Police have released the name of the man who died while diving at Riversdale Beach last month.
He was 44-year-old Gerrard Hepi of Masterton.
Hepi went diving on the afternoon of Thursday, November 30 and failed to return.
He was reported missing that night, and a Surf Life Saving New Zealand squad searched for him for two hours before being stood down for the evening.
His body was found on the morning of December 1, and his death has been referred to the coroner.
A rāhui [restriction] was put in place along the Wairarapa’s coastline for five days following his death.
Following the release of Hepi’s name, his mother Frances Rata-Hughes spoke to the Times-Age about her son.
“All the times with him were the best times, but one memory that will always stay with me is his infectious smile,” she said.
“He had a beautiful smile. And everybody knew him by that smile.”
He was also known to his “many wonderful friends” by a number of names in addition to Gerrard and Hepi, she said, including Dude, Pee Pee, Doodle.
“He had lots of funny names, and he took them all on board because they were terms of endearment to him.”
Rata-Hughes described her son as very generous, kind, caring, “and always happy”.
“He loved life, and he lived life to the full.”
Rata-Hughes said one of the hardest parts of coming to terms with her son’s death has been facing the reality that “he’s not here anymore”.
“He was the type of person that you would just expect to be here forever – he was always there, he was always present, bubbly, and happy.”
The father of three children, to whom he was “a very caring, loving dad”, Hepi also loved the sea, the bush, his family, and his friends.
“The friendships that he made were just magic, lifelong friendships with lots of people all around the country.”
Rata-Hughes particularly wanted to thank all the people who helped search for her son after he was reported missing, including police, who “were awesome” and “very supportive”, and the Riversdale locals.
“We’re just grateful to have him back, grateful that Tangaroa returned him to us.”
She also thanked “the iwi [Rangitāne and Ngāti Hāmua] for allowing us to have him lay here with their people, our people, so that his friends could also have their last farewells and pay their respects before we took him home” to the central North Island, and Hepi’s workmates, “who have taken it quite hard coming to terms with the loss”.
“He rested here for two days with the people that he loved, and I so appreciate that.”
Rata-Hughes also had some advice for others.
“Be safe out there [at the beach], always be alert for what’s around, and be mindful of the tides and the currents and the weather,” she said.
“Don’t swim or dive alone. Always have someone with you and let someone know where you are.
“Always look after each other while you’re out there.”