Interview by Nathan Myers
Frame grabs courtesy of Ryan Moss/Reef
Vertigo: A type of dizziness where there is a feeling of motion when one is stationary; an intensive sensation of rotation inside the patient’s head.
Mikala Jones is lucky to be alive. In his thirty years of surfing around the world, this was the worst wipeout of his life. After scoring covers, spreads, and countless clips at this heavy Indo secret spot, it was time to pay the deposit.
His voice was choked with emotion as he recalled the experience:
MIKALA: “It was big, second reefing and really thick — just me and a couple bodyboarders out in the morning, then Dylan [Longbottom] and Laurie [Towner] showed up mid-morning. I’d already caught one or two, and taken some beatings. Then this one wave came through – a big double up – and I paddled hard for it and just pearled on the drop. When I hit the water I slapped my ear – heard it go, POP – and right then I knew, this is going to be gnarly.
I remembered how at the HIC Pipeline Pro Derek Ho broke his eardrum and got vertigo. Fred Patacchia was paddling out and saw him actually swimming towards the bottom. He had to swim down and grab him. So, I knew if I had vertigo, it was going to be bad.
Right away I got sucked over the falls and landed on my board. I was riding a quad and I broke out three of the boxes, with the fourth box just hanging off. I don’t remember hitting it, but there’s no reef marks on the board and the fins were just all snapped out. I think I may have gotten knocked out for a moment, because the next thing I remember is touching the bottom with my feet. I don’t know…all that happened pretty fast.
With my feet on the bottom, I got a push straight up. I still hadn’t opened my eyes yet, so when I reached the surface I looked around and everything was just going in circles. I barely got my head up for air and I saw the next ten-footer barreling down on me. I managed to scream “help” and then Boom, the lip landed right on me. Underwater everything was going in circles. I grabbed my leash and started to shimmy myself up. I don’t know how long I was under, but I got up just before the next wave hit. Again, everything was going in circles. I yell out again, “Help!” and then the third wave hits me. This was about a 6-foot double-up, and this was the gnarly one.
I’m underwater doing summersaults and I can’t figure out which way is up. I try to find my leash and I can’t do it. Ryan Moss [Reef filmer] said he saw me on the surface with my head down. I remember feeling wind on my head, but I still couldn’t figure out which way to go. I was trying to look for my board, but I couldn’t find it. But I finally popped up, just as the fourth wave is hitting me. And this whole time I’m getting pushed further down the reef, where it starts to get really shallow and heavy.
I’m under again, fourth wave. I’m underwater, looking for my leash, looking for the bottom, but everything I see is just spinning in circles. And by this time, I actually felt the fifth wave pass over me. And at that point, I was like, “Are you kidding me. I’m going to drown.”
And then suddenly I’m out of my body. I’m actually looking down at myself. The surface of the water is only two feet above me, but I couldn’t figure it out.
I hear my daughter’s voice, “Daddy, come home.” [Tears of emotion fill Mikala’s eyes.]
And then I came to. I don’t know how, but suddenly I’m out of the water. I went from watching myself drown — literally going “glug, glug, glug” — to suddenly standing on the reef, like angels pulled me out of the water. Next thing I know, the sixth wave hits me and I just bear hug my board. Everything is still spinning and I just go summersaulting along the reef hanging onto my board as tight as I can.
Then I caught the next whitewater straight up onto dry reef. I stood there, with everything still spinning in circles. I couldn’t see or hear and I was coughing up all this water.
I was literally seconds away from drowning. After that I just layed on the beach coughing up water, with bubbles coming out of my ear. And the waves were just pumping. I was bummed to miss the rest of the swell, but I guess that’s better than going home in a bodybag.”