The man, believed to be a Japanese tourist, had been surfing at Bulli Beach, about 50 miles south of Sydney, Australia.
The 37-year-old was caught up in the current and pulled out to sea, spending the night drifting further into the Pacific Ocean.
The crew of a passing vessel, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) Damla, spotted the exhausted surfer waving frantically for their attention.
They battled against choppy conditions to launch a lifebuoy from the ship.
After making it on board, the unnamed man was wrapped in blankets and given hot food and drinks before being returned to shore.
He was given the all-clear by medics after his ordeal on Thursday.
Describing the rescue as dramatic, MSC managing director for Australia Kevin Clarke said: “Naturally, our crew are always being observant of marine traffic, but it is exceptionally fortunate they were able to spot this man waving for help from his surfboard.
“News of the rescue has …