LONDON — A surfer survived 32 hours in the water after being swept out to sea.
Matthew Bryce was conscious but suffering from hypothermia when found by rescuers 13 miles offshore. He was recovering Tuesday at a hospital in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The 22-year-old set off to go surfing on Sunday morning from Machrihanish beach on Scotland's west coast but was reported missing when he failed to return that afternoon.
Authorities admitted that they were "gravely concerned" and that "hope was fading" of finding Bryce alive after so long in the water.
Dawn Petrie, a spokeswoman for the coast guard operations center in Belfast that coordinated the search, said: "At 7:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. ET Monday) the crew on the coast guard rescue helicopter were delighted when they located the man still with his surfboard and 13 miles off the coast.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sea temperatures in the area at the time of Bryce’s disappearance dropped as low as 46 degrees. The ocean swell was relatively calm over the weekend in the waters off the Scottish coast, with waves between 3 and 4 feet high reported.
Coast guard Capt. Andy Pilliner, who was piloting the helicopter that rescued Bryce, said his crew initially thought they'd spotted a buoy in the water.
"We went around, dropped down the height a bit, came in and then that moment, when you go, 'Oh! it is actually a surfboard and there is actually someone on it waving,'" he recalled. "It’s just a great feeling, it’s just what you’re hoping for, but daren’t.”
Petrie said the surfer's level of preparation probably saved his life.
“He was kitted out with all the right clothing including a thick neoprene suit and this must have helped him to survive for so long at sea," she added.
In a statement, Bryce said he considered his rescuers and the medical staff helping him as "heroes" and described himself as "exhausted."
He added: "I am so grateful."