After watching Greg Long pull into what Dave Kalama called “one of the biggest waves ever paddled into,” at Jaws earlier this month, it’s hard to believe that three years ago (almost to the day), Long was rescued by helicopter and hospitalized after a near-fatal wipeout at Cortes Bank. It was the kind of wipeout that changes someone.
And it did. It’s hard to tell from the outside looking in, but Greg has evolved. Over the last three years, Long has traveled, read, continued to develop his yoga practice, and explore the things most important to him. He’s kept surfing at a very high level, sure, but at certain points, he’s questioned the pursuit of surfing big waves entirely. Not many people know he’s also an amazing chef, and at one point he had plans to start up a local health food restaurant in San Clemente. Lease complications stilted those plans.
San Clemente is one amazing eatery the poorer. But big-wave surfing all the richer.
And Long says his return to form and full confidence is still in its infancy.
“That day at Jaws was the first day that I’ve paddled into a big wave lineup and felt 100% like myself,” said Long. He managed to take a serious thrashing on that wave, inflating his vest while still above the surface.
“I remember thinking, ‘You’re either dead, and this is heaven, and that’s why nothing hurts, or you got off so easy.’ That’s the ocean.”
Like Kalama, many have called the barrel he pulled into the biggest wave ever paddled. Superlatives abound. But for Long, a guy who calmly approaches the most extreme circumstances with composure and respect, biggest, best, baddest, raddest, tallest, largest – descriptions fall by the wayside.
“If people think it is [the biggest wave paddled], that’s great, but the personal satisfaction, the accomplishment that I felt, is really what makes me smile.”