Travel Story: When A Pro Surfer Saved My Friend from Drowning


I just want to share this story after my trip to La Union!

I had dinner with a friend the other night whom I met during my trip to San Juan in La Union. She was one of the many solo backpackers I met and made friends with while on this trip.

Sadly, she had a near death experience on New Year’s Day after she got wiped out by the waves while surfing. With her leach detached and surfboard no longer in sight, An bravely stayed afloat and remained conscious while fighting the waves until she was finally rescued 30 minutes later.

As she was about to share her story, An turned around and spotted the very same man who rescued her. Interestingly enough, An was not aware who saved her from drowning as she was barely conscious at the time. It was only after the incident that she learned that Luke Landrigan, a well-known celebrity surfer here in the Philippines, was the one responsible for saving her life.

For this reason, she spotted him right away in the restaurant. And without hesitation, An stood up from our table and approached Luke to ask if he was indeed the one who saved her life.



They haven’t seen each other since Luke brought An back to the shores that day. She never even had the chance to thank him for his courageous efforts. But that night, not only was she able to say thank you with the biggest smile, she was also able to share her experience with Luke and what kept her fighting for her life.

An recalled that she was at the point of surrender when Luke found her.  There was a sense of hopelessness as she was already too far away from the shore. And as hard as she tried to swim back, the big waves just kept pulling her back in. The only option she really had at that point was to try to physically stay afloat as long as she could. But after 30 minutes of paddling, she was starting to sink because her arms and legs could no longer move. It’s gotten to the point where she could no longer breathe because her lungs were starting to get filled with salt water.

She felt all alone. There was actually one other person who tried to save An, but that person didn’t quite make it to her as the waves were too strong. There was nobody else around – it was just An in the middle of the ocean. She mentioned that she reached the point of acceptance that it could be her time.

But suddenly, An thought of her mom. So she fought, and she fought hard.

An’s fighting paid off when Luke finally spotted her from 500 meters away. With his natural instinct, Luke immediately hustled to get to An knowing that she was in trouble. There were no waves big enough that could have kept him from getting to An just in time.

I was mostly touched when she told Luke that the only thing that kept her from fighting for survival is her mother. An felt a sense of guilt for having extended her stay in La Union and not spending Christmas and New Year’s with her family. She didn’t want to “leave” knowing that her mother wouldn’t get to spend another Christmas and New Year’s with her daughter.

It was really an interesting night. An was given an opportunity not only to meet her rescuer, but to thank him and share her story as well. Likewise, Luke was able to recount exactly how he was able to save An and the moments that happened right after he brought her back to the shore.

I find the timing of it all quite interesting. We took hours to decide on which restaurant to have dinner, but it was An who made the final decision on where to meet up. Additionally,  we also learned that Luke was only visiting Manila for a couple of days. And it just happens for him to be at the same restaurant as the woman he saved from the unimaginable, sitting at the table just across from us. To top it off, An spotted Luke immediately after the moment I asked her to recall the incident.

And as I was sharing all of this on facebook the other night, I was at a stop light with a huge St. Luke Medical sign in front of me.