I felt the roaring pound of the sea explode above me and gently caress the back of my legs as I swam underneath it, my body arched upward and I began to start surfacing, but felt the repercussions of my failure from the raw power of the Pacific Ocean in full force. It grabbed me by scruff of my neck and ripped me backwards, a definite horse collar penalty. The force simultaneously snatched the camera out of my predominant grip and I began to uncontrollably toss and turn while being dragged underwater.
I was repeating to myself the wise words Zak had told me prior to swimming out together, “do NOT panic. The ocean will always let you go... Eventually.”
Taking a set on the head was nothing new. I was fairly used to swimming in maxed out beaches back home and powerful slabs along the coast, but never in my life had I ever felt such intense energy like this. The North Shore has been known to make an example out of even the most experienced watermen.
Time continued to pass and I wondered exactly when the ocean was planning on letting me go. I couldn’t tell which way was up. When I opened my eyes, all I saw was black. This was concerning, then I hit the bottom of the ocean floor. Thankfully the recent string of North swells had piled up plenty of sand to soften the impact.
I was running out of breath, but was relieved to at least feel something limit my descent. I firmly planted my feet and pushed upwards, only to be rejected and sent right back to where I’d started. I regrouped and attempted my projection to the surface once more, but was denied again. Beat by beat my heart was pounding harder.
The air was starting to escape my nostrils, bubble by bubble. I frantically pushed my fins away from the sand and started kicking as hard as could, only to continuously graze the toe-edge of my flippers repeatedly, as if completely anchored. I fought to swim vertically and was about to reach my lung capacity.
Then, all of a sudden, a very real, unanticipated thought occurred. I’ll never forget the feeling of genuine curiosity and calmness it provoked. Without fear, panic, sadness, or anger, I subconsciously thought the most honest question anyone can ask themselves, “is this how I’m going to die?”
My peripheral vision must have gotten the best of me as I stealthily watched the other lensmen repositioning themselves for an incoming attack on the horizon. These are guys like Laserwolf, Eric Tomlinson and Hawaii’s own Zak Noyle. To a world within the world, they’re considered gods among mere mortals.
Documenting others execute the art of cheating death, all while laughing in the face of the grim reaper themselves, they perfectly time their dives in preparation for an approaching set wave that unexpectedly swung wide into the channel. Though I had already successfully avoided several rogue waves that session, I suppose fatigue was a factor for my indecisiveness and my poorly executed attempt was slightly delayed.