Rob Hewitt’s Story

Ōtaki kids ‘mesmerised’ by visit from legendary sea survivor

Ōtaki School’s principal says the school’s children have been ‘mesmerised’ by a visit from the legendary sea survivor Rob Hewitt.

Mr Hewitt survived for four days and three nights in the ocean after a diving trip off Mana Island in 2006 went wrong and he was swept away from the dive boat by strong currents.


Principal Chris Derbidge says Mr Hewitt talked to the children about water safety, survival strategies, pride in being Māori, Navy life and making the right choices.

“His kōrero was enlightening, sad and yet inspirational,” says Mr Derbidge.

‘Children mesmerised by story and humility

“The children were mesmerised by his story and his humility. They loved his humour too!”

Mr Derbidge paid tribute to KCDC Deputy Mayor Roger Booth and the Motivational Trust for bringing Rob Hewitt to the school to share his  survival story.

He says: “Ngā mihi maioha ki a koutou Rob Hewitt, Deputy Mayor Roger Booth and renowned performer Tanemahuta Gray… we hope you will visit us again!”

Old Maori proverb

The NZ Herald reported on the story of Mr Hewitt’s survival this way: “There is an old whakatauki, or Maori proverb, that says you can either die like an octopus, which just gives up as soon as it is caught, or you can die like a shark, thrashing about and fighting.

“It was the latter that Rob Hewitt had on his mind in the final hours of the four days and three nights he spent lost in the sea last month.”

Hewitt he survived by eating kina and crayfish and sucking watery mist from his oxygen tank. But just before his rescue, it was just him, half-naked and alone in the cold sea.

Afterwards, the tough, 20-year Navy veteran said it was not the water which scared him — his greatest fear had been loneliness.

And now he’s recovered, he certainly doesn’t seem lonely as he helps many young people to make the most of their lives.