while 17-year-old Whanganui boy Jordon James Marshall succumbed after being caught in a rip.

A young woman, who says she is Jordon's girlfriend, wrote her Facebook page today: "My biggest fear was losing you, the hardest thing is to try move on, the scariest thing is to try live without you. but you are my hero that is why I am still here today.

"If it wasn't for you I wouldn't be here today. Your story will go viral and I'll make sure people know that you never passed in vain, but for them to know you passed away a hero," she said.

"I'll make sure that everyone knows my boy. You are now in the safe arms of God and your destiny will therefore carry on another journey. Loved [by] many and will be missed by many xx I love you..."

The young woman also posted a photo featuring Jordon and captioned: "My hero".
Jordon's body was found on Sunday night.

Police have said that on Friday afternoon, he and his girlfriend were swimming off the beach at Castlecliff.

They were in the water beside one another when Jordon was caught in a rip.

His partner noticed he was in trouble and tried to raise the alarm but it's understood he quickly disappeared beneath the water's surface and was not seen again.

There have also been several lucky escapes around the country.

On Sunday night, the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter flew a 19-year-old man to hospital in a serious condition after he was caught in a rip when swimming at Piha Beach.

Later in the evening, the chopper was called to Maraetai Beach, where a 15-year-old girl was in a serious condition after she struggled to keep her head above water while out swimming.

"She had gone under for about 15 seconds before being pulled unconscious from the water below the wharf," a rescue helicopter spokeswoman said.

In Dunedin there has been a spate of incidents at beaches, prompting local life guards to issue safety warnings.

• A list of beaches patrolled by surf lifesaving patrols can be found at findabeach.co.nz