"I couldn't see him anymore. Last time I saw him was at the end of the jetties," his girlfriend, Shayna Meggs, said. That was about 5:40 Thursday. Two other adults swimming nearby also had to be rescued by other swimmers who managed to get them to shore.
"I don't have to tell you how hot it was yesterday," Bradley Beach Police Chief Len Guida said. "We had thousands of people on the beach, and we had trouble all day because of rip currents."
Divers and the Coast Guard failed to find a trace of him Thursday. The search had to be called off around 7:30 p.m. as storms moved in.
On Friday, from first light until about 1:00 p.m., divers searched for the missing teen.
A pilgrimage of family, friends and Neptune high classmates came to the beach on Friday, watching silently as a half-dozen wet suit-clad divers bobbed in the surf between a Coast Guard patrol boat and the shoreline. Overhead, an orange Coast Guard helicopter flew up and down the shore.
"Just to show love and respect. Hope he comes back," Evander Young said.
They consoled each other, and spoke about the Neptune High football player with a big heart.
"He was like a brother to me," Andrew Jones said.
"He liked to play around," said Xavier Burrus, a classmate at Neptune High School, where Nelson played football and basketball. "He was always smiling. He loved to make people laugh."
"You just can't be mad at him," added Shakeith Campbell, another friend. "He always had a smile on his face."
A group of teenagers picked flowers growing near the beach and laid them on the sand in tribute to their missing friend Friday morning.
Lifeguards were not on the beach Thursday. Guida said they are scheduled to begin full-time shifts next Wednesday, although they were on duty last weekend and will be there this weekend as well. The beaches generally can't be staffed with lifeguards on weekdays until school lets out for the summer, he said.
Some information from The Associated Press