Thank you to the entire community of friends, family and well-wishers for your concern, your outpouring of love, support and prayers, following the serious wipeout I experienced while surfing at the Cortes Bank on Friday, December 21.
I am home, following a 24-hour stay in the UCSD Hospital in San Diego for precautionary observation as a result of the near drowning experience and blunt trauma injuries I suffered from the impact of a sequence of four large waves, and a three wave hold down. I had taken off on the second wave of a four-wave set and was forced to straighten out. After enduring an extremely violent and long hold down, I barely broke the surface and was attempting to grab a breath of air, when I received the full impact of the lip from the third and largest wave of the set. All of my breath was knocked out of me. I nearly lost consciousness at this point and was again driven deep and was subjected to a furious beating. I attempted to swim to the surface as the energy of the wave began to release me, but only made a few strokes before the next wave passed overhead, pushing me back down. As this beating started to subside, I began climbing my leash, hoping to break the surface before passing out. I made it to the tail of my board while it was still submerged in the turbulent and aerated water, at which point I blacked out from CO2 saturation and lack of oxygen.
Three rescue skis operated by D.K. Walsh, Jon Walla and Frank Quiarte were tracking me following the initial wipeout. After a fourth and smaller white water had passed, I was quickly located, floating face down along side my surfboard by D.K. Walsh. D.K. abandoned his ski, jumping in the water in order to raise my head above the surface. Jon Walla arrived on his ski, and together they pulled me onto the rescue sled. I began regaining consciousness during the ride back to the support boat we were operating from. Several other rescuers assisted getting me on board at which point I began vomiting the small amount of water I had aspirated and a large amount of blood, which I later learned was from a combination of the blunt force trauma of impact and the rupturing of capillaries due to extreme breath holding. I was stabilized on board the boat by the lifeguards and paramedics who were part of our safety team, and a Coast Guard helicopter was summoned to transport me back to San Diego.
Having trained for extreme breath holding, at no point did I allow myself to panic or lose confidence that I was going to survive this incident. I do, however, fully acknowledge that I did exceed my limits of endurance, and that there will always be elements of risk and danger that are beyond my control while surfing waves of any size. Because of those elements of risk, I have always insisted on working with individuals that share my focus on training and preparation. Humbly, I express my deepest gratitude to the team of rescuers and fellow surfers who’s training and precise response contributed to saving my life.