A few days ago, while perusing Surfermag.com’s bulletin board for news, and doing some research for the New York Times on Tsunami survivors, I found the post that Tanner at Reef posted about Marcelo Bengoechea. Marcelo’s brother Fernando Bengoechea, a well-known New York photographer and an adventure travel addict went missing in Sri Lanka after literally being hit while sleeping in his bungalow at the Stardust Hotel in Arugam Bay. As many of you may know, Fernando was staying at Arugam, a place with an excellent series of right hand waves, with Nate Berkus — Oprah Winfrey’s favorite interior decorator.
Here are excerpts of the conversation. Marcelo by the way, is the creative director at Reef Brazil. If anyone reading this is in Sri Lanka, and can help him find his brother, you’d sure go a long way in bringing some peace to a hell of a nice guy, and a mightily distraught family… Chris Dixon
From Marcelo Bengoechea:
“Fernando, he’s a fashion photographer and lives in New York. Does interiors and location photograpy. He’s very well known. He’ s done a lot of lifestyle shots for Reef too. Not the girl’s butts, but the product shots.”
“He was in Sri Lanka staying at the Stardust Hotel in Arugam Bay. The place is very well known and has an excellent righthand wave. One of the latest issues of Transworld Surf says “Big Sri Lanka”, and they talk about that place in particular. The website of the resort is www.arugambay.com.”
“He was on a vaction trip. He’s not as hardcore a surfer as me — so he doesn’t have to carry a board with him wherever he goes, but if there were waves, I’m sure he was surfing.”
“He planned to be in Sri Lanka for Christmas and New Years. I’m not sure if he’d actually been there before. He’s been a photographer and an adventurer — he’s traveled extensively to very remote locations. I don’t know anybody who has traveled more than my brother, and I know a lot of surfers. He’s got so many free air miles, he was always going places.”
When asked what Nate Berkus had told him, he replied:
“I actually talked to Nate. They were swept away by the wave together. From his own mouth, he told me that they were woken up in the water. They were staying in a bungalow right on the beach. They were hit first and got swept out, and between the first and second wave, there was about a 20 second lapse and they were able to grab onto a telephone pole. They thought, ‘it’s over, it’s over’, and that’s when the second wave hit them. Nate was able to climb onto a roof and my brother was swept into the lagoon and the jungle area.”
“The hotel was on a strip between the ocean and the lagoon. My brother was swept over into the lagoon and that’s the last time he was seen. His friend was lucky enough to have been in an area with an international cellphone and they were able to start a search.”
“Authorities are searching for everybody they can find alive. I contacted a person who’s looking exclusivelly for my brother. He’s in the area doing that. The search only happens during the day. There’s no power, no electricity, no lights and no communication. The guy has a satellite phone and I’m doing all sorts of research on the Internet. I’m pretty much putting as many descriptions on as I can. I went on CNN and they work worldwide. That’s why I put the posting on Surfer too. Maybe international surfers who are in the are, or who have been there… I’m just reaching out to surfers. I assume that maybe if you even have a surfboard in that area you’ll paddle around and look for my brother. I’m just reaching out to as many people as I can.”
When asked how he and his family was holding up, he replied:
“It’s tough. Being so far away, there’s not much you can do aside from watch TV and the Internet. We all come from Argentina. My family is there. I have a sister and another brother, but Fernando is an American citizen, which helps the search. We’re just all in touch as much as we can be. We believe in him. Knowing Fernando — he’s a great athlete — surfer, scuba instructor. Physically, he’s able to do whatever it takes. He’s been to remote locations and gone feral a number of times. We believe that if he did not die from the power of the wave, he might be lost in the jungle and unable to communicate. He’s strong, he’s smart and he knows survival techniques well enough that he could survive in the jungle. That’s an isolated area. There’s just nothing around there. So we have every reason to hope.”
“You know, it’s a crazy story when you actually know someone who has been in that situation. It’s unbelievable. I still don’t believe it.”
If anyone has any leads, Marcelo’s email is: email@example.com. Otherwise, send a prayer his way.
Go to Surfermag.com Message Board thread regarding Fernando.
An NYTimes Article on Victims, including Fernando
Off the Runway, and in Disaster’s Path CLICK HERE.
The Fernando and Nate Blog
Most Updated Information CLICK HERE.
Go to “Looking for Surfer Josh” thread in Surfermag.com message board.