TWO beachgoers have died within hours of each other in separate swimming and surfing incidents at Broken Head and Yamba beaches.
Lismore surfer Ken McLean paddled out into the waves at Yamba's Turners Beach on Wednesday afternoon after a seafood lunch on his 54th birthday, while his partner and family members relaxed on the beach.
Clarence Valley lifeguard supervisor Greg Wyllie said he was surfing in one to two foot waves when he was presumably hit in the head by his board, and was found floating in the water by nearby boardriders about 3.50pm.
"He was surfing on his own within 20m of three other surfers and at some stage he caught a wave and fell off his board and the board hit him in the bridge of the nose," Mr Wyllie said.
"The three surfers and a lifeguard all responded in a synchronised manner to the man, who was face down in the water within two minutes, and brought him to shore unconscious."
His sister Rhonda Shone, who was on the beach at the time, said it all happened extremely quickly.
"I had just walked out of the surf and seen Ken on his board, and then I saw people running down there, and thought something big must have happened," she said.
"Then I saw it was him."
Despite the best efforts of the lifeguard on duty and two off-duty paramedics who attempted to resuscitate him using CPR and a defibrillator, Mr McLean could not be revived and was pronounced dead in the ambulance at 4.35pm.
Ms Shone said she and her brother had both grown up in the water, and that he was a keen "surfer, fisherman; anything to do with the water".
"The worst part about this is Ken's partner, her first husband drowned too," she said.
Mr McLean's death is the first confirmed drowning on a patrolled Clarence Valley beach in more than 18 years.
Only a short time later, about 5.30pm, an 81-year-old man believed to be an international visitor was found floating in the water at Seven Mile Beach, Broken Head.
Tweed/Byron LAC Acting Inspector Chad Deengenaars said the man visited the beach with family members before heading out for a swim by himself.
"His family became concerned when he had not returned, they began looking for him and he was noticed by members of the public," he said.
"(They) brought him on to land and commenced CPR and emergency services were called."
Unfortunately the man was unable to be revived and he died at the scene.
Australian Lifeguard Service coordinator Scott McCartney said the tragic outcomes were frustrating, particularly at Broken Head because lifeguards urged people to swim between the flags.
"Unfortunately the ocean is still an unforgiving place," he said.
Mr McCartney said even though the swell was small, the combination of strong winds and outgoing and incoming tides created rips that were difficult to see.
"That's where people get into trouble," he said.
Mr McCartney said the recent good weather may have prompted more people to return to the beach, after several days of rain and dangerous surf conditions.
He said the swell was expected to remain small today but it was due to pick up over the weekend.