A surfer has survived a night at sea after he was swept six kilometres off the coast of Bulli with only his board to keep him afloat.
The man, a Japanese tourist, was brought safely ashore Friday morning after he drifted alongside a 300-metre long container ship and was spotted by crewmen.
The 37-year-old man was picked up by Panama-registered ship the MSC Damla shortly after 9am Friday, about 16 hours after he set out from Bulli Beach.
Port Kembla Water Police Sergeant Sean Netting said the man appeared unfazed by his ordeal.
"[MSC Damla] crew were able to lower the gangway he was able to paddle over and they basically just plucked him out of the water," he said.
"We couldn't believe it.
"He's out there on a surfboard, adrift, at nighttime. The risk would be hypothermia from exposure to the elements, and drowning, should he have become separated from the board.
"Most people that get themselves in that situation die.
"He's just so lucky that someone on ship spotted him.
"He was in remarkably good spirits and basically had no [health] issues at all. He's a survivor."
The man initially resisted offers of medical assistance but was transported by ambulance to Wollongong Hospital.
Ambulance NSW Illawarra duty operations manager Inspector Norm Ree said the man was uninjured.
"He was transported [to hospital] as a precaution, because of the risk of exposure," Insp Rees said.
"He's very, very, lucky.
"He said he couldn't paddle any more. He was just floating out there."
The man was released from hospital early Friday afternoon.
He had set out surfing alone about 5pm Thursday.
He told rescuers he paddled out behind the sets after the waves grew too big for him, then the current took him out to sea.
The MSC Damla has been anchored off the coast of Bulli for several days.
It was met Friday morning by the Port Kembla pilot vessel, which brought the man ashore.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.