December 26th, 2004​

The Day My LifeChanged Forever​

This Isn't Easy Reading​

From The Desk Of:  Koen De Wit

Writing this, even 2 decades later, is still traumatic

Dear Coach,

Before we start, this is a story that can't be told fast or briefly, too much happened and too much was lost. This is also a silent tribute to the unsung heroes and respect to those that didn't make it...

​December 26th, 2004... A beautiful Sunday morning in a small coastal tourist town in Southern Thailand, the day after Christmas.

It looked to be another beautiful, promising day in my amazing life.

At 8 am there was little sign a disaster of cataclysmic proportions would strike in less than 2 hours.

​Thousands were about to die or get horribly injured, whole communities flattened and lives changed forever…

How I Ended Up Here​

How did a 34 year old Belgian, ex-marketing executive, end up living as a professional diving instructor in southern Thailand?

Four years earlier, on December 31st 1999, that decision was made in a tipi around a campfire in a frosty Belgian forest in the Ardennes.

​Huh? What? ... A tepee in a forest?

Ha, yes! That's a whole other story. I'll make it short, we want to get back to the beach, don't we?

1999... Those old enough to remember Y2K, potential computer errors related to the formatting and storage of calendar data for dates in the year 1999, or ‘99.

As calendars would switch to 00 at midnight in 1999 to become 2000, but how would computers know that ‘00 was to be 2000 and not revert back to 1900?

Disasters were predicted, from failing communication grids, total blackouts, nuclear missiles launching by themselves and anything else in between...

Looking back, that fear was exaggerated and even ludicrous, but then, no one really knew what was going to happen and fearing the worst seemed the best solution (?).

But it was a symbolic date also, moving from the 20th century into the 21st.

My girlfriend and I decided to do something very spiritual that day and retreat with a Belgian Shaman (Anne Delisse) and 15 other like minded souls into a forest, erect a tepee and huddle around a campfire awaiting the new millennium.

That night, around the fire, powerful resolutions were declared.

I decided to leave my high paying corporate job with a Fortune 500 company (3M) to explore a different life with my soulmate.

Several weeks later my soulmate shattered our dream, broke my heart, but I still decided to persist and leave on my own.

​Where to and why...

A Salty Frenchman Enters The Fray

Since the age of 9, I was mesmerized by the silent world and the U/W documentaries from renowned French U/W explorer Jean-Jacques Cousteau.​

In 1999 I was already a scuba diving instructor and, as a hobby, teaching people to dive in my free time.

Underwater I felt the most at peace, and introducing others to this magnificent world was my passion. It just wasn’t that much fun in cold murky lakes in Belgium.

The tropics beckoned… crystal clear and warm waters to live my passion full time, turning my back on a stale corporate job.

There was a detour over Gozo in the Mediterranean, but eventually I ended up in Thailand in September 2000. I was still there in 2004, now in Khao Lak, the gateway to Thailands best reefs in the Similan Islands.​

Shortly After 10 AM...​

On the morning of December 26th 2004, a 9.0 earthquake hit Indonesia creating a massive regional Tsunami.

It surprised thousands of tourists, expats and local people with such a devastating force. 

Beaches and coastal areas in Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka were wiped off the map.

Life as we knew it was literally swept away.

This is what I wrote several weeks later, on a community board to let people know what happened to me:

"It was a quiet, beautiful Sunday morning and I just finished a dive briefing for my two students beside the pool of the resort, just a few metres away from the beach.

Before jumping in the pool with my students, I quickly walked back to the dressing room to change.

Around 10.15 I heard it coming, like a big roar of a jet engine. A big black wall of water full of nasty stuff and debris, hurdling down at 900 km per hour! Inescapable, no time to run or shout.

The only reason I still live (out of approximately 80 people in the resort, guests and staff) is because I braced myself against the back wall of the office and I didn't get the hit full on.

Left and right I saw the water rushing past and seconds later the wall gave way and off I went.
​For the next 10 min I was pushed more than 5 km inland, pushed under 4-5 times, every time fighting with the debris to come back up and stay afloat."

Red arrow points to where I was when the wave crashed on land

"Twice I was convinced I wasn't going to make it.

I got trapped underneath a car.

(This is when I had my near death experience.
The tunnel, the light at the end and your life flashing in front of you - it’s all true.
It’s a surreal experience and completely relaxing. Dying, or leaving your physical body, isn’t violent or scary.

​On the contrary, it’s inviting and extremely peaceful, but it wasn’t my time yet to leave this life)."

Taken a few weeks later. Red arrow where I was when the wave hit

"I still don't know how I've done it but with lungs bursting and screaming for air I found the extra strength to free myself.

Exhausted and thinking it was finally over, the water slowed but I was pushed towards a house.

I couldn't go left or right.

I felt the debris from behind piling up and slowly crushing my chest as I came closer.

Just before being crushed, that house collapsed and the way was free again.

When it finally stopped I managed, completely exhausted, struggle my way in between fridges, cars, leaking gas bottles, dead people and tons of undefinable debris, to a piece of dry land.

​I ended up in some remote area, on a hill with only a handful survivors, completely cut off from civilization."

Red arrow where I ended up, approx. 5 km inland half way up that hill​

The Injuries And Recovery​

Getting rescued of that hill was a miracle, surviving my injuries an even bigger one.

Here are some stories others posted on online community boards (remember 2004 social media was almost none existent, smart phones were still years away).

Note: I was known then by my nickname “K” or “Kay”

I was in a very bad shape, but never gave up!

Matthew, a stranger who went through is own ordeal, tried to call my dad in Belgium. I wanted to let him know I was alive.

This encounter happened at 2 am, 16h after the tsunami hit, still no treatment received.

Matthew's full story HERE

That's me a few weeks before disaster hit

This was an update from December 30th, from a fellow diving friend.

Keith's full story HERE

Because my injuries were so bad and my body raging with infection, I was medivaced to a specialized hospital in Bangkok.

To this day I'm still so grateful having had this opportunity and feel guilty at the same time as many locals never got the treatment they needed.​

That's me in a Bangkok hospital in January 2005

By the beginning of January both my father and sister had flown in.

Here is another update posted on the community board, January 4th, 2005:

Michael's full story HERE

Eventually I was discharged on February 16th.

Almost 2 months in hospital, I still needed a lot of physical therapy, but the money ran out and I had to fend for myself.

We moved into a condo just opposite the hospital so I could go to physio 5 times per week.

Finally in May 2005 we left Bangkok to go back South and start rebuilding our lives.

But that's for another story.

As you can imagine a LOT happened since 2005, including almost dying a second time, but that one day in December 2004 shaped me forever.

​Eternally grateful. Resilient and persistant. Humble and modest.

A Much Nicer Photo

Yes, I'm that same guy on stage receiving an award from one of the top marketers in the world...

On stage with Russell Brunson and Todd Dickerson, Orlando 2023

Koen De Wit

P.S.: TL;DR - I came very close to being checked out from this life, but it was not my time yet. After this scary day, I built out a 7-figure bric and mortar business and losing it all again to another disaster.

​Maybe this path was all pre-planned to get me to my destiny, which brings you here today 😉.