Surfer paddles 17 miles to safety

October 23, 2009 8:56:43 PM PDT
We're hearing from a surfer from the Woodlands who's back on land after spending last night out at sea. John Baker has been surfing for 40 years. He was also in the Coast Guard for almost a decade so he knows a thing or two about survival. We spoke with him by phone Friday night. He's doing well and as you'd expect very tired after spending more than 13 hours in the ocean.

"If you're prepared and you can make some good decisions, that's a survivor instinct. I wasn't planning on checking out anytime soon. I've got a lot more surfing to do yet," said Baker.

The 61-year-old was surfing off the coast of Freeport around 12:30pm Thursday afternoon when strong winds and waves sucked him out in the Gulf. Rather than fight the current, he paddled 17 miles to an offshore drilling rig. He climbed aboard at 2am. He says he never really panicked and his biggest concern was hypothermia.

"I knew as long as I could reach a rig to climb up on, I wouldn't be in that much trouble. I just had to get out of the wind and get warmed up," said Baker.

The rig workers gave Baker dry clothes and hot mushroom soup. He says he has a sunburn, cuts on his feet and his eyes are blood shot, but otherwise he's in good shape and very thankful.

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