Man Lost at Sea Clings to Soccer Ball Until Rescued

Salvation was a soccer ball for one vacationer in Greece.

The man, known only as Ivan, reportedly washed out to sea in strong tides over the weekend. While adrift, he came across an unlikely buoy: a half-inflated child’s soccer ball. Ivan clung to the ball and survived his ordeal after 18 hours in the drink. And in another odd twist of fate, its long-lost owners recognized the soccer ball once the news started circulating.

Greek media picked up the story after the man’s friends reported him missing. When the current pulled Ivan and another tourist beyond reach off the coast of Kassandra, Chalkidiki, their cohort alerted the Greek coast guard.

man lost at sea survives with soccer ball

Kassandra, Greece. Photo: Thomas Depenbusch (Depi) via Flickr


Soon, the hunt was on. But because it took authorities so long to locate him, Ivan spent a while fending for himself. And the small, brightly colored soccer ball was a key reason he came out alive.

Hellenic Air Force personnel spotted him from a helicopter on July 10 and plucked him from the waves. Back on dry land, Ivan told his story. And when it hit local TV, the mother of the boys who had lost the ball recognized it.

Brothers Tryphon, 11, and Thanos, 6, lost the bright-colored ball while playing with it on Evgatis Beach on June 30. Somehow, it floated about 130km adrift — right into Ivan’s wayward path.

Unfortunately, the other missing tourist remained missing as of July 13. Martin Jovanovski’s whereabouts are still unknown.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.