The Scottish surfer rescued off the coast of Northern Ireland after more than 30 hours at sea had tried in vain to attract passing ships as he clung to his surfboard.
Matthew Bryce spent Sunday evening stranded at sea before a full scale search and rescue operation was launched on Monday morning.
Yesterday, the 22-year-old from Glasgow hailed his rescuers as heroes.
He had been reported missing by family when he failed to return from a Sunday morning surf off the Argyll coast of Scotland.
Although he had entered the water at Machrihanish near Campbeltown at 10am on Sunday it was not until 7.30pm on Monday evening that he was found by a search and rescue helicopter, drifting in the Irish Sea 13 miles from his starting point.
He was flown to the Ulster Hospital in Belfast where he is currently recovering from hypothermia.
“I am so grateful that I am now receiving treatment in hospital,” said Mr Bryce yesterday. “I cannot thank those enough who rescued and cared for me, they are all heroes.”
The search and rescue operation involved teams on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Maritime Operations specialist Lawrence Cumming co-ordinated the Belfast Coastguard team from its base in Bangor.
He said: “The problem with planning a search was that a considerable time had passed since the surfer entered the water and therefore the drift and the tide ensured there was a very large search area of over 250 square miles of sea where he could possibly be.
“The fact that he still had his board contributed greatly to his survivability. He had a good wet suit on and he had his head covered with a wetsuit hood. He had gloves and boots so he was well protected.
“But even with that protection, in temperatures of eight to nine degrees Celsius for the period he was in the water, it’s still a very long time to be exposed.
“Every person has different make up and responds differently, but the length of time he spent in these conditions meant he was very close to the edge of the survival graph.”
Mr Bryce was recovered around 13 miles from Macrahanish, to the west of Rathlin Island.
“He was conscious when we found him but severely hypothermic,” said Mr Cumming.
“Obviously he was pleased to see the helicopter crew. He was able to tell them what had happened.
“He’d got into difficulties off the beach at Machrihanish and had been unable to swim back in.
“There was quite a stiff easterly wind blowing on Sunday which was pushing him off shore. He got swept down towards the Mull of Kintyre where there is stronger current and he was unable to make land.
“He was able to see some vessels during the night and attempted to get towards them, but lights can be deceiving at night and be much further away.”
John Bryce, Matthew’s father, said: “To get that call from the police on Monday night to say that he was alive was unbelievable. It was better than a lottery win - you just can’t describe it.”