Speaking from his hospital bed in Belfast as he recovers from hypothermia, Matthew Bryce vowed he will never surf again.
He was reported missing by family when he failed to return from a Sunday morning surf off the Argyll coast.
As the sun began to set on a second night at sea, Mr Bryce thought he had just hours to live and had “made peace” with himself.
The 22-year-old, from Airdrie in North Lanarkshire, fought back tears as he told BBC News: “I knew I had maybe three hours and I was pretty certain that I was going to die with that sunset.
“So I was watching the sunset and I’d pretty much made peace with it all and then a helicopter flew right over.
“So I jumped off the board and I lifted the board up and I started waving the board in the water and they flew right over, I thought they’d missed me.
“Then they turned round... and then they saved my life. I can’t thank them enough.”
The interview showed Mr Bryce was also badly sunburnt during his ordeal.
He said he was helpless on Sunday as changing currents and strong winds pushed him further and further from the shore.
He said: “It got to the point where my paddling was ineffective, but I was doing it to keep myself warm.”
Fear really set in as night fell on Sunday.
He added: “It was incredibly lonely and quiet because there was just nothing - just waves.
“I hadn’t seen any helicopters.
“I was thinking I was going to die - I was almost convinced.
“I didn’t think I would see sunrise.”
An RNLI lifeboat has since recovered his surf board but the 22-year-old is not planning to take it back to sea.
He said: “I think we’ll find a good use for it, maybe as starter fuel.”
Asked by the BBC if he is finished with surfing, Mr Bryce said: “I think so, I couldn’t do that again.”