Friday, September 24, 2010

The Rogue Wave

No one has mastered the art of living more than Laird Hamilton. He has spent his life in preparation and anticipation of riding big waves. The biggest waves in Hawaiian Islands occur on Maui at a surf spot, Jaws. These waves reach 50 to 70 feet and can only be ridden by a few daring professionals utilizing 'tow in surfing'.

One morning Laird and one of his surfing mates, Brock Lickle, were in search of bigger waves and less surfers. They pulled around the corner from Jaws to a spot near the Maui airport which was virgin territory and breaking at 60 to 100 feet wave heights. They watched, analyzed and thought these just might be the waves of the decade. Even though there was no one else in the water they started to sea, racing up the huge wave faces and pounding through white water trying to get through the treacherous break. Just as they thought they had made it through the impact zone, they looked to the horizon and saw a rogue wave roaring towards shore. They raced as hard as they could towards its looming face, but couldn't climb it in time and were tossed like rag dolls to the depths of the dangerous coral reefs. Laird related that he was no longer afraid at these moments because he had been in so many fearful situations in his decades of preparation that this was now his comfort zone. Both were the best in the world and knew that survival depended upon a few basic elements.

Laird and Brock had to hold their breath for up to four minutes as they dove to the bottom trying to avoid their limbs being ripped apart by ferocious impact as wave after wave kept coming at them. Finally, Laird made it to the top of the last wave of the set and anxiously searched for his buddy. He saw Brock floating 200 yards away in a pool of blood and no jet ski. He swam through the washing machine to Brock to find him badly injured and bleeding. Before Laird could get them both to shore he had to take off his wetsuit and, in MacGyver-like fashion, use it as a tourniquet on his buddy's nearly severed leg. He then wrapped his arms around Brock and swam them both to the jet ski bobbing in the crashing surf. He threw Brock on top and opened throttle to shore. Of course, the shore break was 30 feet high so the landing on the beach was the next heroic act. Laird picked his spot, gunned the jet ski, flew over the top of the wave and landed in the parking lot, which was now filled with hundreds of spectators. Laird pulled Brock off the jet ski to safety and then standing on shore realised he was stark naked.

Once Brock was turned over to the emergency team and it was established that he would be okay, Laird grabbed another teammate and a new jet ski and marched back out into the monumental surf. He was not fearful. He got back on the horse and caught some of the best waves of his life.

By taking the worst wipe out of his life he was now better equipped than those other professionals who had been watching unscathed from the parking lot.

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