An off-duty police officer has drowned in a rip after saving the life of his teenage son at an unpatrolled beach on the NSW south coast.
Emergency services were called after the 45-year-old became caught in a rip at Bogola Beach, south of Narooma, about 1.30pm on New Year's Day.
When lifesavers arrived at the scene, onlookers told them the man went into the ocean to rescue the 14-year-old, but after saving the teen he disappeared under water.
A helicopter sent from Moruya spotted the man who was pulled from the rip by lifesavers, but paramedics couldn't revive him and he died at the scene.
NSW Police confirmed the man who died was an off-duty officer and local police will prepare a report for the coroner.
Acting Inspector Paul Hoyer said the officer's death was a tragedy that "that will cut through to his family, friends and workmates".
"It's devastating at this time of the year when obviously with the recency of the two deaths in Queensland - it just brings home how dangerous policing is," he told reporters on Monday.
"From what I understand, he was able to push his son out of the rip. He was then taken out to sea further in the rip and that obviously will form part of our investigation as we prepare a brief."
Acting Insp Hoyer reiterated police and surf lifesavers' advice to swim, swim between the flags at a patrolled beach.
Surf Life Saving NSW chief executive Steven Pearce said they had numerous cases each year "where someone goes into the rescue and they, in turn, become the victim and the person they went to rescue successfully escapes the rip they were caught in".
With warm temperatures driving thousands of people to the state's beaches this summer, NSW lifesavers have already carried out more than 1000 rescues since Christmas, which is a record.
"We've never ever seen this before," Mr Pearce told AAP.
"The primary message today, particularly because it's such a bumper day for the beach is: we're urging people to go to a patrolled location, and that's anywhere with a red and yellow flag flying and where our lifesavers, and our lifeguards, are on duty."