Surfer tells his survivor story

October 24, 2009 7:07:17 PM PDT
A surfer who was rescued after being pulled out into the Gulf of Mexico is back on dry land and emotional after what happened. We told you yesterday how the man went missing near Freeport earlier this week and ended up miles offshore.

John Baker is a man who was once stationed at a U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue center. He knew exactly what he was up against and figured he had a one in a 100 shot of surviving. But with his life on the line, he chose to fight.

Baker is still happy, despite his sunburns, scrapes and blisters.

"I'm glad to be here," he said.

He was fielding visits from relieved friends.

"Eight hours of sleep made a difference," he said to a friend on the phone.

For nearly 14 hours Baker struggled to survive after strong winds and currents sucked him and his surfboard out to sea on Thursday.

"Without the wetsuit, I wouldn't have made it," he said.

A former member of the U.S. Coast Guard, Baker strategized ways to get to shore or flag a passing boat. But one plan after the other failed. And as night fell, so did any chance of rescue.

"There are not many chances in your life where you think you're going to die," said Baker.

In the dark, though, Baker spotted an oil rig some five miles away.

"It was lit up like a Christmas tree," he said.

He paced his strokes as he paddled toward it, fighting fatigue and hypothermia.

"You push yourself to the limits of your physical abilities," he said.

Back on shore, Geneva Baker, who had alerted police her husband was missing, learned officers had found his empty car.

"I just started praying. At that point, there's nothing I can do," she said. "There's just gotta be a being higher than this that can take care of this."

Around 2am, Baker finally did reach his oil rig and pulled up inside, where startled workers gave him food, a shower, and a phone to call his wife.

"It was quite a moment and of course I had to do a little 'Thank you, Lord' there," said Baker's wife.

It was the happy ending Baker was hoping for.

"If you lose hope and that is a whole different story, but I never lost hope," he said.

Baker says he spent those hours out at sea going over his life and his friendships. He says he's much more appreciative now of everything he has and said he realized he still has plenty things he wants to do in this world.

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