A body recovered from the high-tide mark on a Northland beach will go through a specialist identification process.
However, police suspect it is that of Alexy Ivanov, who was last seen just over a week ago swimming in surf off the nearby Uretiti campground. A beachgoer alerted Ruakaka police to the body on the beach near the Waipu River mouth about 9am yesterday.
The recovery comes as Water Safety New Zealand releases new statistics showing 31 people drowned during the latest summer - about one every three days. Northland's drowning toll stands at four so far this year.
Police Sergeant Dave Hamilton said officers enlisted the help of volunteers from the Ruakaka Surf Club to take the body from the beach. Nine days earlier, the alarm was raised by Department of Conservation workers who had noticed the Russian man's clothes and deck chair were still on the beach at Uretiti and there was no sign of him about 6pm. The 34-year-old's car was also still at the campground.
A search was mounted using inflatable rubber boats from the Ruakaka and Waipu surf clubs. The police helicopter, Eagle, based in Auckland, joined the search as did a navy vessel using sonar equipment.
Mr Hamilton said the body would be taken to Auckland where a process known as DVI (disaster victim identification) would be used. It was a method used to identify bodies of people killed in the Christchurch earthquake. It included using fingerprints, DNA, dental records and personal information. A post-mortem examination would also be carried out.
Water Safety New Zealand statistics show 11 people who drowned during the official summer period (December 1 to February 28) were swimming, up from seven in the corresponding period last year.
Nationally, 12 drownings occurred at beaches, double the number from the previous summer.
Chief executive Matt Claridge said although the total number of deaths was down on the five-year summer average of 41 and fewer than last year's 40, it was still disproportionately high.
Mr Claridge said the rise in the number of swimming and beach-related drownings could be a direct result of the fine summer but suggested people weren't remembering the safety basics.
"Know your limits, swim between the flags, don't drink alcohol if you're planning on swimming and keep young children within arms reach."
Mr Claridge said men made up 81 per cent of the total summer drownings, most in the 15-24 or 45-54 age groups. "Men are consistently the ones that are drowning in New Zealand; men in boats, men swimming or men fishing. There needs to be an attitudinal change in the way New Zealand men are behaving in and around the water and driving this change is a big focus for us."
One pre-schooler - from Northland - drowned during summer, down on the five-year summer average of three.