Mr Ward entered the surf after his sister, who had gone to the aid of her friend caught in a rip, also got into trouble.
Police said he got into difficulties himself, with local surfers and passers-by going to his aid.
He was brought to the beach unconscious and efforts by beachgoers and later ambulance officers and lifesavers were unsuccessful.
Mr Ward’s sister was rescued by passers-by and taken to Tweed Heads Hospital for treatment, with her friend making her own way to the beach.
The beach was unpatrolled.
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