A teenager who pushed his sister back towards safety when she swam out to try to save him is being farewelled today.

Episami "Leka'' Pasiaka, 16, was swept off Whatipu Beach on December 29 while out celebrating the holidays with his family.

It is understood his funeral is being held today.

Family and friends gathered last night to sing hymns, prayers and testimonies of his life.

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Some shared about the death on Facebook - posting photographs and poignant videos from last night's events.

Many are pictured wearing traditional Tongan finery over black clothing. Some wear specially-made shirts paying tribute to their friend.

As family members sit singing quietly, photos of the young man - draped with flowers - can be seen in the background; next to his casket, which is covered with a white lace cloth.

Family members of Leka Pasiaka, 16, kept vigil at Whatipu Beach after their son was swept away. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Family members of Leka Pasiaka, 16, kept vigil at Whatipu Beach after their son was swept away. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The father of one of Leka's friends told Radio Samoa this morning that his son would be celebrating his birthday by attending the funeral of one of his best friends.

Leka was a student at Avondale College, in West Auckland.

His body was found earlier this week, just north of Piha, after the police Eagle helicopter spotted it.

Police confirmed yesterday that it was that of Pasiaka, who was known as Leka - the Tongan equivalent of Junior.

Inspector Gerry Whitley, relieving area commander for Waitemata West Police, expressed their condolences to the Pasiaka family; while also paying tribute to those who had helped in the almost two-week search for the teen's body.

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"We would like to extend our appreciation to all those who were involved in the search for Episami.''

On the day Leka went missing, emergency services were called to Whatipu Beach about 1.30pm after the teen became caught in a rip.

Friends and family would later praise his bravery after his pushed his sister back towards safety when she swam out to try to save him.

Leka's death has been referred to the Coroner.