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Surfer lost at sea found alive after drifting 27 hours

Brett Archibald fell overboard during night on surf charter off Indonesia, considered taking his life to end misery but couldn't swallow water

A South African surfer who had fallen overboard from a surf charter boat during the night and at one point had given up all hope was found alive after drifting at sea without a lifejacket for more than 27 hours in the Mentawai Strait off Indonesia.

archibald and red hat

Brett Archibald in the red hat aboard rescue vessel.

Brett Archibald, 50, was traveling aboard the Naga Laut from Padang to the Mentawai Islands, a popular surfing destination, when during a bout of seasickness he apparently went to the rail to vomit and fell overboard early Wednesday morning, local time.

“Brett told [his wife, Anita] he’d been extremely seasick and may have passed out on the deck of the Naga Laut while being seasick overboard when he woke up already in the sea behind the boat, which continued away from him,” Craig Lambinon of the National Sea Rescue Institute said, according to the Searching for Brett Archibald Facebook page. “No one onboard Naga Laut knew he had gone overboard.

“He said he came close to drowning at least eight times during his 27-hour ordeal and that he had been stung by jelly fish, picked at by fish, and seagulls had tried to pluck his eyes out.”

At some point during his ordeal, Archibald gave up hope of ever being found and thought about taking his life to end his misery.

“It was insane, was just insane,” Archibald told Surfing Life, according to News24. “I actually gave up. I went under and said, ‘Screw this, I can’t carry on.’ But I couldn’t swallow water, I couldn’t get my lungs to take the water and I kept coming back up.

“So then I pulled myself together, said, ‘OK, we need to keep going here,’ and kept swimming and treading water.”

map of rescue

Archibald attempted to swim toward nearby islands, but the current thwarted his efforts each time.

According to the All Aboard Travel Facebook page, Archibald was last seen on the Naga Laut at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, Indonesian time. But when everybody came up for breakfast around 8, they realized Archibald was no longer on board. The boat immediately turned around to retrace its route and called in the Indonesian Federal Search and Rescue.

Several other private surf charter boats in the area also began searching.

On Thursday before noon in Indonesia came this update from the Searching for Brett Archibald Facebook page: “HE HAS BEEN FOUND!!!!!!!! SUNBURNT DEHYDRATED BUT ALIVE.”

The Barrenjoey with Captain Doris miraculously found Archibald 12 miles off the east coast of Sipora, some 10 miles from where he’d gone overboard.

Later, Searching for Brett Archibald related this update from the rescued man:

“We are talking to Brett at the moment. The last thing he remembers is vomiting overboard and then [he] blacked out. He woke up thinking someone was splashing water on his face and realized he was in the whitewash of the boat. He has been through the most radical 27 hours of treading water with no logs or assistance. He says he went under at least eight times but says it is NOT HIS TIME TO DIE!!!”

Archibald was reunited with his group aboard the Naga Laut and talked about finishing his surfing trip, telling News24, “We’ve got eight days left of our trip; I can’t go to the hospital. We’ve got to surf.”

Obviously Archibald was in good spirits, but Lambinon said he’d be taken back to Padang to be assessed medically.

One can just imagine the mood aboard the Naga Laut.

“The jubilation from eight close mates and the boat crew aboard the Naga Laut boat was indescribable,” Searching for Brett Archibald said. “Grown men dancing, hugging, high-fiving … and crying all at the same time.”

A joyous, miraculous end to an incredible story.

boat that found him

The Barrenjoey, the boat that rescued Brett Archibald.

Photos from the All Board Travel Facebook page.

Hat tip to Surfer.