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Imagine how many tonnes of water there are falling on you. I feel very lucky, I've only got a tiny cut on my hand ...

Byline: Hannah Flint Reporter hannah.flint@trinitymirror.com

A KAYAKER thrown out of his boat when it was hit by a freak wave has admitted he is lucky to be alive after he escaped with no more than a cut on his finger.

Russell Stewart, 57, was plunged into freezing waters after the giant wave struck him and two friends as they paddled near the Long Sands in Tynemouth at the weekend.

The self-employed joiner was hurled into the sea after the wave caused his friend Will's boat to crash into his own, leaving his PS2,500 kayak with a threeinch hole in its hatch as it began to fill with water and sink.

As Will climbed back into his boat for safety, Russell felt his hands begin to freeze in the cold water while the trio awaited the help of RNLI lifesavers.

Rescuers said Russell, who lives in Monkseaton, North Tyneside, and goes kayaking most weekends, could have lost his life in the bitter waters.

But he was rescued by the Coast Guard - with little more than a scratch on his thumb.

Russell said: "It was a big swell but it was just a freak wave. I saw it coming and I thought 'This is going to end badly'.

"You do get a fear factor when you see a big wave.

"I've got a tiny little cut on my thumb. I thought I would have had a bit of whiplash from the force of that wave.

"Imagine how many tonnes of water there are falling on you. I feel very lucky."

He began to feel anxious as he was plunged into the water, he said, but experience of similar situations in the past allowed him to stay calm. He added: "I've had some bad accidents before, but if your boat is sinking there's not much you can do.

"I couldn't swim to the shore and I was worried about my boat. I could feel it getting colder and colder.

"I was quite apprehensive because I thought there was no way I could go to shore."

The former marine reservist was taken ashore by the Humber Coast Guard where he was given gloves to warm his hands and wrapped in survival bags before he was driven home by the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade.

He said: "The volunteers were excellent and really proficient. It makes you feel better knowing they're there. You try not to call them unless you really need to.

"Calling the RNLI is not the type of thing we would do. It's pride, isn't it, you feel embarrassed. But they said we did the right thing."

He revealed that the three friends had put PS100 behind the bar at Cullercoats pub Brown's Salt House as a 'thank you' to the volunteers who had saved their lives.

And the experienced kayaker urged others who might want to take to the sea to make sure they get trained properly, saying: "If people want to go out, go and get some proper training.

"I've been through some bad experiences. I've done a course in kayaking, I always check the weather and take the right equipment and so do all my friends.

"Whether I could die was in the back of my mind, but I had been in situations like that before. If I hadn't been I would have been panicking."

His warning was echoed by the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade, who said that one reason the three friends had not needed urgent medical attention was because they had been wearing safety equipment and were carrying VHF radios.

Peter Lilley captain in the brigade, said: "They were out enjoying the waves and there was just a freak wave which you get sometimes. This wave was just particularly big.

"They did everything correctly, they were wearing dry suits and buoyancy aids and they had a radio.

"From our point of view the people were prepared, and it was a horrible freak thing that caused it rather than a lack of preparation."

CAPTION(S):

Russell Stewart, of Monkseaton, who was rescued by RNLI after his Kayak was holed.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 31, 2014
Words:684
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