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Surfer Chris Davidson dies after pub punch

Former elite professional surfer Chris Davidson is being mourned by the surfing community after being punched and dying outside a pub on the NSW mid north coast.

Police say they were called to Sportsmans Way at South West Rocks just after 11pm on Saturday following reports a man had been punched in the face, fallen and hit his head on the pavement.

Officers found 45-year-old Davidson unconscious on the ground. He was treated at the scene by ambulance paramedics before being taken to Kempsey Hospital, where he died a short time later.

A 42-year-old man arrested at a nearby home early on Sunday was charged with assault causing death.

He was refused bail to face Port Macquarie Bail Court on Sunday.

Surfing Australia says the sport's community is mourning the loss of the man affectionately known as "Davo".

"Davo was an incredibly talented surfer and a true individual in our sport and community," the organisation said on Facebook.

"Our thoughts go out to his two children, friends and family at this time."

Eleven-time World Surf League champion Kelly Slater, who Davidson beat in two consecutive heats at Bells Beach as a 19-year-old wildcard entrant in 1996, called him one of the most naturally talented surfers he ever knew.

"Lost another soldier yesterday. #RipChrisDavo. Had many a good battle with this guy," Slater said on Instagram.

Davidson, who grew up surfing at North Narrabeen on Sydney's northern beaches, competed on the World Surf League championship tour in 2010 and 2011.

His best result was a tie for third at the 2010 Portugal event, when he was narrowly defeated by Slater, who won the event.

"I felt like I surfed pretty well against Kelly, but when he goes and pulls a 360 Alley-Oop on a nothing wave, it's hard to fight back," Davidson told surfing magazine Tracks at the time.

Friend Nathan Hedge told Nine's Today show Davidson's death was tragic.

"This is the worst thing ever ... (it's) not only Chris's life being taken from us, the other person's life is shattered and ruined as well," he said on Monday.

Davidson was a unique character, kind-hearted, charismatic and the life of the party, Mr Hedge said.

"He just wanted to make sure you had a good time as well," he said.

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