A KAYAKER who was stranded in freezing water off Gower has thanked the hero who saved him.
Dan Ward was "minutes from death" when surfer Steve Lewis paddled out to reach him off the coast of Hillend at Llangennith at around 1pm on Monday.
The 32-year-old from Killay was on his own when his kayak was hit by a freak wave and he was knocked under the water.
Mr Ward had a mobile phone with him but this was lost when his craft capsized.
Mr Lewis had, by chance, been using a long surfboard on that day which he was able to use as a stretcher to get the kayaker back to the shore.
Mr Ward said: "I don't think many people would have been as brave as that.
"I am very grateful to Steve.
"I'm only alive because of his courage."
The brain injury unit manager was hypothermic and barely conscious when he reached the shore.
Coastguard crews received numerous 999 calls to the incident, dispatched the Burry Port Life Boat and scrambled the Rhossili Coastguard as well as requesting the RAF Rescue Helicopter from Chivenor in North Devon.
Mr Ward was airlifted to Morriston Hospital.
He added: "I know with certainty that I wouldn't have lasted much longer in there, and by the time the air ambulance took me to Morriston it would probably have been too late."
He tracked his rescuer down using social network Twitter later that day and phoned him to thank him for his efforts.
Mr Ward's kayak was later recovered by coastguards.
Mr Lewis said: "I've been surfing a short board, but yesterday I had my long board.
"Without that I wouldn't have been able to help him (the kayaker) back to shore.
"He was definitely scared and said at one point that, if he died, I should tell his family that he loved them."
Coastguard volunteer Steve Jones said: "It was freezing water and the guy had been in trouble in the water for at least half an hour before he was rescued.
"He was minutes from death and in and out of consciousness.
"He was on his own and luckily someone saw him in difficulty. He did have a life jacket on and that could have saved him."