André Botha, 34, traded the classroom for the sea at the age of 15 to pursue his bodyboarding dreams.

It took just two years for him to go pro and the awards started pouring in. He won his first world title at the age of 17 and his second at 18, winning both the Global Organisation of Bodyboarding World Tour and the Pipeline Championship. He was the first South African to win the Morey Banzai Pipe Championships and the Mike Stewart Pipeline Pro.

But awards are not everything that this Durban boy, who follows the big waves around the world, is known for. In December 2015 he rescued pro-surfer Evan Geiselman in Hawaii after he took a heavy wipeout while surfing a pipeline wave.

Swimming like a dolphin, Botha grabbed Geiselman and administered air to him while keeping his head above water. Botha was humble after his extraordinary efforts and posted on Instagram: “I really appreciate all the love. Not sure I’m worthy of such praise but for once in my life I can honestly say that I’m proud to be a human being.”

A man of the sea, Botha keeps competing and seeking big waves.

Find André on Twitter: @andrebotha