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Darius Rucker Recalls Near-Death Drowning Experience — and How Woody Harrelson Saved Him

Darius Rucker almost drowned during a high point of his music career — and “fantastic actor” Woody Harrelson saved him.

“At Woody’s, if you want to go swimming, you don’t simply slip on your trunks and dive into the pool. Way more complicated than that. We begin our swim by climbing down a jagged cliff — very slowly and carefully, inch by inch,” Rucker, 58, wrote in the first chapter of his Life’s Too Short memoir, released on Tuesday, May 28, recalling a two-week stretch where he stayed with Harrelson in Hawaii.

After a “treacherous 25-minute descent” they reached a small beach. Rucker, Harrelson and a third friend, Kirk, decided to go swimming.

“I’m better than a decent swimmer. I’m a strong, confident swimmer,” Rucker wrote, but the Hawaiian water made him think otherwise. After losing sight of Harrelson and Kirk — plus any land — Rucker remembered getting pulled under by a rip current.

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“The current is ferocious. I feel as if some horrific giant squid has lashed itself around my body, circling and tightening its tentacles around my legs, dragging me under the water. I gulp and I gasp and I keep fighting,” Rucker writes. “I fight and flail for I have no idea how long — ten minutes, fifteen — and then I hear a voice. Woody. I can’t see him, but I hear him. He’s not far.”

Darius Rucker Shares How Woody Harrelson Saved His Life in New Memoir
Noam Galai/Getty Images; Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Eventually, Harrelson caught up to Rucker in the water. Together, the two of them floated until Rucker felt himself “drifting away.” The singer told Harrelson to let him go after seeing “a blinding blast of white” and various visions of his late mother.

“The words leak out of my mouth, one at a time, each syllable a tiny jab of air, causing me to gasp. I blow out a final burst of words. ‘This is it,’” Rucker wrote. Harrelson, refusing to let his friend die, found Kirk in the water and they saved Rucker.

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The moments between being saved and making their way back to the beach are “blank,” Rucker wrote. “All I know for sure is that somehow Woody pulls me out of the current and he and Kirk drag me back to the beach because here I am, twenty-five years later,” he shared.

Elsewhere in the chapter, Rucker said he doesn’t recall the origin of his friendship with Harrelson but after meeting, they “hit it off” immediately.

“Truth is, everybody wants to be friends with Woody,” Rucker wrote. “He’s kind, generous, fun, and mellow.”

Rucker’s memoir, Life’s Too Short, is available from publisher Dey Street Books wherever books are sold.

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