In a bizarre incident, a holidaying surfer on a chartered surfing boat, who merely went on deck during the night to relieve himself and fell overboard, has been rescued 27 hours later in Indonesian waters by an Australian sailing yacht who joined the search after he was reported missing.
70ft ketch Barrenjoey, owned by Australians John and Belinda McGroder, who joined the rescue and found Brett, 27 hours later, still treading water.
South African surfer Brett Archibald was on a surfing holiday, surfing the waves along the Mentawai Islands' famous coastline when he fell overboard during the night. His holiday companions and the crew of the chartered surfing boat Naga Laut did not miss him for many hours later. He trod water without any floatation for an incredible 27 hours before John and Belinda McGroder, on their 70ft ketch Barrenjoey, spotted him in the waves.
The National Sea Rescue Institute’s Craig Lambinon said the Indonesion Maritime Rescue Authorities – aided by the British maritime rescue organisation RNLI – the Australian maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, Jakarta Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre and a host of private boats including yachts and fishing boats were included in the alert.
Speaking about his long sojourn in the water, Brett told surfing magazine www.surfinglife.com.au!Surfing_Life afterwards that he had almost given up. When found his nose had been deeply lacerated by seagulls.
'The night was carnage. I had sharks swimming past me, I got stung by a jelly fish… Seagulls even tried to pick my eyes out, so I have big holes in my nose.
'It was insane, just insane. 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, ‘Okay, we need to keep going here’, and I kept swimming and treading water.'
He told the surfing website that there was no driftwood or rogue boogie boards to latch on to and that he almost drowned eight times.
On Thursday at dawn, the surfer felt the end was close. It had been 28 hours of keeping his head above water, the sun beating down on his face as fish nipped at his body.
The sight of Barrenjoey at 6.30am was a sweet one. John and Belinda McGroder had heard the call and set out earlier, armed with binoculars, to join the search.
They fished out the exhausted surfer who was ecstatic to be back on 'solid ground'. Jarvis said the surfer seemed to forget the ordeal and was buoyed by a rush of adrenalin.
'He still has a bit of damage to his kidneys and lungs due to the dehydration, but other than that he’s okay… As you can imagine he’s just incredibly exhausted.'
In the meantime Brett's wife and two small children, back in Cape Town, had been 'staving off terrible thoughts'.
She extended her thanks to everyone who helped with the search operation. 'I believe it was your support that kept him afloat.'
Archibald’s friends reported that the surfer had crumpled into an exhausted heap on to a bunk, and was sleeping off the ordeal, getting ready to face the waves under better circumstances.