PETER Finch's family and friends have remembered him as a loving husband, father and mate, saying their thanks to the first responders who tried to save his life will "never be enough".
Mr Finch died on Friday after a kayaking accident on Lake Macquarie in NSW's Hunter region.
He is survived by his wife Natalie and their children, Jaxon, 3, and Shelby, 16 months.
"The love of my life, mister Peter Finch, we were so lucky to have you," Mrs Finch told the Newcastle Herald.
"My life will never be the same without you."
Mrs Finch thanked the public on Sunday for their messages and "beautiful gestures", saying the family lived in a "wonderful community".
"Peter's family and I would like to send our heartfelt appreciation to all of the first responders who tried to save our beautiful Peter and for saving Peter's precious son Jaxon, thank you will never be enough."
She said Mr Finch was her husband, lover, best friend, partner in crime and hero.
"I don't know how to do life without you," she said.
"You have been my rock for the last 17 and a half years. No one has my back like you do.
"You are the most amazing, fun, loving, beautiful Daddy.
"I promise the kids will always know just how wonderful you are, our hero.
"The kids and I love you forever and always, to the moon and back and back again, more than all the stars in the sky."
A NSW Police spokesperson said emergency services were called to parkland at Gwandalan shortly after 6pm on Friday, after reports a kayaker and child had been pulled from the water.
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Paramedics treated Mr Finch but he died at the scene. Jaxon was not physically injured.
"It appears the man has heroically held the young boy above the water when they've tipped over, saving his life," NSW Ambulance Inspector Andrew Craig said.
"It was a very emotional scene and bystanders had done an excellent job in rendering first aid to the patient before paramedics arrived.
"With the warmer weather fast approaching it's a tragic reminder of how dangerous the water can be and how quickly things can change."
A report will be prepared for the coroner.
Mr Finch's colleague at SNL Building Constructions, Tony 'Troll' Layton, said Mr Finch left work early on Friday - his 33rd birthday - to take his son kayaking.
He said Mr Finch was an "amazing father".
"Peter was an awesome bloke and proud loving dad, his great energy and loving nature will be sadly missed by many," Mr Layton said.
"At home, work or play Pete was always positive.
"Love that man and going to miss him big time."
Janelle Hunter's Go Fund Me page for the family has already raised more than $13,000.
"On 1st October we lost a son, brother, husband, dad, uncle, friend, to a horrible accident," Ms Hunter wrote.
"Peter was an amazing husband, an amazing dad and an amazing friend.
"He sacrificed his own life to save his little boy, heroism at its finest.
"Peter has a wife, a little boy and a baby girl he has left behind.
"We are hoping to raise some money to help his family get through the toughest time of their lives, anything is muchly appreciated.
"We understand that times are tough and if you can't afford to donate that's fine, a simple share could mean an extra $1."