Brenden Hurd, 19, was hit by a large wave while fishing with friends at Hill 60 park in Port Kembla on the Illawarra coast yesterday.
Mr Hurd’s friend Chase Barbaric jumped into the ocean but could not reach him and had to be rescued himself.
“It just keeps replaying over and over in my head,” Mr Barbaric said.
“It wasn’t our fault, it was mother nature.”
“Multiple people went into the water to try and help their friend, they too got in trouble in the water,” Surf Life Saving Illawarra’s Anthony Turner said.
Police praised the bravery of Mr Barbaric but said he had put his own life in danger.
“That’s heroic, by all means, but you really have to consider whether you’re putting yourself at any risk,” Superintendent Craig Ireland said.
Superintendent Ireland said the chance of finding Mr Hurd alive is “slim”.
“The chances of finding him alive, however, is slim,” he said.
“He’s been in the water for some time now.”
He added Mr Hurd and his friends weren’t wearing lifejackets.
Choppers, drones and a fleet of boats have taken up the search over the past 24 hours.
Surf Life Saving officials said the popular fishing spot is notoriously dangerous.
“It has been notorious over the last two years, there have been multiple deaths in this location,” Mr Turner said.
In 2021, five people died fishing from the rock at Hill 60 in a period of just one month.
Superintendent Ireland has urged anyone venturing to the area or rock fishing to undertake all safety precautions.
“We urge people to take all necessary precautions, wear lifejackets, don’t fish alone and don’t fish at night,” he said.