Scottish man was rescued by Northern Ireland volunteer crews 13 miles from shore
A Scottish surfer who was rescued by Northern Ireland crews after 32 hours adrift in the North Channel has returned to where it all started.
Matthew Bryce, a 23-year-old from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, set out from Campbelstown, on the Argyll coast on April 30. His family reported him missing when he failed to return, sparking an extensive search operation involving the Coastguard and RNLI from Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic.
At 7.30pm on May 1, an astonishing 32 hours after he'd gone surfing, he was spotted by a helicopter, rescued and brought to Ulster Hospital in Dundonald where he was treated for hypothermia. He was released from hospital on May 9.
During his recovery, he told the media that he would surf again but never on his own.
Describing his ordeal, in which he lost 5 kg and passed in and out of consciousness, "The night was horrible. It was just... nothing. There is only blackness.
"It's like how I imagine hell. Nothing can hear you, it doesn't matter how hard you scream. You are alone. As far as the world is concerned, you don't exist."
Without the RNLI and coastguard teams there, I simply would not be alive today.- Matthew Bryce
He returned to Campbeltown this week because, he told ITV, he wanted to share the vital water safety lessons he has learned and to thank the local volunteer rescue crews. While there, he also collected his surfboard.
Mr Bryce said: "The reason I wanted to return to Campbeltown today was ultimately to say thank you. Without the RNLI and coastguard teams there, I simply would not be alive today.
"Without any question they are heroes and I would like my visit to highlight that fact...They volunteer and sacrifice their safety without looking for any thanks or recognition.
"As someone who without a doubt would now be dead without them, I would like to offer my thanks and hope that my visit today will help allow some of that much deserved recognition to be pointed their way."
The reception he received, Mr Bryce was a warm one. "Today the teams there were incredibly welcoming. They invited me for tea and shared some of their stories from that day. Speaking with them brought the fact home that they had helped search for me and were now just happy to see me. Just as I was happy to see them.
"The level of gratitude and love I have for them I really don't think I can justify with words. From the bottom of my heart.
A spokesperson for Campbeltown Coastguard commented: "It's not often we get to meet the 'casualty', but we did yesterday! Mathew was in Campbeltown to collect his surfboard from the RNLI. He thanked the lifeboat crew and the Coastguard teams who took part in the search for him. It was great to meet him and hear his story."
Mr Bryce then made an appeal to anyone going surfing.
"Please, see my story not as a horror, but one that could learned from.
"Despite having the correct equipment - a 5mm thickness wetsuit, with a 2mm thickness torso vest, along with gloves, hood and boots - there were other things I could have done to prevent this escalating to the point it did:
"Do not go surfing alone. It was unnecessary risk. If I had been surfing with another person, or ideally a group, the coastguard would have been notified much earlier that I was in trouble.
"Have an agreed time when you will be out of the water and that you will contact either a family or friend who is on dry land. This is a useful measure as it helps in case something is happening to your group.
"Make sure the person you're contacting knows where you are going surfing and expect to be back on dry land. If you want to go back in afterwards just message them saying so.
"Purchase a personal GPS tracker. Although they can be pricey at first glance, when you consider the price of both a board and wetsuit, it isn't that much more. And it's worth it if you imagine two hours in the water before being rescued as opposed to two days. I know what I would choose. I would suggest this for non-surfers doing other water sports as well. "