After falling overboard and floating on his back in the Mentawais for 27 hours, South African surfer Brett Archibald has been found alive.
Brett was part of a group making their seventh trip across the 90 mile straight between Padang and the Mentawais, which can take between 10 and 14 hours. He was travelling on the Naga Laut, having left Padang Port at 6pm. The 10 passengers and seven crew ate and retired to their cabins. Brett was last seen around 4:30am by another passenger, but when everyone came up to the gallery for breakfast at 8am, Brett was no longer on board. The boat immediately spun around to retrace its steps.
“Brett was very seasick last night during the storm,” said JM Tostee, who was onboard the Naga Laut. “We think he must have fallen overboard when getting sick on deck whilst everyone was sleeping.”
“Archie is strong enough mentally and physically to survive.”
Many other private surf charter boats in the area immediately rushed to help search, led by The Barrenjoey, owned by John McGroder and sailing under Captain Doris, and the three Trader boats, under Martin Daily. The Indonesian Federal Search and Rescue Basarmas also coordinated a search and rescue with local Indonesian authorities and coast guard.
The current was running west which meant that John would be headed for Sipora Island. There was a lot of debris in the water (tree trunks), and the sun had risen shortly after he’d fallen. The charter boats searched all night with bright lights on in the areas they’d calculated Brett to be, based on current and winds.
And after 27 hours floating on his back in a stormy ocean, Brett has been found alive 12 miles off the east coast of Sipora. He was found by Captain Doris, who was sailing the Barrenjoey, 10 miles from where he’d fallen overboard.
“Brett Archibald has boarded the Barenjoey 20 mins ago,” wrote All Aboard Travel on their Facebook. “He is alive. A bit sunburnt and dehydrated. He was floating alone.”
Brett’s wife, Anita, received an SMS as 1:30am South-African time that read: “barrenjoey mcgroder. And barrenjoey surf charters. John, Belinda and crew Doris and their two sons Finn and Duke (5 + 8 years old) – who also had their binoculars out as well – found Brett.” Anita then spoke to her husband for the first time (over the phone) at 4:15am South African time.
According to an update from Craig Lambinon, who works in Sea Rescue Communications for the National Sea Rescue Institute: “Brett told (Anita) he’d been extremely sea sick and may have passed out on the deck of Naga Laut while being sea-sick overboard when he woke up already in the sea behind the boat which continued away from him. 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 (swimming and drifting at sea) and that he had been stung by jelly fish, picked at by fish and seagulls had tried to pluck his eyes out.”
“He has highly complimented his rescuers on Barrenjoey.”
“He is in good spirits.”
And, the biggest kicker of all? ”Brett told Anita he wants to complete his surfing trip before returning home and that he didnt fly all that way to tread water for 27 hours.”
Brett is now being moved back to Naga Laut and his charter buddies, who will take him to Padang.