Point Pleasant Beach police say 20-year-old Akhenaton Dyer of Paterson was last seen around 7 p.m. Saturday near the Manasquan Inlet.
Witnesses say Dyer had just helped a family member toward shore when he began flailing his arms and yelling for help. Someone in a passing boat then tried to pull him to safety, but couldn't reach him in time.
The two family members Dyer was trying to rescue both made it safely to shore.
Coast Guard crews looked for Dyer until about midnight Saturday, when the search was suspended due to darkness. It was resumed shortly after dawn Sunday.