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Surfer returns to waves after terrifying 32-hour ordeal at sea

Matthew Bryce, 23, thought he was going to die when he got stranded miles from land.

Surfer Matthew Bryce made headlines when he spent 32 hours at sea in May.

The 23-year-old from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, was found 13 miles from the coast of Northern Ireland after going surfing at Westport Beach in Kintyre.

He had been pulled off course by stronger than expected winds and the tide.

Miles from land, Mr Bryce believed he was going to die. He lost over a stone and weather conditions were worsening.

Unable to keep himself fully out of the water, Mr Bryce caught hypothermia, his body core temperature falling to just 31C. The average is 37C.

"I didn't think I was going to be saved," he says. "I realised that even if a search had been started, I was in such a big area. In the distance I could make out Scotland, Ireland and Islay, all at equal distance.

"I was in the middle of the ocean. Trying to find a boat, in those conditions is difficult enough, never mind on a board. I'd accepted that I was going to die at that point.

"But I'd also decided that if I was going to die, it was because I physically couldn't go on. I wasn't just going to give up. I'd keep going until I passed out."

'I'd accepted that I was going to die at that point.'
Matthew Bryce

Mr Bryce was rescued and spend the next eight days in hospital, being treated for hypothermia.

After that, he needed extensive physiotherapy to rebuild muscle damage in his hands and feet.

Mr Bryce explains: "The first couple of months after the incident, it was me getting back to walking again. I had pretty bad nerve damage in my feet - which is still the case. So I had to work on getting my balance back.

"Also I was incredibly weak because I lost like a stone in weight. So it was putting that weight back on and getting back into exercise. 

"I had to work on getting my fitness back. Because as soon as you stop doing exercise, all of that just goes away. Even now, I'd consider myself unfit, because I've not been exercising as much as I had been before."

Mr Bryce swore he would never get back in the water again after his traumatising incident.

Just six months on, however, Mr Bryce has returned to the waves for the first time.

Accepting an invitation from Surf Snowdonia in Wales, Mr Bryce took to a lagoon, which generates man-made surfable waves every 90-seconds.

When asked how his first experience back in the water was, Mr Bryce describes it as "fun".

"Nothing's changed, it's still surfing and that's something I've been enjoying for four years," he says.

"What happened was because I was reckless. I went out on my own, it was poor planning, there was bad conditions - it was frankly just reckless.

"This is safe - I'm with people, it's not in the open sea. There's no reason to be scared of it because it's like a pool.

Changing his tune, Mr Bryce now sees the pool as the first step in his road back to the ocean.

"That will be with people, in safe conditions and it's just going to be building it back up," he says.

"I could never go back into the sea on my own. That's not changed, I could never do that. One, it's unsafe, people shouldn't be doing it anyway. 

"And two, it's terrifying. It would be terrifying for me to do that. Whereas this in the sea with friends, I think will be fine."

He adds: "It's also something I've enjoyed for so long, I can't give that up. It's unfortunate what happened but it could have been much worse. 

"It could have been so much worse and it's not. So, as a learning experience it's just telling me to be safe."

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