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Worst Swim Ever

Written by Marcus Paladino (2014)

When my friends and I showed up it was barely waist high, but since we drove and hiked all that way I figured we should go out. I made the choice of being Clark Little over Felipe Toledo and sat at the reef waiting for mini-slabs to land on my head while my friends grovelled down the point. After about 2 hours of this, I was over it. I was cold, my feet were starting to go numb and chaffing on the back the knees sucks.

But the wind was switching and the swell was building and just like that, over head and a half sets were coming in and there were about 50 people in the water. Everyone and their dog noticed something in the report we didn’t. I had only been shooting in the water a few months so this was a bit intimidating. While I swam around trying to get as close as possible without being in the way, the set of the day came through. Unfortunately for me, I was on the inside. I took the first set on the head and got washed onto the reef. Trying to protect my camera, I pushed myself away from the jagged rocks and came up only to take the second set immediately following. Not only had I not had time to swim deep enough but now I had to deal with dodging a surfer who wiped out on top of me. Once we both came up and made sure the other was okay, we both attempted to duck under the third rogue wave. I got washed down the point underwater telling myself to relax while I tried to calmly swim to the surface to maintain some respectful image. That was the sweetest breathe I had ever felt.

Looking at the beach I debated my options, seeing another local photographer shooting from land. I didn’t want to show that I was rattled, so I decide to stay out but shoot down the point with the crowd. I’m now about three hours into this swimming session and I can’t feel my feet. To the point where I am almost physically unable to use them to help me swim. My chaffing is so raw that it hurts to just tread water. I’m ready to go in. That is, until I see Pete Devries paddle up the point to the slab I had been shooting early. As he waits patiently I summed up all of my adrenaline to swim over using just my arms as my legs dangle like dead weight. He gave me advice on where to sit and how it breaks. I can barely hear him because I’m shivering so hard but nod my head anyways.

We wait, and the rain begins to fall as the light diminishes. It’s been nearly four hours and I can hardly move. My hands are struggling to hold the camera up and my trigger finger fails to feel the auto focus, let alone actually shoot. I make the call, I have to go in. As I get washed onto the rocks by the shore break and try to stand up, that’s when it hits me. The pain in my feet hasn’t been from the cold, but from a cramp. It screams from the weight of my body on my feet, and I drop to the ground. Yelling every curse imaginable, I rip off my fins, tear off my gloves (which I then put in my mouth and bit down as hard as possible) and very carefully took off my booties.

Somehow, through the noise of my swearing, I heard whistling from the line up. I sat up and saw Pete drop into the wave of the day. As the slab came over top of him I thought to myself, “there’s no way he’s making it out of that.” He was so deep, it seemed impossible. As the spit came flying out, so did he. I threw my hands over my head, resumed my cursing and watched him do three solid carves before kicking out. I tried to stand but fell over from pain – both physical and emotional. I laid there thinking of the photo that could of been. And, how horrible the hike back was going to be. Then some dog came over and starting licking my face…

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