Dick Van Dyke used to enjoy surfing but then abandoned it after a terrifying brush with death. The actor has revealed that one day, he awoke out on the waves with no land in view. He began to paddle in the hope of making it back to safety – but his heart stopped when he spotted some creatures coming towards him.
Van Dyke was born in West Plains, Missouri, in December 1925. He finished his high school studies early in order to sign up with the United States Army Air Forces. However, they wouldn’t accept him because he was underweight.
The 92-year-old, who eventually obtained his high school diploma 60 years later, was ultimately given a job in the army doing radio announcements. He then joined up with the Special Services, where he was tasked with providing entertainment to soldiers. Soon, Van Dyke would become a major star.
Van Dyke got his start in the acting industry on Broadway and landed his big TV break with The Dick Van Dyke Show at the beginning of the 1960s. Today, he is considered one of the greatest entertainers of all time, with five Emmy Awards to his name as well as a Grammy and a Tony.
Van Dyke has also been named a Disney Legend and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame during the 1990s. In addition, he has been awarded the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award – and that’s all because he’s known for some iconic roles.
Van Dyke famously played Bert the chimney sweep in the classic Disney movie Mary Poppins. He has also starred in the television series Diagnosis: Murder and in the Hollywood musicals Bye Bye Birdie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And it was while promoting the latter that he shared an incredible story.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang first arrived in movie theaters back in 1968. Later, in November 2010 the movie was released in a two-disc Blu-ray and DVD set. And Van Dyke appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson as part of his promotional duties when this special edition of the musical came out.
During the interview, the actor and the host got into a discussion about surfing. Van Dyke revealed that he once owned a long board but had since given up the hobby. He explained that he’d mostly surfed “on the East Coast really, Virginia Beach, places like that.”
Ferguson pointed out that the water is “freezing” in that part of the country, and Van Dyke agreed. Then, the star revealed why he’d stopped surfing. It turned out that he had nearly died during a frightening incident out at sea.
“I went out once and fell asleep on that board,” Van Dyke recalled. “I woke up out of sight of land, and I looked around, and I started paddling with the swells.” Then, he spotted something that left him fearing for his life.
“I start seeing fins swimming around me, and I thought, ‘I’m dead!’” the star recalled. It seems that Van Dyke had believed he was surrounded by sharks. As they came closer, however, their true identities were revealed.
“They turned out to be porpoises,” Van Dyke told Ferguson. And he explained that the creatures then saved his life. “They pushed me all the way to shore,” Van Dyke added. “I’m not kidding.”
Although some fans were doubtful as to whether Van Dyke’s story was true, when the Daily Mail ran a report on the incident others called the actor “a legend” and “an inspiration.” One wrote, “What a star. Such a great entertainer. I wish him well.” And people pointed out that his tale was another example of how amazing these sea creatures can be.
“Porpoises and dolphins are such beautiful, special creatures. We as humans are unworthy of their love and care,” one commenter wrote. Another agreed that the animals are “beautiful, intelligent and compassionate towards humans.”
Porpoises and dolphins are closely related, and both are known for defending each other as well as whales and humans. Although exactly why this happens hasn’t been determined, it’s thought that they could be the sole species outside of the human race that behaves altruistically. In fact, Van Dyke isn’t the first person to tell such a story.
When Todd Endris went surfing off the coast of Monterey, California, back in 2007, he was repeatedly bitten by a great white shark. But some bottlenose dolphins saved the day when they surrounded Endris in order to protect him. This enabled him to get back on his board and return to land.
And in 1996 three dolphins warded off a shark that assaulted Martin Richardson. The British tourist had been swimming near the coast of Egypt when the shark came after him. But he was eventually rescued after the dolphins encircled him and continuously smacked the water to keep the shark away.
Van Dyke didn’t state when his own porpoise encounter took place. However, it hasn’t been the 92-year-old’s only near-death experience. In August 2013 he was driving along a California freeway in when his Jaguar caught fire.
Fortunately, a passerby spotted what was going on and rescued Van Dyke and wife Arlene before they suffered any injuries. The star’s publicist assured fans that the actor was unharmed but feeling “slightly embarrassed,” according to CNN. They added that Van Dyke was also “appreciative of the instant help he got on the road.”
After more than seven decades in the industry, Van Dyke is still working and can next be seen in Marry Poppins Returns, playing the son of Mr. Dawes, one of his characters in the original 1964 movie. And he admits that he still gets mocked for the notoriously bad English accent he put on when portraying Bert in Marry Poppins. He confessed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, “The British have been kidding me about my Cockney accent for 40 years now.”