David Fell, 55, was holidaying in the area with his family when he and his teenage son and daughter were swept out to sea by a rip current while swimming at the popular beach.
Members of the public managed to pull the two children to safety but Mr Fell, from Wigan, was dragged further out. He was rescued by an RNLI crew and taken to waiting paramedics at Coble Landing in Filey, but could not be saved.
Mr Fell was a talented rugby player who had played union for Orrell and league professionally for Rochdale Hornets and Salford Red Devils, and represented Lancashire at both codes.
According to Facebook tributes, he was married to wife Fiona and had worked for Royal Mail.
Orrell RUFC said: "Once you play for Orrell you are part of the rugby family and we never forget our family members.
"The club was shocked to hear of the very sad death of David Fell, a former Orrell RUFC player. David also played rugby league with Salford and Rochdale Hornets in the 1980s and 1990s."