When Christian Perez saw three young girls heading towards the sea with a unicorn lilo at Montrose beach he immediately prepared for the worst.
Only minutes later the 42-year-old from Chile found himself swimming out to sea to rescue two of the girls who were being pulled ever further off shore.
It would be another 20 minutes before Christian was able to get the girls safely back to the beach after a tough swim against the wind and tide.
Shocked onlookers immediately called 999 at 5.30pm on Sunday but Christian returned the girls to safety before emergency services arrived.
He said: “It was a real struggle and I’m a strong swimmer.
“If I hadn’t just been in the right place at the right time it could all have ended so differently.
“I’m just so glad I was there and able to get the girls to safety.
“I wouldn’t like to call it a rescue but it could have had a very much more devastating ending.”
Christian, a manager at Arbikie Distillery who lives at Lunan Bay, said he had been spending the day on the beach when he saw the girls.
He said they looked to be aged around 11 and were taking the lilo out to sea.
The girls became separated and only two of them went into the water.
That was when the current and the winds began to pull them far from shore.
Christian surfs and swims regularly and said he is very confident in the water.
He has also been involved in another rescue, when he saved the life of a surfer in Venezuela when he was only 16.
Christian said: “I saw the three girls with the unicorn inflatable and realised they were pulling it towards the sea.
“I was really worried and spoke to them to ask if they knew what they were doing.
“They told me they were fine but I was very concerned.”
Christian began preparing to help them back out of the water “just in case”.
Christian said: “It was only minutes later that I looked again and saw that two of the girls were on the lilo, getting pulled out to sea.
“I realised this could be really dangerous and immediately got into the water.”
Beach-goers enjoyed high temperatures on Sunday but high winds made for choppy waters.
Christian said: “When I got there they looked really worried but I just spoke gently to them and told them I was going to tow them back to shore.”
Christian said he asked the girls to start paddling to help and their difficult journey back to safety began.
He said: “They were being pulled towards St Cyrus so I knew to swim diagonally to the shore.
“It was pretty tough going.”
It was another 15 minutes before he got them to the beach.
“I was lucky to be there and so were they,” Christian said.
“It was only because I know I am a really strong swimmer and am very confident in the water that I knew it was okay for me to go in.
“I think the girls were a bit embarrassed at what happened but the main thing is they are okay.
“I just tried to reassure them the entire time and let them know they would be safe.
“I definitely wouldn’t recommend to anyone else that they do this unless they know exactly what they are doing and will be able to cope with it.”
Christian said he is so concerned about what happened yesterday he is now considering teaching water safety.
He said: “It really worried me, what these girls were going away to do.
“They had no idea of the potential difficulties they could get into.
“I’m really thinking now about beginning some kind of classes to educate people about the sea and its dangers.”
The incident also sparked a warning from HM Coastguard.
A spokesman said: “This could have been a potentially much more serious incident.
“Inflatable lilos of this nature are not intended for use on the sea.
“We would like to take this opportunity to make people aware of the dangers of doing so.
“Fortunately, this incident had a happy outcome.
“The members of the public who called 999 did exactly the right thing and should anyone see anything like this in the future that is the correct action to take.”