FRIENDS of missing University of Newcastle student Mohsin Awan say they still hold out hope their friend is found alive and well.
The 23-year-old Pakistani national was washed out to sea by large surf at Nobbys Beach on Sunday night after taking photographs at the rock-ringed area known as Soldiers Baths – on the southern edge of the beach.
A group of Mr Awan’s fellow students were at the scene on Monday afternoon.
Bilal Akram said he was praying that is friend is found safe.
“We still have hope,” he said.
“He’s a really lovely, really friendly guy … we need to find him, we are praying he is found.”
Mr Akram said Mr Awan arrived in Australia about seven months ago to study business at University’s Callaghan campus.
His home city is Lahore in north-eastern Pakistan.
Mr Awan’s parents have been notified of the search.
“They are devastated,” Mr Akram said.
Lifeguards, Marine Rescue and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter were still searching on Monday afternoon.
Police hold grave fears for the University of Newcastle student who went missing in a five-metre swell.
Swell staff member Holly Davidson was the first to phone police on Sunday night after a man came in to the cafe to seek help after he spotted two men off the shoreline.
“He and I were pretty much the only people around, as well as his wife,” she said.
Surfers and swimmers soon joined in the effort, attempting to reach the men by going into the rip themselves.
They reached one of the men but were unable to reach the second.
“Those guys were amazing,” she said.
“They jumped out in the rip where this guy was getting dragged out to try and get him, but unfortunately he’d already been dragged out quite far.”
She said there had been plenty of rips among the low-tide conditions, which had been deceptively serene.
“It did look quite calm until the big waves came over,” she said.
“[The swell] was pretty high.”
Tony Leacy, an ex fire fighter, was at Nobbys when it happened. He said the two men taking “selfies” in the water before being washed out into the surf.
“They were probably about up to their knees in the water taking selfies and the next thing they were being washed across the beach,” he said.
“One of them, the bigger guy, managed to grab onto the rocks but the other guy couldn’t make it. He was only a few metres away from the rocks but you could tell neither of them could swim.”
Surf conditions have since eased.
The rescued man is understood to have caught onto a rock after the pair were caught by the surf.
Mr Awan was last seen wearing a navy blue T-shirt and black jeans.