A popular weekend paddleboarder John Malley, 55, faced almost certain death when he was struck by a towering 90-foot wave in the Pacific Ocean on the Tropic of Cancer. It happened about 1,000 miles east of Okinawa. Here, in his own words, exclusively for Weekly world News readers, is the Australian-businessman’s dramatic account of this desperate battle for survival:
As the towering, 90-foot wall of water came out of nowhere rushed toward my paddleboard I was paralyzed with fear – helpless to do anything but gawk in awe at the horror of the approaching engine of my own destruction.
I knew that no paddleboard in the world could outrun this mountainous killer wave that raced toward me at the speed of a jumbo jet.
“My God,” I thought. “I’m going to die alone in the ocean and no one will even hear my screams.”
Ironically, just a few moments before I’d been having the time of my life. I was paddling far out into the ocean. It had been a dream of mine ever since I picked up the sport back in 2017. I took a sabbatical from my post as CEO and owner of a successful import-export firm, I had finally found the time to paddle board to my heart’s content.
I was 44 days into my paddleboard vacation, traveling to places along the Tropic of Cancer, the imaginary line 23.5 degrees north of the equator. I was paddling with a fair wind at my back and I expected no difficulties. It was a beautiful day and I could see about a dozen other paddleboarders. Although they were much closer to the shore, I felt safe and happy.
My biggest concern had been the reports of modern-day pirates preying on paddleboarders, kidnapping them, and asking for a big ransom. But I always paddleboard with a 9mm pistol on my swimsuit belt, so I wasn’t worried.
EVERYTHING SUDDENLY CHANGED
But my dream trip was about to become a nightmare. In a matter of seconds, this large wave, which some felt was a tsunami, appeared. Some told me that it was spawned by an undersea earthquake.
As I sipped my tea that morning, the sea felt almost unnaturally calm. I guess I had a little premonition that something wasn’t right, but I ignored it. I always ignore my premonitions, that’s probably why I’ve been divorced three times.
As I saw the wave approaching, I searched my memory for the wave-survival tactic. The sparsely populated dot of an island I was staying on was only a stone’s throw away, but I know making a paddle for it would be a fatal error – the titanic wave would be even more powerful when it crashed into the shore.
I THOUGHT I WAS A GONER!
It seemed to me that I had only one chance: to steer my paddleboard head-on into the formidable wave and try to ride over it. I know it sounds crazy and unbelievable, but if you’ve been on a paddleboard, you know it’s possible.
After securing my life vest and yelling “mayday, mayday” into the wind, I turned my paddleboard around and paddled right into the colossal wave.
As the angle of the paddleboard steepened, I laid down on the board and gripped it for dear life. The front of the board pointed up 20 degrees, then 45 degrees. Soon the board was at an unbelievable 70-degrees angle but I was still plowing ahead, still paddling from a prone position on the board.
I thought I was done and that nobody would ever find me. I grabbed on tight to the board and said my prayers. Somehow I managed to to hold onto the board. The board cracked a bit as I tumbled over end over end. I was tossed about like a rag doll.
TOSSED AROUND LIKE A RAG DOLL
It was like being inside a giant haywire washing machine set on the “terror” cycle. The longest I’d ever held my breath before was two minutes – but I knew I’d have to do a lot better than that. As the awful tumbling slowed down, I tried to get my bearings. Somehow my board was still attached to my ankle, but then it broke off and get sucked down to the bottom of the ocean.
I started swimming and praying, “Lord God in Heaven, please help me!”
I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. Just when I was certain my lungs would explode, I broke through, gasping for air.
I found myself in the open sea, now strangely tranquil.
I was surprised to see all manner of refuse floating by. Then it dawned on me that the big wave had raked across the little nearby island. I clambered onto a hunk of wood that floated past and clung to it for dear life.
It was two days before help came. When my rescuers arrived, I learned just how lucky I’d been.
It was a tsunami and it had wiped out two villages on the island and had left 35 people dead.
I had survived a Wave from Hell!