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Dick Van Dyke Was Saved By A Pack Of Porpoises When He Fell Asleep On A Surfboard

Entertainment | November 30, 2019

The extremely talented Dick Van Dyke (cordcuttersnews)

Beloved actor Dick Van Dyke has a school of porpoises to thank for his career. The marine mammals didn't get him an audition or teach him to sing and dance, but they did save him from a lonely death at sea, which would have been a blow to his livelihood. No Dick Van Dyke Show, no Bye Bye Birdie (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).

Dick Van Dyke Liked To Hang 10

What do surfing, porpoises and Dick Van Dyke have in common? (metv.com)

Aside from creating a laundry list of your favorite shows and movies, Dick Van Dyke also enjoyed getting his head wet and hanging 10 from time to time. That’s right. Perhaps one of the most famous men of the Groovy Era loved surfing. Apparently, he would go out in very cold water, looking to get tubular and catching a few bombs near his home in Virginia beach. While on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Van Dyke dropped a bomb of his own about how porpoises once saved his life while surfing.

Don’t Go Surfing If You’re Sleepy

Old Dick owes porpoises a lot (dlisted.com)

According to Dick Van Dyke, he went out on what must have been a very calm day in Virginia Beach and proceeded to fall asleep on his board. When he told Ferguson that he nodded off while surfing, the appreciative crowd laughed in delight. It might sound like the start to Gilligan’s Island but as Dick told the studio audience, “I’m not kidding, I woke up out of sight of land.”

From Bad to Worse

Thankfully old Dick found some friendly fins (hearteternal.com)

Even if you’ve never surfed, you can probably imagine how scary it would be to wake up in the ocean without a view of any land. Most people would pee themselves regardless of the temperature of the water. Now imagine you’ve steeled yourself and started paddling toward what you think is land and large fins start circling you.

One might then advance from peeing one’s self to the next level of fear-related bodily movements. As Van Dyke said, “I started paddling with the swells and I started seeing fins swimming around me and I thought ‘I’m dead!”

Even Porpoises Cherish Dick Van Dyke

Everyone loves Merry Poppins (nationalpost.com)

Unbelievably, as Van Dyke told it, “They turned out to be porpoises and they pushed me all the way to shore.” Ferguson speculated that the marine mammals must have been fans of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang -- although Van Dyke has never said when the incident happened. Some people may raise an eyebrow at the chances of such an astonishing event. However, there have been other recorded cases of porpoises and dolphins saving the lives of other surfers in distress. 

In 2007, dolphins formed a ring around California surfer Todd Endris after he was bitten by a great white shark. Their protective ring allowed Endris time to get on his board and make it to shore before the shark finished the job. Some scientists believe that the dolphin family may be the only species to show evidence of altruism besides humans. There’s also the chance that this group of porpoises just so happen to be big fans of Mary Poppins.

Tags: Dick Van Dyke | Rare Facts And Stories About History

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!