Police believe a young Illawarra man has drowned after drinking with friends and going for a late night swim in extremely hazardous surf conditions at North Beach overnight.
Early morning walkers discovered the man's body, identified as a 28-year-old local, at the North Wollongong beach about 6.15am on Tuesday.
Wollongong police covered the body with a tent and established a crime scene before taking the man to be identified.
Police believe they found the man's personal belongings, mainly clothes, on the beach in front of the North Beach Pavilion.
The man was found with shorts on, about 200 metres north of the North Wollongong surf club.
Wollongong Police District's Chief Inspector Darren Brown said officers believed the man drowned and his death was not being treated as suspicious.
He said police would be investigating if the man was with anyone else at the time he entered the water and would check whether he was drinking at a licenced venue nearby.
Insp Brown described the surf conditions as "very, very hazardous" last night.
"The beach was closed overnight," he said.
"There have been warnings about the conditions due to the storms over the past couple of days."
Insp Brown said at this early stage, the family had not indicated that the man was suffering from personal issues.
He said police did not believe the man had any other injuries at the time of his death but would investigate further.
Savvy Fitness trainer Jade Burke saw the first police car arrive at the North Wollongong Surf Lifesaving Club before more emergency services including paramedics and Surf Life Saving Illawarra members turned up.
"One person went to have a look and told us there was a body on the beach," Ms Burke said.
"I didn't go down there and I kept people away as it was not appropriate to have people looking on.
"We wanted to be respectful and keep people away.
"It is deflating and upsetting to hear someone has died."
Ms Burke said police discreetly carried the body up from the beach to a waiting a van at the fence.
She said as people turned up to classes they asked what was going on.
"I played it down so there wasn't too much hype created out of respect for the person," she said.
Ms Burke said emergency service vehicles left between 8.30am and 9am.
Customers at nearby cafes also asked staff members what had happened earlier in the morning, however the baristas the Mercury spoke to only saw the police cars at the scene.
Surf Life Saving Illawarra duty officer Anthony Turner said the incident was a tragic reminder of the dangers with swimming at night.
"Over the last few days there has been hazardous surf warnings along the NSW coast including the Illawarra," he said.
"There is a hazardous surf warning in place on Tuesday.
"We are pleading with the community, please swim only at patrolled beaches, between the red and yellow flags.
"Unfortunately at night the beaches aren't patrolled and there are inherent dangers of swimming at night.
"Hazards including darkness, large waves and strong currents and rock platforms.
"Do not swim outside patrolled hours."
Mr Turner said North Beach had currents, strong rips, seaweed and large sets of waves overnight.
Insp Brown also reminded people to not go into the ocean unless it was patrolled.
"If it is not patrolled, the beach is not safe," he said.
"Swim between the flags and heed to the warnings about hazardous surf conditions.
"Swimming at night is also not advisable."
Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.