A trained lifeguard and surf coach was rescued by an off-duty RNLI lifeguard after getting stranded at sea.
Toby Pearce, 19, was caught in a "very strong rip current" when his surfboard leash snapped at Cornwall's Sennen Cove on Tuesday.
His rescue came as the RNLI faced criticism for not having lifeguards on beaches because of the coronavirus crisis.
He said it highlighted the need for lifeguards to be reinstated.
The RNLI suspended patrols in March and has since announced plans to have lifeguards on 70 beaches this summer rather than its usual 240.
The charity has said it needs more time to make the service, which is usually made up of 1,500 paid lifeguards, safe.
Mr Pearce, from Mousehole, said his board was swept away in waves of about 4ft (1.2m).
"I could have got out but it would have taken a while - I would have ended up smashed on the rocks," he said.
Michael Lay, 29, said: "We don't have access to any of the RNLI equipment at the moment so I was out on my own board."
After rescuing Mr Pearce, Mr Lay and colleagues helped four children out of the water who were being swept down the beach.
Mr Lay said he is among a group of lifeguards trained by the charity who felt compelled to start patrolling Sennen Cove informally after two seaside deaths in Cornwall on Monday.
He said beach safety "worries me more than the risk of me catching Covid-19 at the moment".
Mr Pearce said the situation was "obscene".
On Tuesday, RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie asked the government to restrict access to beaches "before more lives are lost".
He said the RNLI had not been given time to prepare for lifeguards to safely return to the beaches with appropriate PPE.