What happened at Cortes Bank this December was very scary, and I’m still sifting through some thoughts about what occurred. I’m so sorry this happened, and thankful that Greg is safe and healthy. If I could turn back time, I’d make sure we either didn’t take off on the same wave, or gladly be the inside rider taking the pounding. Communication can be sketchy between surfers in situations like the one Greg and I found ourselves in, and this experience has challenged me to find more ways for big wave surfers to stay safe while surfing giant waves. I’ve spoken with Greg several times and corresponded via e-mail before, during and after. Clearly, this hasn’t been easy for either of us, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue with him around safety in and out of the water. Greg is an outstanding athlete, and a leader in a very elite group of surfers.
People have asked for my side of the story, here it is :
As far as Cortes is concerned, I was planning on being on Greg’s and Rob’s boats but at the last minute decide with Greg and Rob Brown that it would be better to charter another boat allowing other big wave riders Landon McNamara, Kealii Mamala, Chappy Murphey, Kohl Christensen, Danilo Couto, Alex Grey and Dave Wassel to join in the historic swell. Knowing that safety was paramount as it is on every mission, I arranged and hired to have Shawn Alladio and her team of paramedics and EMTs on our boat doing water safety for the guys from our boat. I brought a total of 6 professionals, to run water safety for the two days. This team assisted in Greg’s Rescue, particularly Mr. Hoover and Shawn.
A set was coming, and as it got closer it started to swing wide. I paddled as fast as I could toward the channel because the wave was running away from the pack and I had no idea anybody was near me. When you go for a big wave you are committed and focused on making it. I took off not seeing or hearing Greg so I rode the wave as if no one was there. I got to the bottom, started my turn and saw the white water about to land on me so I jumped off my board and got ready for the under water ride. Because of all the floatation in the Body Glove Survival Suit I came up before the next wave. Even with all that floatation the beating was so bad that I also pulled the Patagonia vest. It wasn’t until I was already on the inside after several waves did I see Rusty rescuing Greg. Even then I thought he had gone on the wave after me. I still had no idea he was on the wave I caught. I saw the Red Bull ski with no one on it so Shawn dropped me off and I drove it over to Greg’s boat where everyone was freaking out with emotions running wild. I did my best to calm everyone down so they wouldn’t injure him more then he already was. At this point Greg had already regained consciousness. I sped over to my boat to get our #1 EMT, took him and our backboard to Greg’s boat. The days before the trip Greg and I were talking and organizing everything together for safety. Anything he didn’t have, I brought. Once at his boat I realized that all the safety skis were there and no one was watching the surfers that were still in the line up continuing to surf. I did safety the rest of the evening and didn’t get back to my boat until well after dark and Greg’s boat was already motoring back.
It wasn’t until I was back on my boat that I saw the footage of Greg behind me on that wave. Sharing a wave happens, All surfers have accidentally dropped in on someone and not realized it until after the commitment was made. Of course once the error has been acknowledged an apology is always appreciated. When I apologized to Greg right after he had regained consciousness he said, “I enjoyed sharing that wave with you; don’t for one second think this is your fault.”
The bottom line is that as big wave riders we take risks. One of those risks is death by drowning. Thank God Greg is one of the most prepared waterman in today’s world, puts safety first, and trains for what we have to face. His preparedness in all aspects is what saved his life.