The search for a boy feared drowned after hazardous surf swept him out to sea on the NSW mid-north coast will resume in the morning after emergency services spent hours desperately trying to find him before nightfall.
The 11-year-old was walking with his 17-year-old brother in shallow water at an unpatrolled part of Lighthouse Beach at Port Macquarie, with their mother nearby, when he was dragged out to sea by a rip about 1.30pm on Wednesday.
The young boy was waist-deep in the water when he was dragged out and his older brother tried to rescue him, NSW Police Inspector Peter Neville told reporters in Port Macquarie on Wednesday.
"The elder boy tried to assist the 11-year-old but was unable to pull him from the surf," Insp Neville said.
"The 11-year-old was last seen pulled out to sea by a rip."
The 17-year-old made it back to shore and was with his parents on the beach, who were "extremely concerned" about the young boy's welfare, Insp Neville said.
Four ambulance crews, police, Marine Rescue vessels including a jet ski, a helicopter and a Surf Live Saving NSW drone were searching for the 11-year-old.
But, as the sun went down, they were forced to stop all search efforts until Thursday morning.
Large, powerful waves up to 2m high were reported off the coast of Port Macquarie.
Insp Neville reinforced the message from Surf Live Saving NSW that beachgoers should not enter waters at unpatrolled beaches.
NSW Ambulance acting Superintendent David Horseman said rescuers would keep searching until the boy was found.
"Every effort is being made to locate the missing young swimmer, we are all working together on scene," he said in a statement on Wednesday.
"The 17-year-old is now on the beach with his parents and we are all hoping we can find this young fellow."
The incident comes just hours after Marine Rescue issued a warning that swells would be hazardous for boating, swimming and fishing along much of the NSW east coast.