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Rob Konrad: Former Dolphin who swam for his family
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

Rob Konrad: Former Dolphin who swam for his family

What kept the 38-year-old ex-NFL player going during his 16-hour, 27-mile ordeal? Those waiting for him at home.

In 2005, former Miami Dolphin Rob Konrad was fishing alone nine miles off the Florida coast when a wave knocked him overboard. He wasn't wearing a life preserver in 72-degree water — certainly cold enough to become a problem after a few hours. When he couldn't catch his boat (cruising east on autopilot at five mph), he decided to swim west until he reached land.

Sixteen hours later, he crawled on the sand at West Palm Beach, half-dead from hypothermia, dehydration, and rhabdomyolysis. He had swum 27 miles through the night, enduring jellyfish stings, a menacing shark, and two heartbreaking near-rescues.

Although relatively young at 38 and in excellent shape, Konrad was not an especially experienced swimmer. So, how did he manage this superhuman feat?

At the time, endurance swimmer Diana Nyad chalked it up to mindset:

"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."

Konrad also had something else driving him:

“I have two beautiful daughters,” he said, his wife, Tammy, by his side as he spoke to reporters a few days later. “I was hitting that shore.”

We're all adrift, floating on the vast, unfathomable sea of existence, our only choice what to cling to. Becoming a family man might not save your life, as it seems to have saved Konrad's, but it could make it worth saving.

It also helps to have some solid swim training. Two-thirds of American adults cannot swim the length of a 25-yard pool.

The late Terry Laughlin's innovation was to understand this not as a lack of fitness, but as a lack of skill. His Total Immersion swimming program teaches swimmers of all levels to swim with efficiency and ease. Tim Ferriss offers a particularly detailed and grateful review here. Seventy-one percent of the Earth is covered by water; best to be prepared should you encounter some.

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Matt Himes

Matt Himes

Managing Editor, Align

Matt Himes is the managing editor for Align.
@matthimes →