We’ve all watched the video dozens of times now. A wave of jet skis point it for the horizon, scrambling to make it over the back of a literal wave cleaning up the entire lineup at an outer reef location on Oahu. Some of them won’t make it. They do a 180 hoping to outrun the whitewash. Some of them climb over the first wave and race to shoot over the second as well. Some, sitting in that terrifying in-between, barely making it and flying off the lip. For photographer Ryan Moss — riding on the back of a ski for the first time in two years — scrambling over the first wave only meant getting steamrolled by the one behind it. A 50 percent compression fracture of his L4 vertebrae and other fractures to his spine and ribs later and the video is burned into all of our minds forever now.
“Probably should’ve been better prepared,” Moss told KOHN2 news in Hawaii.
The attention around Moss’s accident and the jaw-dropping footage has been drumming up honest conversations about safety in big wave lineups. For all the monumental progress the big wave community has made in water safety, allowing the athletes themselves to push the boundaries of the sport even further, the jet ski carnage at at that outer reef has been a reminder that there are, in fact, limits.
“I see fear, I see…just non-educated people that really shouldn’t be out there,” Brian Keaulana told KOHN2. “The thing is to run back to shore because you want to deal with the mouse, not the monster.”
It’s fair to say all the jet skis, surfers making it look easy, and ironically, the preparedness of world-class water safety personnel in places like Hawaii are giving too many people too much confidence and security in the water. None of this is to say Moss shouldn’t have been there himself, but Keaulana’s assessment definitely supports the idea that the crowd created the life-threatening scramble.
“Nowadays, everybody seems like they wanna be a daredevil,” says Kolomona Fernandez, who’s noticed how many more people are finding their way into the water at big waves like Jaws on XXL days. He seems to agree that as more people are getting in the game, more people are getting in over their heads.
“You’ve got all the lookie-loos. The people that are just out there who are just trying to sight see and be part of the action. But really, they should have different zones (to be in),” Keaulana says.