Japanese surfer rescued after spending 16 hours adrift in the ocean off Australia

Tourist spends the night in the sea off eastern Australia after a strong current drags him four miles from the beach

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The Independent Online

A surfer is lucky to be alive after spending 16 hours adrift in the ocean clinging to his surfboard, before he was almost miraculously spotted by a passing ship.

The Japanese man, who has not been named, told police he was enjoying the surf on Bulli Beach, on the east coast of Australia, when a current pulled him out to sea.

The 37-year-old was dragged nearly four miles offshore, and became exhausted trying to paddle back.

Inspector Darren Wood, of New South Wales Police, said: "He was attempting to paddle back in for six hours before he ran out of energy and drifted at sea.

"It went dark and, being by himself, no-one knew he was out there."

The tourist spent the night in the water, but did not develop hypothermia as temperatures only dropped to roughly 21 degrees Celsius.

By chance sailors from the 300m shipping container, the MSC Damla, spotted the man clinging to his yellow surfboard the following morning.

They threw a lifebuoy out to hoist him aboard and gave him food, water and warm clothing.

A boat was sent to bring the surfer back to shore, and after being checked over by doctors at a nearby hospital he was declared to be in good health.

But surfer safety group Surf Life Saving NSW highlighted the dangers of taking to the water without telling anyone.

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A spokesman told ABC: "This incident is a reminder of the need to let people know your plans before setting out, as well as the importance of knowing local conditions.”

Police confirmed no search party had been launched for the man as he was not reported missing.

Inspector Wood said: "He appears to be travelling by himself, and that was why no-one was alerted to the fact that he was stuck in this rip and that he was out there.”