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Here is a recent surfing incident that happened to me.

It is my tale of revelation in the ocean and it all started about 4 years ago when I got diabetes (juvenile at 32, I ask you!) and I got fit, like very fit to combat the long term effects of the condition.

I had always surfed but surfing is something that you are usually on or off. I mean if you are really ON it , which you really have to be, you check it all the time to make sure you dont miss a good swell which can be quite rare from year to year. So I'm fit and I'm on it again, mainly because I AM fit, with all the running and swimming and stuff.

So Adam (an old surfing friend) and I are doing early morning runs and getting into it pretty heavily and we have two years of good luck with swells and a couple of big days which were challenging with a big C. BUT and heres the grate, I had been surfing for about 23 years and the fear of big surf was still haunting me, I remember a big day about a year and a half ago with Adam and a couple of other surfs with Cam (another of my few remaining friends who surf) when my mind is just telling me to, "paddle in,... paddle in".
Meanwhile I am thinking to myself I shouldnt be feeling this (fear that is) I am fit enough to handle it and it is starting to get to me...so...

Today (May 5 2000) is the tail end of a big swell that hit the Gold Coast and Adam comes down for a not-so-early and we hit it out front of my street and end up going out in front of my old stamping ground Northcliffe Surf Club.
Now the surf is not mega huge but its pretty sizeable and we had both noticed when checking it that there was a nasty little tendency for out of the blue sets, or rogue sets or what the Americans call sneaker sets...

So we paddle out with a bit of trepidation but not much. The shore break was out of control and it was a difficult paddle out with a fairly consistent middle break so it was a ten to fifteen minute paddle out.
We werent touched on the final run out the back which was a long way out (with no one else out, mind you) but we did pick up a Japanese chick body boarder who lasted one wave and should be applauded for that.
It was funny sort of surf, a bit too full (unlike the shore break which was gnarly) and long lulls between sets and we are having the usual black humour type jokes which surface when things are a bit tense, like who is going to drown and who is going to get caught inside and get flogged etc.
So we get a couple and some other blokes appear and things are under control...
The problem was the big sets breaking further out which becomes the surfers bugbear because you have to be in a certain zone to catch the waves and if most are of a medium size you tend to be in the medium zone of the waves breaking but at the same time being wary of the sets on the horizon.
I had taken a couple of good ones and was getting fairly confident because the bigger sets weren't that frequent so I was quite a bit further in towards shore.

Big Mistake...so here it comes...the mother of all sneaker sets and I am out of position to try to scratch my way over it, and like I said HERE IT COMES! So Adam who is quite a ways further out JUST makes it over the top with a duck dive about half way up the face and as I look at it advancing upon me I am sure it the biggest wall of water I have ever faced in my surfing life. I continue to paddle towards it as it begins to break and by the time it breaks fully it is right there in front of me.
I just looked at it and did a double take like my breath was taken away just when I needed it. I couldnt believe the size of it, it was massive. I took a breath rolled off my board and dove for the bottom
.I should mention that I definitely asked myself "Am I going to drown here?"

Here comes the revelation part, so I'm waiting, first for the wave to take the board and also for how hard the impact is going to be and I wasnt disappointed. The wave took the board and dragged me straight into the white water where I got pounded. I got tossed for a while, full washing machine, and I felt my legrope go out to full extension and the board being tossed wildly and as always in these situations you start thinking about when you going to be allowed to surface...you usually wait a little while for the main drilling to subside and my technique is to feel down my leg to the leg piece and then follow the legrope up to the board and that is what I did. I was thinking about air and how much I had and also if there was going to be another wave in the set (there wasnt).
And so...after a little bit more air conservation I surfaced and let me tell you that's a good feeling. I got on my board and paddled back out and the main thing I felt apart from survival relief was that I had done it, I had conquered the fear. I felt great and knew that if it happened again I wouldnt be scared of it and I even felt that I could handle a little bit bigger and that also is really what I have been waiting for, for that voice to subside to not have that chilling fear of what might happen which is worse than what does happen.

So there it is, I have omitted any size references because the surfing world has scaled down its wave size estimates to a current state whereby the sizes of 5-10-20 years ago (like 4,6,8,10ft and above) no longer have meaning. (It all began with the first Australian surfers going to Hawaii and coming back with "Hawaiian measure")
As a result in a story a week ago in Tahiti, Kelly Slater (who won the contest as a wildcard) said he was way over his head (felt unsafe) in six feet Teahupo'o! That surf would have been called 10 to 12 ft about 10 to 20 years ago.
The story on the right mentions 6-10 and 12 ft but I guarantee the 10 foot they mention has no relation to any 10 feet that mere mortals like me will ever surf.

(further note:) When I got out the back again Adam asked "How was that" and I replied "pretty f@#*n heavy".
We surfed for a bit longer and then went in and a had a good laugh on the beach - LAUGHED!, God we browned our britches!

My Apologies if you are here investigating the connection between Manoa Drollet and Dag Drollet.

I mistakenly read that they were related but I don't think that is true.

I can't find a positive confirmation of the fact that they are related.

The story below courtesy of surfermag.com
A very heavy duty story, this is the spot (Teahupo'o) where they have had flawless perfection in Big surf for the last couple of years. It happened a little while ago. (1999 or 2000)
Well this is the bull fighting arena that pro-surfing has been supposedly crying out for but unfortunately there ends up being a fair bit of blood. This story is not for the faint hearted and I am sorry for this guys family in Tahiti.
The story has been slightly changed since this version, particularly the bit about Manoa turning away in horror (that is the Liam and Garrett MacNamara (brothers) version and they are wankers (but good surfers) by all accounts.

The story begins...

TAHITIAN PRO SURFER DIES AT TEAHUPO'O MASSIVE 12-FOOT SET ROLLS LINEUP; ALL SURVIVED BUT BRIECE TAEREA.

For a number of years now, many of us have wondered--with guarded concern--when someone would be seriously injured at the seemingly unrideable left-hander off of the main island of Tahiti known as Teahupo'o. Earlier this month, those concerns became reality. Photographer Darren Crawford was accompanied by an all Hawaiian and Tahitian crew for a pre Gotcha Pro sojourn, when local surfer Briece Taerea--a friend of Tahitian pro Manoa Drollett--was tossed unmercifully onto the reef and killed by a twelve foot set that caught everyone in the lineup off guard.

The trip started off a bit rough when Liam McNamara, Mark Healy, and Danny Fuller were confined to tent living by a three-day rain and lightening storm. But after the drenching, the Tahitian sun came out, and the surf steadily increased in size for the next three days until that fateful day when it reached 6-10 feet plus with 12 foot sets.

The waves were perfect for this crew of Pipe chargers, and they were picking off perfect 6-10 foot Teahupo'o lefts while, for the most part, they were able to dodge the unmakeable 12-foot beasts. But one particular monster set came through that no amount of scratching and duck diving could out run. Garrett McNamara caught the first wave of the set and got pounded. As is the case with most reef passes, he was forced to do the circuit and take his beatings until he was pushed back into the channel. He was so far out of the line-up that he decided to paddle to the boat and watch his brother and friends catch the remainder of the set. Liam paddled for the next one but missed it, only to turn around and see a 12 footer mounting on the shelf. Liam was way to deep to get over it, as was Hank Mills, and they were forced to bail. Manoa was able to duck dive the wave and he made it up just in time to see his buddy Taerea, also trying to duck dive, getting sucked back over the falls, upside down with one foot sticking out of the barrel.

After the set had passed, Garrett stood up in the boat to check and make sure everyone made it to the surface. He put his leash on in case anyone needed immediate attention. As he looked he counted heads and looked for boards. He thought everyone was in the clear when he saw Manoa swiftly paddling for a lone board that was drifting in the channel. Having taken part in the rescue of two near drownings before, Garrett paddled over to see if he could help. Just as he got there, Manoa pulled up the body of Taerea, and he was so horrified by what he had found that out of shock he let go of Taerea's broken body and turned away. Garrett was able to get Taerea in a lifeguard hold and with the help of the other surfers, got Taerea's lifeless body to the boat. Once on the boat, they attempted CPR, and were successful.

Taerea, who had major lacerations to his forehead, skull, and one major gash that went from just above the cleft of his chin to the top of his sternum, coughed up salt water and resumed breathing while the boat motored for shore. On shore, they called the paramedics and put Taerea in Manoa's sister's car. Not long after they began driving, the paramedics intercepted them and took over shuttling Taerea to the hospital. Unfortunately, by the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital, Taerea had gone into a coma from which he would never return. He had two broken neck bones, a broken spine, he was paralyzed from the neck down, and he had three good sized holes in his forehead. Taerea, who would have most likely had brain damage and would have been confined to a wheel chair, died later that day in the hospital.

Manoa and others who know the reef well, suggest that he went over the falls backwards, landed on his head, breaking his neck and back, and then hooked his chin on a notorious clump of rocks that ripped his throat open. Taerea was slated to surf in the trials of the Gotcha Pro, and as the competitors begin to arrive, there is an odd unwillingness to go into great detail about the mishap. Given the intensity of the surf spot, a lot of people were wondering when something like this would happen at Teahupo'o, and unfortunately it has.
Ross Garrett

catch ya thatch

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