My rescuers are all heroes, says surfer stranded 13 miles off coast

Alex Smyth, the maritime operations controller for UK Coastguard, based in Belfast who spoke about the rescue of Matthew Bryce, a surfer who survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board.
Alex Smyth, the maritime operations controller for UK Coastguard, based in Belfast who spoke about the rescue of Matthew Bryce, a surfer who survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board.

A surfer who survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board has hailed his rescuers as heroes.

Matthew Bryce, 22, was reported missing by family when he failed to return from a Sunday morning surf off the Argyll coast of Scotland.

Screen grabbed image taken from video issued by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency of the moment surfer Matthew Bryce, who survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board, was rescued

Screen grabbed image taken from video issued by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency of the moment surfer Matthew Bryce, who survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board, was rescued

The 22-year-old was eventually found by a search and rescue helicopter at around 7.30pm on Monday, drifting in the North Channel, 13 miles from Northern Ireland and 16 miles from Scottish shores.

The Glaswegian was flown to Belfast, where he is currently recovering from hypothermia.

"I am so grateful that I am now receiving treatment in hospital," said Mr Bryce.

"I cannot thank those enough who rescued and cared for me, they are all heroes."

Undated handout file photo issued by Police Scotland of surfer Matthew Bryce, who has been described as "extremely lucky" after he survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board.

Undated handout file photo issued by Police Scotland of surfer Matthew Bryce, who has been described as "extremely lucky" after he survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board.

The surfer had last been seen at around 9am on Sunday in the St Catherines area of Argyll, believed to be heading to Westport Beach near Campbeltown.

Police Scotland and the Coastguard launched a large-scale search, with rescue teams from Campbeltown, Southend, Gigha, Tarbert and Port Ellen involved, as well as colleagues on the other side of the North Channel.

John Bryce, Matthew's father, also expressed his gratitude.

"The past 48 hours have been an absolute rollercoaster of emotions for our family and we are so grateful that Matthew has been found safe and well," he said.

Screen grabbed image taken from video issued by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency of the moment surfer Matthew Bryce, who survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board, was rescued

Screen grabbed image taken from video issued by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency of the moment surfer Matthew Bryce, who survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board, was rescued

"To get that call from the police last night to say that he was alive was unbelievable. It was better than a lottery win - you just can't describe it.

"Matthew means the world to us; he is such a strong character both mentally and physically, and we are looking forward to being reunited with him.

"We've managed to speak to him briefly on the phone and he is obviously exhausted after his ordeal, but he is in good spirits and happy to be alive.

"Our family cannot thank the Coastguard, RNLI volunteers and police officers involved in finding Matthew enough.

Alex Smyth, the maritime operations controller for UK Coastguard, based in Belfast who spoke about the rescue of Matthew Bryce, a surfer who survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board.

Alex Smyth, the maritime operations controller for UK Coastguard, based in Belfast who spoke about the rescue of Matthew Bryce, a surfer who survived more than 30 hours stranded at sea on his board.

"I would also like to thank our friends and family as well as the hundreds of people who offered their support on social media.

"We have been overwhelmed by your support and good wishes and we will be forever grateful to every single one of you."

The Coastguard believe Mr Bryce's surfing knowledge and wetsuit saved his life.

Conditions in the area were also "fairly benign" throughout Monday.

Dawn Petrie, from the Belfast Coastguard operations centre, said: "He'd been in the water for some 30 hours when the helicopter was delighted to spot him.

"He was extremely lucky.

"He was wearing the right equipment, had a very thick neoprene wetsuit on and did the right thing by staying with his surfboard.

"That must have helped him to survive for so long."

She said Mr Bryce was conscious when he was taken to hospital.

Police thanked everyone who had been involved in the search.

Chief Inspector Paul Robertson said: "The response to our appeal to find Matthew has been outstanding.

"It has been a real team effort and I would like to thank everyone who offered their assistance."

Alex Smyth, the maritime operations controller for UK Coastguard, based in Belfast, said the surfer's determination helped save his life.

"He was wearing a very heavy wetsuit with a hood and boots and he held onto his surf board.

"He was out in the water for over 32 hours. It was very cold water.

"He is a fit gentleman and clearly very determined. He was very lucky," said Mr Smyth.

ends