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Drew Peters WR100.16 Prof.

Follett 25 February 2010 Every Which Way but Up (Final) We underestimate the power of our surroundings. One second can become an eternity given the circumstances of your situation. In an instant you can fall victim to the powers of a greater being, your best friend has just turned into your worst enemy. The consistent pounding at six in the morning beckoned me to the window. Overcast and stale, perfect conditions. It took only a few minutes to get my wetsuit on which was still damp from the night before. I didn’t bother putting any shoes on for the mile walk to the shore, the idea of missing just a couple minutes was good enough a reason to omit the footwear. Breakfast could wait; there was no time to waste. The air was biting but stagnant, my breath was surprisingly visible for an August morning. The blood started flowing after the first few steps out the door. With the rush of getting out of the house I started to realize my foolishness. The loose gravel on the road set into my heels and in between my toes waking me even more. The smell of coconut from the wax on my board acted as my morning pick-me-up, distracting me from the annoying pain in my feet. As I walked, the pounding in the distance became more distinct. The hushed breaks in the cadence of crashing waves allowed me to get an idea of what the hurricane hundreds of miles away had been brewing. My heart began to beat furiously as I saw the foaming water of the jetty. The calm flowing stream that connected the docks and the Pacific was no more, just a sloshing spectacle of white foam and rocking boats. The sight was magnificent. The pain in my feet had subsided completely as I stared awe struck at the monstrosities before me. The summer season had been absent of

a good swell and seeing the eight to ten foot giants in front of me made me feel like a kid in a candy shop. The sound was deafening but beautiful. Each wave hit the jetty reverberating a symphony. As I slipped on the arms of my wetsuit I started to shake, adrenaline was pumping through me. The black water was relatively empty with only two surfers in the lineup. Anxiousness had taken over. Shells cut into my feet, the frigid water nipped at my ankles, the discomfort was bittersweet. Paddling out, I began to recognize the power of the waves that beckoned me to get out of bed. It was a marathon getting past each set of waves, but muscle fatigue and seven hours of sleep wasn’t going to stop me from getting out there. The five aggravating minutes of weaving in between breaks in the waves was well worth the effort. The comfort of reaching the point of the jetty quickly disappeared as I realized the strength of the current pulling me towards it. It wasn’t uncommon to have strong undertows and currents during weather like this, but that day’s was remarkably fast. I worked to stay east of the piled granite slabs, which drained me even more. Sets rolled in one after the other, each seeming to become larger in size, making my excitement grow along with them. After a few, I decided to take one. I paddled briskly towards the jetty as the wave began to peak behind me. About twenty yards in front of the jetty the wave began to break. The initial rush as I got to my feet was what I had been craving all summer, something nothing else could do. Turning away from mountain of stone the rest of the ride was a breeze, nothing too fancy just a good run to get my feet under me. The boost in confidence made the paddle back out lest hectic. Back in the lineup I was even more anxious to catch another wave. As the set rolled in I paddled over the first wave licking my chops at the colossus behind it. I pivoted my

board around and paddled furiously to keep up with the wave. Just as the first, getting up seemed easy and the rush was the same. The ride this time however was a little more aggressive. Pumping down the line I decided to have a little fun launching myself off the wave allowing my board to go its separate way. My leash reunited us in the white wash and I climbed on my board frantically as the last wave in the set crashed in front of me. Diving below the water, board still under me, I felt the strength of the waves more than I had on the surface. The usual duck dive was all too difficult. The foam and resin that made up my board was like a feather in the wind when submerged. Popping up behind the wave I continued with the routine of getting back into the lineup. The strength of the waves was humbling as I sat anticipating the next set. Straddling my board, I felt as if I was riding a mechanical bull. The waters had become more turbulent over the twenty or so minutes I had been out there. The direction of the swell seemed to change slightly as the south-westerly winds began to spray the ocean mist more into my face. The waves were breaking more towards the jetty, but not enough to be a concern. The next clean set I saw I jumped on the first wave; the other two surfers nodded the go ahead. Paddling, I realized the speed of the waves had picked up, but getting up the ride felt the same. Twenty-five yards along the face, the ride was about to end. 6:54 Bracing for impact, the wave swinging its aqueous fist towards my head, I let the water knock me off my board. The close-out I thought was a clean breaking wave pushed

me towards the ocean floor. Trying to find the surface I felt my leash tugging on my ankle. 6:54:10 Using it as a rope I pulled myself to the surface, my board looking like a grave marker in the water. I grasped the edges of the board but the second wave was already barreling down on me. Tossed about like a ragdoll, the wave pinned me under the water. This time there was no tension on my leash, and I had no way of knowing which way was up. The seconds went by and being completely disoriented all I could feel was the undertow of the waves following in the set. Each time I tumbled, another wave. I counted them trying not to panic holding my breath, one, two, three; a four wave set. 6:53:35 The salt water began to replace the air in my lungs as I began to panic underneath; I had been under for too long. Was I close to the jetty? What happened to my board? Did anyone see me go down? I kept asking myself questions to keep my mind off of my possible death. Being more than a hundred yards from the shore it was quite possible I would never reach landfall. 6:55 AM My back met what seemed like a brick wall. I had already been under water for almost a minute and I had no clue where I was. Opening my eyes, the salt stinging, I could see shades of gray and what seemed to be sand. Trying to swim up towards the lighter end of the spectrum of grays I finally came to the surface barely breathing. I was about twenty yards from the shore and fifteen feet from the jetty. Unable to swim I let the momentum of the crashing waves push me to shore. I struggled to stand up as I waded

through last few feet of water; even standing was a job. Each breath was replaced by a cough, each harsher than the next. Finally getting to my board I collapsed to my knees, salt water spewing from my mouth as I tried to breathe. 7:05 AM Shock began to subside as the anger from my leash breaking took over. Adrenaline was still pumping and my body was shaking, but my mind had yet to take note of the recent events. Maybe I was too overwhelmed or maybe I had expected this to happen sometime or another, I don’t know. I just know that after watching so many documentaries and reading so many stories, that what happened just seemed par for the course. Maybe this reasoning was what made me go out again to take on Poseidon’s fury. However, I never completely ignored what happened to me. Realizing your own mortality at fourteen years old is something most people will never experience. I compare what happened to me to the stories of surfers around the world, some more influential than others. This is especially so in the case of Mark Foo, an avid big wave surfer from Hawaii. ---“On December 23, 1994, after taking a red-eye from Honolulu, he paddled out at Maverick's with Little and long-time Waimea rival Ken Bradshaw. On a routine-looking 18-footer, Foo dug a rail and somehow blacked out under water. Since the wipeout didn't look too serious, no one noticed his absence in the crowded lineup. By the time his body was found floating beneath his board toward the harbor, he had been dead for more than an hour. Foo had paid the ultimate price.”1                                                                                                                

1  Borte,  Jason.  "Mark  Foo  (1958-­‐December  23,  1994)."  Surfline.  Nov.  2000.  Web.  10  Feb.  2010.  


---I look at this story after watching it in the big wave surfing documentary “Riding Giants” and think to myself that what happened to me just gives me more insight into the dangers of surfing, and isn’t the ultimate end. This insight isn’t something that scares me away from surfing, or other surfers either, but rather gives me a better understanding of the power that I try to tame every time I go out there. Foo’s death was one that affected many in the surfing community at the time. Though it didn’t affect me directly I relate to the story at hand, and just as his friends and competition, I continue on with what I love. With this I found a new respect for the power that the ocean contains. Surfing is still the same to me, but I am more careful with and observant of nature’s giants. The maturation process of my experience still affects me to this day. I don’t see surfing as different, but approach the art form with a better mindset. I no longer control the ride, the wave does, I just control the board. It can be compared to taming the wild; at any point the domesticated can become unpredictable and a threat. Your best friend has become your worst enemy. Looking back on the event, I realize the resiliency of youth and the psyche with it. We don’t realize how dangerous or important something is until we take a moment to look at where we are now. In a moment I could have been fish food, but at such a young age realizing you’re okay is all you need. Maybe my experience was nature’s way of telling me to take it easy; maybe it was just a lapse in adolescent judgment. I just see now by going out there afterwards it was like I was slapping death in the face, not realizing the possible repercussions of what could happen to me again. With all of this I can only say, take warning in every step of life all while living it to the fullest. However, don’t take

anything for granted it might just make an example out of you.