A woman is recovering at Hawke's Bay Hospital after her husband drowned at a popular beach on Sunday evening.

Emergency services were called to Waimarama Beach about 7pm on Sunday after the couple and a male relative got into difficulty in the water north of the Waimarama Surf Life Saving Club.

Police have confirmed the woman in hospital and man who drowned were married.

Police named the man last night - he was 26-year-old Hemin Vinubhai Limbachiya of Napier.

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As of last night the woman, aged in her 20s, was in a stable condition at Hawke's Bay Hospital. CPR was performed on her husband for 20 minutes after he was pulled from the water but he died at the scene.

Yesterday Surf Life Saving New Zealand Hawke's Bay callout squad co-ordinator Phil Harman said the area where the three were swimming was known for "flash rips", which could occur at certain times of tide.

It was believed this had happened on Sunday. The group had been swimming 100m to 200m north of the lifesaving club. They were in chest deep water, and were pulled out into a channel between a sandbar and the beach.

The three were understood to be poor swimmers.

One man had become separated from the pair, who were taken further out to sea. The male was able to raise his hand and call out for help - which alerted beach-goers - before getting back to shore.

Members of the public saw the group in difficulty, raised the alarm, and entered the water to help. Local Waimarama Surf Club volunteers responded, along with the local volunteer fire crew. A small group of surf club members went into the water to assist.

The woman, and Hastings teenager Cameron McCallum who helped to rescue her, were treated by ambulance staff at the scene. The woman was flown to hospital.

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Surf Lifesaving patrols had ended about an hour earlier. They had stayed longer than the usual 5pm because of Waimarama Beach Day.

That day there had been two rescues and 36 assists. Conditions on Sunday evening were described as rough with "flash rips", which had caught others out throughout the day.

Yesterday Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst paid her respects to the victims.

"Our love and thoughts are with the family on their tragic loss."

Hawke's Bay detective Mike Signal said police thanked members of the public and of the Waimarama Surf club involved in the rescue.

"For some club members, it is the second fatal drowning they have [dealt] with in the past week."

On Tuesday Taupo woman Amy Jenny Brown drowned at a Haumoana lagoon while trying to rescue two children.

Nationwide, there have been three drownings in the past week. There have been seven preventable drownings in the year to date, provisional figures from Water Safety New Zealand show.

Sunday's death will be referred to the Coroner.