Tom Jones was paddling through a southeastern river this summer when he felt a sudden motion that nearly jerked him off his board. Instinctively, he hardened his stance and tightened his hands around the paddle, which, he quickly realized, a crocodile had ensnared in its teeth.
At that moment, Jones, who was paddling from Florida to New York to raise money to remove plastic from the ocean, realized his fate was out of his hands. He had already put up with 100-degree heat and horseflies in the first days of his journey, and now, for a moment, everything came down to two possibilities: Either the crocodile had bitten down on his paddle as a defensive move, or it wanted Jones for its next meal.
It turned out to be the former, as the animal, after nearly pulling Jones into the water, let go and swam away.
"That's when you realize where you are on the food chain," Jones said Monday in the living room of his Huntington Beach home, where he had spent the last two weeks recovering after paddling 1,507 straight miles.