A relative of the father and his young son who were lost while diving for pāua has described the pair who "touched the hearts of many people".

Two bodies were found yesterday evening by police divers searching for the missing pair who failed to return to shore from snorkelling off the Wairarapa coast.

Forty eight year-old Masterton man Darren Southon and his 11-year-old son Josh were those lost on Friday near Mataikona, north of Castlepoint.

Joe Southon, brother to Darren and uncle to young Josh, released a statement through police mourning his loss.

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"Darren was an adventurous, fun-loving man, who was a giant kid at heart.

"He was a bit of a joker, who also had a serious side to him."

Darren loved cycling, was passionate about his work as a builder and was well respected within the local Wairarapa community.

Southon said his nephew Josh adored his father and loved hanging out with him, whether the pair be cycling, motorbike riding or splitting wood together.

"Joshua was a chip off the old block, just like his dad, he gave everything a go, he was a competent young boy at everything he put his hand to."

Southon extended a huge thanks to the entire community and those involved in the search for his family.

"To the Search and Rescue team, consisting of the Westpac Helicopter, Amalgamated Helicopters, the Police launch Lady Elizabeth IV, and those in the fishing competition that was on at the time that received the call to get every boat that was available across to the search area – they were there within minutes."

"Some of those people on board the boats responded to the distress call without knowing who was involved, but ultimately some of them discovered that they knew Darren and Joshua."

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Southon also thanked volunteers of Mataikona Fire and Emergency, the Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club, police and the National Police Dive Squad, "who did an amazing job with the search bringing our boys home".

Iwi Liaison Officer Joe Harwood was also thanked, along with Kaitiaki William Broughton, who placing the Rahui, The Whakataki Hotel, locals who kept a vigil and brought supplies and Reverend Sally Tahana for her blessings and prayers on site.

Meanwhile, the Wairarapa sports community is mourning a father and his young son who were "taken by the sea" while diving for pāua.

"He was exceptionally helpful, always on the positive side of everything and was the life of the party," a family friend said of Southon.

"Exceptionally trustworthy and very, very hardworking."

Southon worked as a construction foreman for Tararua Builders, according to his social media profile.

Josh was a student at Douglas Park School in Masterton.

Darren Southon and his son Josh died while diving off the Wairarapa coast. Photo / Facebook
Darren Southon and his son Josh died while diving off the Wairarapa coast. Photo / Facebook

The family friend said both Southon and his son loved sport, especially cycling and motorcross.

A now-deleted Facebook post on the Wairarapa Multi Sports Club also remembered the pair's sporting relationships.

"Darren Southon and his son Josh, while not club members, were known to many of us in cycling. Tragically, they were taken by the sea Friday. Our condolences to their family," it read.

Southon's partner and Josh's mother were among a large group of family members and friends waiting at the beach yesterday.

It is understood they were returned to the family late last night.

The friend said Southon and his family were known to go diving off the coast, but he wasn't sure how frequently Southon did so with his son.

Darren Southon was a keen cyclist. Photo / Facebook
Darren Southon was a keen cyclist. Photo / Facebook

Masterton District Mayor Lyn Patterson said the community was feeling the loss.

"Darren was well known …He was a hard-working family man, he worked in the trades and was involved in sport," Patterson said.

"There will be a lot of people throughout our community who will know him and know his family."

Patterson thanked emergency services, search teams, and volunteers, saying the district's thoughts were with the family.

Police confirmed in a statement this afternoon that Southon and his son were the two bodies found off the coast by divers.

READ MORE:
Two bodies found in search for missing Masterton father and son, 10, lost while snorkelling

Police Sergeant Tony Matheson, the search and rescue co-ordinator, earlier told the Herald: "They are a lovely family. It is just awful."

The dive squad found Southon and his son, who may not have been using fins, in a reef system, he said.

He speculated they may have been pushed by the tide into rougher water and struggled to get back to shore.

Matheson said the father and son were part of a family group of four from Masterton who visited the popular diving area, which is also known to be murky and affected by swells.

"Mataikona coastline is quite a rugged reef system. It's sort of protected by the weather a lot of the time. But the conditions can be quite rough."

The pair became lost off the Mataikona rocks after a third diver returned to shore.

"It appears they were looking to get pāua from the reef systems there, perhaps not looking to go out too deep, just in a channel," Matheson earlier said.

"Three of them went into the water. One decided the sea conditions weren't particularly good around the rocks and told the others that he was going back in."