Susumu Sugawara, 64, is not a unique man. Much like anyone else, he struggles to get by and maintain his living. But when a massive earthquake rattled the island of Japan, sending a tsunami crashing into the country’s northern region, Sugawara did something unbelievable.

Instead of fleeing inland, he hopped aboard his boat, “Sunflower,” and charged out to sea. He managed to save his own life by riding up the side of the massive wave and breaking through its crest. The feat has made him a local hero, and kept his boat running in a time of great need for his services. In the video below, Sugawara tells his amazing tale.

This video is from CNN, broadcast Sunday, April 3, 2011.