A GYM assistant praised two men who saved her life after she was swept out to sea while surfing with a friend.

Donna Ford, 24, a members' assistant at the David Lloyd gym at the Tees Barrage, was swept out to sea at Saltburn by a strong current on Friday, August 15.

Beach lifeguard Paul Crook, 19, from Redcar, swam into the choppy seas with a rescue board to try to save her, but both were knocked off the board.

He was under the water when lifeboat crews reached him about 100 metres from Saltburn pier and they feared he was dead.

Luckily he only suffered mild hypothermia.

Meanwhile, Saltburn surf shop owner and lifeguard Nick Noble, 44, who had rented out a body board to Ms Ford, from Middlesbrough, earlier in the day, used a surf-board to go out to sea and brought her safely to shore.

She was also taken to hospital suffering from severe shock.

Mr Crook, a call centre worker, and Mr Noble were presented with certificates of Meritorious Action for Lifeguards from the Royal Life Saving Society yesterday at a civic reception at Eston Town Hall hosted by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council's Mayor, Norah Cooney. They were recommended for the award by the council's foreshore manager Paul Castle.

Lyndsey Tyreman, who spotted Ms Ford in difficulties, was also praised for trying to get close to her.

It was an emotional day for Ms Ford, who hasn't been back to Saltburn since the incident - until yesterday. "I feel like I've been given a second chance," she said. "They're so brave, fantastic people putting their own lives at risk."

Five Redcar lifeboatmen have also been honoured by the RNLI for their part in the operation.