"It was devastating."
Mr Howard's daughter, Sarah, said that her 65-year-old father was the kind of man who would do anything for anyone.
"My beautiful dad … He was so loved not only by his family but by the communities around him," he said.
"His grandchildren were his life and his face lit up in a dazzling light when he spoke of them, he was so proud of his farm and his cattle, he loved the [Geelong] Gatti and all the football.  "He loved the Pier to Pub and his being in Lorne."
Mr. Howard – a cattle breeder and former elementary school teacher – was a devoted member of the Lorne Club aquatic and fishing with the hook and involved in many other community groups through Lorne, Colac and his home town of Beeac, some 160 kilometers southwest of Melbourne.
Howard spent several weeks regularly during the summer in Lorne.
He had an enemy in the world, everyone loved him, "Miller said.
"He used to go into a room and cheer everyone up in. He could talk to anyone … He was one of my best friends and one of the best people I've ever met."
Mr. Howard is got into trouble on Saturday during the famous 1,2 km swim in open water.
Paramedics were called to the scene around 2.50 pm, a few minutes after being pulled out of the water, but they were unable to save it.
The Lorne Surf Life Saving Club issued a statement saying it was saddened by Mr. Howard's death, but that it would not provide further comment.
"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the competitor", the statement reads.
The tragedy casts a shadow over otherwise almost perfect conditions for the 39th annual event, announced as the world's largest open water swim.
About 5,000 people participated in this year's Pier to Pub swimming, including Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the young Carlton Blues pistol Charlie Curnow and former Cats captain Cameron Ling.