brett-archibald-620-thThu, 18 April 2013

The SA surfer who fell overboard in Indo has been found alive after floating on his back for 27 hours in the ocean off the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia, reports Spike.

Brett Archibald shaves Anthony Singleton in Padang harbour before his ordeal. Photo JM Tostee Brett Archibald shaves Anthony Singleton in Padang harbour before his ordeal. Photo JM Tostee

Brett told Australian Surfing Life that he felt "broken in half". In an interview with ASL a few hours ago here, he said "the seas were really rough. I went up on deck to take a wee and drink some water, and then realized I was really seasick. I had two really big vomits, and then I think I blacked out while I was wretching. I don’t remember falling overboard or anything, if you fell you would know, you’d try grab a rope or something. But I woke up in the water with no lifejacket, the boat 100 metres ahead of me with no tender behind it. It was 3.15am, there was a dark storm, I’m in the middle of this nasty strait, I saw the boat sailing off and I thought it was all over.

"There were no islands anywhere for 15 kilometres, but I figured I just had to remain calm, and that once the boat realized I was gone they’d turn around. And they did come back, they got to within 250 metres of me, but they couldn’t see me because the swell was so big, and then they kept going past me and I knew I was in real trouble. The night was carnage. I had sharks swimming past me, I got stung by every jelly fish in the ocean. Seagulls even tried to pick my eyes out, so I have big holes in my nose."

He told ASL that at one point, he gave up and went under. He told himself “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, “Okay, we need to keep going here”, and I kept swimming and treading water." Full transcript of the interview here.

And Capetonian Brett Archibald, 50, wants to finish his surf trip.

Who can blame him after flying halfway across the world, dropping all that cash, getting horribly seasick on the way from Padang to the surf; and then enduring the trauma of thinking you're going to drown for more than a day (in an already weak state from being sick) while the sun burns your skin, the salt water and the tropical heat dehydrates you; and to top it off you get stung by jellyfish, nibbled by fish and sea birds try to peck your eyeballs out?


Another Indonesian surf charter boat, Barrenjoey, found Archibald, who lives in Camps Bay, at about 1am this morning ZA time floating in the ocean about 10 nautical miles from the point where he fell overboard.

“Brett Archibald has boarded the Barenjoey 20 mins ago,” wrote All Aboard Travel on their Facebook page soon afterwards. “He is alive. A bit sunburnt and dehydrated. He was floating alone. The boat is taking him to the Indies Trader III so that he can phone his wife."

Chantal Malherbe of All Aboard Travel sent the good news to Brett's wife Anita early this morning saying that the owners of the Barrenjoey John and Belinda McGroder, crewman Doris and their two kids Finn, 5, and Duke, 8, had found him.

Brett managed to speak to his wife by phone at about 4am this morning. On his 7th surf trip to Indo with the same group of friends, their boat the Naga Laut was rocked by bad weather, heavy seas and strong winds during the night. Suffering from a severe bout of seasickness, he went on deck before dawn. He thinks he passed out. He found himself in the ocean when he came to. All he could see was the boat vanishing. It was still dark. No-one saw him go.

He said he almost drowned at least eight times during his ordeal. He was stung by jelly fish, and nibbled by fish. He had to fend off seagulls who kept dive bombing him to pluck his eyes out as he floated on his back trying to conserve energy. He got quite bad sunburn, and was severely dehydrated. Apart from that, he felt kiff, and he needed to finish his trip. Tough old bugger.

You have to think that it was a miracle. Not many people are found again after falling overboard, particularly those that are gone for an hour or more before anyone notices they are missing. The sea saps energy quickly if you fight it by trying to swim. He survived by keeping calm and floating, and also because the water was warm: about 28 degrees C.

Not since the tsunami of 2004 has a rescue operation brought the Indo surf charter community together so strongly. There was immediate help from charter boats, surf camps and friends in Indonesia. Martin Daly stepped in and mobilised his fleet of charter boats to conduct searches. The Aussie boat Barrenjoey was by all accounts amazing, as were a host of other surf charter personnel, local authorities, surf camps, and efforts by Brett's friends back home.

Gideon Malherbe, veteran Indo skipper who was assisted by other members of the All Aboard Travel team, used his contacts and knowledge to provide crucial direction from South Africa.

Small world. Big sea.



0 #6 Herdy 2013-04-19 13:03
Hey Shrekkie !!
Close shave or what ?? Wish I was on board to have a Binnie or two and celebrate that precious life of yours!!
I hope you have plenty of great waves, one for me, and an awesome trip.
Blessings to you !
Russel Berman
0 #5 Russel Berman 2013-04-18 20:35
We had the same horrendous weather crossing that stretch of water. Respect that he went on to finish the trip. Have a barrel for all of SA's surfers pal - I look forward to the instalment of "I should'nt be Alive"
0 #4 Monica 2013-04-18 13:32
Fantastic - such a great "good" news story ! Stay calm and "Don't Panic" - can't wait to read the book :)! Spike - you would be a great ghost writer
mike bennett
0 #3 mike bennett 2013-04-18 11:19
You have just joined the club of the few people who have been overboard at night and live to tell the tale !!!

well done
D Burmeister
0 #2 D Burmeister 2013-04-18 09:55
Miraculous and awesome story
Fantastic guys !
Paul van Jaasveld
0 #1 Paul van Jaasveld 2013-04-18 08:37
Having lost a friend to the ocean who fell overboard in Madagascar, I have so much more appreciation for how serious this is and how awesome it is that Brett was found alive. Big up for Brett keeping calm and not fighting the ocean and well done to all that took action.
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