AS a teenager Iain Hunter came close to drowning as he battled to stay alive in six-foot-high waves after he was thrown off a bodyboard into the sea at Barton.
He was saved thanks to the bravery of three RNLI lifeboat men who came to his aid that day – something Iain has never forgotten.
Nearly 30 years later he was delighted to visit RNLI Mudeford recently with daughter Tilly to hand over a cheque for £1,100 which he had raised for the charity by shaving off his long hair.
Receiving the money on behalf of the service were two of the crew, helmsmen Ian Parker and Stuart Ward, who saved Iain’s life on 30th October 1994 and are still serving with the RNLI.
On that day they were on the scene within 20 minutes of Iain – then aged 14 – going into the water. They found him clinging to a metal pole just off the end of a stone groyne.
At the time conditions were described as “treacherous” and a report of the rescue in the A&T described how Stuart went into the water wearing a lifeline to swim to Iain.
But the schoolboy was so terrified he would not let go of the pole and Stuart was constantly bashed against the groyne causing him severe bruising. Exhausted, he was hauled back to the lifeboat.
Another crewman, Tony Abbott, plunged into the heaving seas, this time managing to break Iain’s grip and together they were pulled back to the boat.
At the time helmsman Ian said he believed the teenager was only minutes from drowning when the lifeboat arrived. Iain was treated for hypothermia and bruising.
All three crewmen were later honoured by the RNLI for their bravery on the day. Seven years after he was saved, Iain also took part in a skydive for the service and raised £1,000.
Speaking about his rescue on his fundraising webpage Iain, from Christchurch, told how in his teenage years he “decided I was a surfer”.
“Since then my life has been shaped by my continued love of the sea and water sports in general.
“One of the key reasons this has even been possible is thanks to the RNLI, who saved my life when I was 14.
“Twenty-six years later and I haven’t needed them again, but I know plenty of the windsurfing community who have, and we all know that the volunteers who man the boats wouldn’t think twice about heading out to save us if required.”