Kayne Kohu was not only smart, but a black belt in karate and a whiz in the kitchen.
Now his family hold grave concerns after he went missing while swimming with friends in the Waikato River, next to Hamilton Gardens, on Sunday night.
Waikato police search and rescue Sergeant Vince Ranger said Kohu was swimming when he got into difficulties. It was then that another friend jumped in the water to help him, but they both got into trouble and began getting swept downstream.
A third friend, a woman who was also on the beach, saw the pair drifting off and ran down the ramp to try to help them, and called emergency services.
Kohu's friend managed to swim to the other side and climb up an embankment and also call for help.
But Kohu, 23, hasn't been seen since.
Cousin, Te Hikuwai Kohu, was at the river today with several whanau, including her father and Kayne Kohu's father, as the police national dive squad began their search.
After days of struggling with a myriad of rumours about what happened, they were finally grateful to get some answers, but were still puzzled as to why he was down there at that hour.
Te Hikuwai said her cousin was a smart guy and not usually one for tomfoolery.
"He was really smart and he was a black belt at 11 or 12, he used to do karate growing up, he was smart as.
"He was pretty mature for his age, he didn't drink, well I thought he didn't drink."
To hear that he was down swimming at the river on Sunday night was a shock, she said.
"And he knows that he's not allowed in the river."
She said her cousin should have known that as his nan - victim advocate and psychotherapist Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan NZOM - had always told him to steer clear of it.
She said Kohu was down at the river with his best mate - a woman, and another friend, who jumped in the river to try to save him.
"Kayne had no ears though," she laughed.
She last saw Kohu about two weeks ago when she helped him shift into his best mate's house.
Her father, Hemi Kohu, said when Kohu lived with him he'd make him cook dinner on his nights off.
"He used to live with us not too long ago, and he was a really good cook. Not as good as his father but he loved cooking.
"When he lived with us, on his days off I used to make him cook dinner."
He said he'd let Kohu decide what to cook, as everything was always good.
"He usually did a roast, he loved cooking his roasts," he said, "but whatever he cooked, he was good at. It was his passion."
Te Hikuwai Kohu added that Kohu always knew how to cook a "mean spaghetti bolognese".
After a briefing with Ranger a karakia was also performed before the dive squad entered the water.
"He [Sergeant Ranger] told us what they knew, it's all new to us ... and the two people who were here with them are the only ones that know," Hemi Kohu said.
Kohu had followed in his father's footsteps and become a chef after initially dabbling in the plumbing trade.
"He always cooked for us. He taught himself, he didn't have a qualification or anything he just learned from the bottom like from being a dishwasher and worked his way up," Te Hikuwai said.
Kohu, originally from the Bay of Plenty, had been working at Camarosa Restaurant on the outskirts of Hamilton, with renowned chef Andrew Clarke.
Clarke told the Herald he was gutted to hear the news.
"It's so gutting, eh. He had so much to give. He was a really, really good guy, an absolute star."
He said Kohu had worked for him for nearly a year and just two weeks ago had signed up to do an apprenticeship with him.
"He got hired through one of our front of house managers ... he came in for a dishy shift then we gave him another shift on the dishes and then we were like, he's wasted if we leave him on dishes and so we pretty much just gave him a chef job straight away and he was doing amazingly well."
Kohu was fun but a hard worker at the same time.
"He was always keen to help out and really interested in bettering himself, too, you know."
The rest of the approximate 35-strong team were shocked to hear the news.
"He was doing great here, and everyone's pretty cut up. We've got a fairly big team but we're a fairly tight team, too."
Ranger confirmed the trio had been at the beach, near the jetty, when Kohu got into difficulties.
After his friend tried to rescue him, before managing to swim to the other side, he was hospitalised overnight with mild hypothermia. He was discharged on Monday but was still distraught about what happened.
"He was hypothermic and cold, and so he went to hospital and stayed in overnight. So he was bloody lucky."
The dive squad would begin their search from where Kohu went missing and continue searching through till tomorrow if necessary, he said, when it would then be reassessed.
On the night Kohu went missing, the police boat, Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter and the Fire and Emergency drone all carried out searches, to no avail.