By Brittany Leitner
It was man overboard–in the middle of the night, miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean off Montauk Point, with no life vest, no tracking devices and not a soul in the world who knew of lobster fisherman John Aldridge’s plight last July. Aldridge slipped and tumbled while two crewmembers were fast asleep and the boat was on autopilot. All he could do, bobbing in the water, was watch his boat disappear into the darkness as he faced certain death, be it from hypothermia, predators or exhaustion.
For the next 12 hours Aldridge was indeed “A Speck in the Sea,” the title of a recent New York Times Magazine cover story that detailed his epic survival tale from plunge to rescue that has summer blockbuster written all over it. (Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has bought the rights and plans to reunite Good Will Hunting stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in the lead roles.) And Aldrige would certainly have died if not for the green rubber boots he ingeniously kicked off and–by trapping air in each–turned into makeshift pontoons that he held under each arm. Incidentally, the trick defied the conventional overboard survival role of discarding boots entirely to lose extra weight.
Aldridge’s boots saved his life, but images included in articles had the label shadowed, and in TV interviews the logo was rubbed off completely. What gives? But then a Canadian fan of Dunlop boots recognized the images as the brand’s Purofort Thermo+ boots, part of the Holland-based company’s agriculture collection of safety footwear. Features include insulation effective down to -58 degrees Fahrenheit, an extra-thick sole that retains heat and provides shock absorption, and a flexible upper that allows for ease of movement. The suggested retail price is $239.
For Aldrige, the Dunlops were worth every penny–and many more. In fact, when the exhausted, sunburned and dehydrated fisherman was finally plucked out of the water by a Coast Guard helicopter, he made sure the rescuer retrieved the boots as well.
Although Jan Bongers, marketing director for Dunlop, reports having heard of other fishing-related tales where the boots were used as flotation devices, he confesses that he’s never heard of a survival story as epic as Aldridge’s. “It’s a story you want to hear about your product,” Bongers says of Aldrige’s tale. “We’re first and foremost happy he survived. Secondly, it confirms our positioning in the market in that we want to make the best boots in the world.” He adds, “Using them as a flotation device will definitely become part of our marketing efforts.”