I’m under, pulled deep, deeper than I’ve ever been before. The green murk turns to black, and for the first time I can understand why Mavericks surfers have always said that you don’t know which way is up when you get pushed this far to the bottom. I take a guess and swim: one stroke, two, three four. The light must be around here somewhere. Please, please, lighter, lighter, and—inhale. Yes.
On the horizon, the next wave, equally ugly, impossibly high, is plunging down. An avalanche of foam mows me down and I’m back into blackness: punched, kicked, splayed, held under again. I completely forget to relax and there is simply no way I would. I’m gagging for air, again with no sense of direction. Where the hell is the surface?
I’m not sure how long I’m down, but eventually the water seems to push me up. I seem to have no say in the matter. The ocean just decided. I start flailing for the safety of the channel, thanking God and wondering, once again, what I’m doing out here. A couple of men lost their boards on that wave and they’re swimming in. It’s as if the enemy just tossed a grenade into our fortress. Now the recovery, the cleanup.
Catching my breath in the channel, I contemplate going in. That was not cool. Not cool at all. But once I see that everyone miraculously survived (including myself), another shift occurs. I have genuine information now. The horrible unknown—What will it be like to get smashed by a four-story wave?—is now demystified.
Puchase Jaimals’ book here:
The Fear Project: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing . . . and Love.