Former Miami Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad has quite a tale to tell his grandchildren after an unusually dangerous situation presented itself to him on January 7, 2015. He was nine miles off the east coast of Florida when a wave knocked him out of his boat into the frigid Atlantic waters. But at 6’3” and 250 pounds, Konrad is no pushover. Despite being circled by sharks and stung by stingrays, Konrad swam nearly 30 miles for a grueling sixteen hours, to reach the shore’s safety. His story of survival is miraculous.
The accidental fall from his boat
On Wednesday, January 7, 2015, Konrad set out from Boca Raton to fetch his 31-foot Grady-White boat which was being serviced in Riviera Beach, about 30 miles north. Along the way, he placed the boat on idle and began fishing from the side. At around 12: 30 PM, while tending to a large fish he had just caught, unexpectedly, a large wave hit and knocked him overboard. Treading water, he watched helplessly as his boat motored eastward, out of reach. He was nearly 10 miles offshore, in the middle of nowhere, and not wearing a life vest. Being a lifelong boater, he knew that he only had two or three hours in the frigid water before deadly hypothermia set in.
“I realized I was in some real trouble. I didn’t think I was going to be found.”
Konrad prayed for help and with steadfast resolve, told himself:
“’Look, I’m not dying tonight and I’m going to make it to shore.”
A story of survival
Despite his admission that he was not much of a swimmer, he used the sun to point himself west and began to swim, alternating between a breaststroke and backstroke. After some time, sharks began circling him and jellyfish and “a whole bunch of other stuff” stung his legs. Ten hours into the swim, he spotted a fishing boat about 50 yards away. He attempted to flag down the boat but could not be heard. Shortly thereafter he saw a Coast Guard helicopter that was searching for him fly overhead. After not being noticed by the helicopter, his hopes were crushed as the realization hit him that he was on his own.
“They had their lights on me and kept going. They didn’t see me. That was a difficult time.”
Six hours later (16 hours into his ordeal), Konrad saw lights on the horizon and heard the sound of waves crashing on the shore. At 4:30 AM, he washed upon Palm Beach, nearly 30 miles from where his saga began. He was so weak, he could not even stand. He dug himself into the sand to warm up.
“The problem was I couldn’t walk. My body was shaking uncontrollably. I crawled up on the beach and warmed myself up enough to be able to walk.”
Konrad then dragged himself to a nearby home where police officers and paramedics were called to his aid. Konrad was treated at an area hospital for hypothermia and dehydration. At a news conference covering the event, he was so weak, an assistant had to help him as he wobbled up the steps to the podium.
Swimmer Diana Nyda commented on the story, telling reporters:
“We’re not really talking about a swimming story. We’re talking about a survival story. I’m sure his background as an athlete — toughness, having resolve, knowing things are going to be painful — were the saving grace for him.”
Ironically, Konrad’s lost boat was found later that day near Grand Bahama Island – on a site known as Deadman’s Reef.