We recently wrote about Miami Dolphins Fullback, Rob Konrad’s harrowing nine mile swim to safety following a boating accident in South Florida waters. However, the exact circumstances surrounding the cause of the actual accident remained unclear, until now. In the past several days, Konrad has opened up about his perilous journey to shore. He addressed a press conference on Monday to speak about his traumatic adventure.
Konrad explained that “an unusually large wave” struck his vessel last Wednesday evening. He wasn’t sure whether the wave was due to the natural tide or due to a passing boat’s wake, but explained that the wave hit his boat while a fish was pulling on his line. Konrad went on to say that the combination of forces, the wave and the fish’s pull on his line, caused him to be ejected from the boat. The former NFL player also noted that he realized he was in trouble when he hit the water. After briefly panicking—as anyone would—he made the difficult decision to swim toward shore.
Word of Konrad’s impressive feat has awed audiences far and wide, including Diana Nyad, the famed long-distance swimmer. Nyad applauded Konrad’s incredible (and successful) efforts to swim to shore and explained her own long-distance swim from Cuba to Key West cannot be compared. Nyad had a team to help her stay hydrated and safe, while Konrad was alone, facing the elements. According to Nyad, Konrad made some good choices while at sea, such as the fact that he chose to take off all his clothes but his underwear, allowing him to stay afloat longer and swim better.
After recounting the details surrounding the boating accident, Konrad then explained how he began to swim west, toward shore. He told the press that he did the math as he swam. He knew he was about ten miles out and would have to swim for about ten hours. As for why he couldn’t get back on the vessel, Konrad explained was due to the fact that his boat was on autopilot heading for the Bahamas. There was no way he could get back on board. And, because the accident happened so suddenly, Konrad was unable to send out an S.O.S.
It wasn’t just the swimming that proved difficult for Konrad. He explains, “I got bit by a whole bunch of stuff. Bit by jellyfish. Right about when the sun was going down I got circled by a shark.”
Fortunately, the shark left Konrad alone and he continued his miraculous swim toward safety. Nyad added some insight on this particular bit of good fortune, explaining that sharks near the shore tend to be well-fed and generally don’t go after people. Had Konrad been farther from shore, however, he may not have been so lucky.
Konrad hoped that a boat or the Coast Guard would find him during the process. Unfortunately, that would not be the case. He did explain that he had two opportunities for rescue when he was in the water. At one point, Konrad saw a fishing boat about 50 yards away. He tried to flag down the boat, but the boater didn’t see him. At another point, he actually saw the Coast Guard and they even shined lights on him, but the boat did not stop for reasons which we cannot explain.
His survival is a testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome all kinds of immense challenges. At one point during the journey, Konrad kept going on the sheer will and desire to live, thinking about his young daughters. During the day, he followed the sun and during the evening, he guided himself by the lights of the shore.
“I told myself, ‘I’m not dying tonight. I’m going to make it to shore,’” said an emotional Konrad during the press conference.
Once he eventually reached land, Konrad had difficulty walking at first, but eventually made his way to a beachfront home, where an off-duty police officer living at the residence called authorities and medics.
Konrad’s ordeal offers a sober reminder to boaters of the risks of sailing, including falling overboard. Boaters, especially solo boaters, need to be aware of the very real dangers. Wearing life jackets that can be easily seen and carrying a whistle can mean the difference between being lost and being found.
If you plan to boat alone, make sure to tell someone your planned route, and stick to it. Wear your life jacket. Consider attaching flares or other visibility rescue devices to your life jacket. If Konrad had flares, he might have been noticed by the two vessels that passed him by.
Being aware of the heightened risk of solo boating and mitigating these risks can mean the difference between life and death. Konrad is lucky that he was strong and able enough to swim to shore, and that he was not eaten by a shark. He suffered hypothermia, dehydration, and the breakdown of muscle as a result of his ordeal. He explained during his press conference that he was still suffering from muscle cramps.
Ironically, Konrad’s boat was later found by Dead Man’s Reef in the Bahamas. The chilling name is lost on no one.