NSW Police now hope to recover 11yo's body

Authorities have given up hope of finding an 11-year-old boy alive more than 48 hours after he was swept out to sea on the NSW mid-north coast.

What was a massive search effort has now turned into a body-recovery operation, NSW Police said on Friday.

The ACT boy was caught in a rip in rough conditions on unpatrolled Lighthouse Beach at Port Macquarie about 1.30pm on Wednesday.

Detective Chief Inspector Guy Flaherty said the full-scale search - which included helicopters, jet skis and patrol boats - was suspended at dusk on Friday.

A smaller recovery operation will continue on Saturday.

"This is a recovery operation ... the search will be suspended overnight and will be scaled back tomorrow," Chief Insp Flaherty told AAP.

"We've scaled back but we will continue to attempt to find a body."

Chief Insp Flaherty told AAP that while conditions had eased significantly since the boy was swept out to sea, a strong southerly was expected to hit the search area on Friday night.

"The chances of him surviving two nights in the water are low to non-existent," he said.

The boy was wearing a rash shirt with a white stingray motif and black and grey board shorts when he went missing.

His family is being supported by welfare services through police and NSW Ambulance.

The boy's mother could only watch as the boy, who was waist-deep in water, was sucked into the surf while his older brother tried to rescue him.

Chief Insp Flaherty said up to 50 people helped with the search at its peak. Many were volunteers.

"Their efforts are to be commended, particularly given the fact that they've given up their time," he said.

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