Police say the 21-year-old man, a Chinese international student, and six friends were returning to North Stradbroke Island from Peel Island in Moreton Bay on Wednesday afternoon when conditions deteriorated and the group became separated about 5pm.
Police said the wind and current worsened, increasing the time it took to make it home.
The group, in four boats, were separated about 5pm in rain and failing light.
Authorities were contacted and police began the search about 5:30pm.
An hour later, two kayaks with four people on board were found near Rainbow Passage, while two others were found near Amity Banks about 9pm.
Fourteen water police and volunteer boats searched throughout the night for the man, who was wearing a life jacket, with teams swapping over duties at midnight.
At first light this morning, a rescue helicopter spotted the kayak and a coastguard found the body just after 7:00am, in the Rous Channel.
Senior Sergeant Gary Worrel said everyone in the group was wearing life jackets and they had told people where they were going.
“It was just an unfortunate set of circumstances with the weather,” he said.
“It is a sad result.
“Our deepest sympathies are given to the families, the international student community and the university involved in relation to this event.”
Police will prepare a report for the coroner.
-AAP, additional reporting by ABCJump to next article