January 31, 2007

The Legend of 'One-Hundred-Foot Wednesday': Six years ago, Shawn Alladio and J.C. Cahill, two Jet Ski riders working rescue duty at the Maverick's surf contest in San Francisco, were a quarter-mile out to sea when they saw a monster 100-foot wave bearing down on them and had to make a choice -- escape it or charge it. "The broad swath of aerated water that existed between them and shore could bog down their machines. A Jet Ski can't run on bubbles; it needs to pump solid water to move. Even if they turned and fled at top speed, there was no guarantee they could outrun this wave or that it would not catch them and gobble them into its hydraulic maw."

posted by rcade to extreme at 08:41 AM - 16 comments

Wow! Fucking unreal thrilling read. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Skiing has been pretty much the only "death-defying" sport I've ever done (and can't believe how reckless I used to be while doing it) but this is something else. "Oh my god. GIANT waves coming in at 120 kph... Charge!"

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 09:02 AM on January 31, 2007

If this was televised I'm sure the voice-over would be deep and gravely, and make plenty of "the untamed power of nature" statements. Great story.

posted by Fence at 09:24 AM on January 31, 2007

Alladio said the water was full of bright dots of sand, the dark confetti of shredded seaweed and parts of dismembered sea creatures. Mmmm... Seafood stew.

posted by SummersEve at 09:25 AM on January 31, 2007

I recently saw Riding Giants and it seems to me that any way you slice it Maverick's is some scary shit. The first known guy to ride Maverick's, Jeff Clark, did so by himself for 15 years, and the waves there claimed the life of Mark Foo in 1994, and prompted the creation of the water patrol that rcade mentions.

posted by scully at 09:43 AM on January 31, 2007

If this was televised I'm sure the voice-over would be deep and gravely, and make plenty of "the untamed power of nature" statements. If it was televised live, I'm sure the voice wouldn't have been deep and gravelly. Good find, rcade. The author's prose is a bit cliched in spots, but some of the quotes..."Those are the fingers of God." Whoa.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:43 AM on January 31, 2007

A youtube search for Jonathan Cahill brings up really choppy, but non-the-less very interesting eyewitness interviews. They're in no particular order so some assembly is required. Be careful because there's a bit of naughty language in some of the clips.

posted by SummersEve at 09:48 AM on January 31, 2007

If you are even in the water on a day like this, either you are very confident and have a deep faith in God and or the water, or you are just plain NUTZ! But it is very fun to watch either way.

posted by Warrior50 at 02:44 PM on January 31, 2007

In a world where both of their jet skis were totally under water...

posted by BullpenPro at 03:06 PM on January 31, 2007

Nice post, rcade. I would have said that in my previous post, but I accidentally hit "Post" instead of "Preview" when I made a second check that my tags were proper, and I, uh, you know... didn't have any edit time.

posted by BullpenPro at 03:10 PM on January 31, 2007

Oh picky, picky. You know what they say when it comes to the internets: "If you have to say it, say it right the frist time."

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:27 PM on January 31, 2007

water and sky, are not gods to be taken lightly. Even the frist time, can be your last.

posted by volfire at 05:47 PM on January 31, 2007

As a long time time surfer and California Coastal resident, I have always thought surfers were some of the most underated athletes on the planet. When anybody asks me who I think is the greatest athlete today, I always say it is Laird Hamilton. Hawaiian waves were always considered the largest and most challenging on the planet, but I can say from experience that surfing in warm tropical water can never compare to the challenge of riding the monsters at Mavericks in the frigid winter water. Holding your breath for the necessary length of time in that water is something very few people on earth can do. Mark Foo died at Mavericks on a relatively small day. Mavericks is definetly the most challenging cold water spot to surf in the world , with Teahupoo in Tahiti probably being the most dangerous tropical wave. Surfers have a saying "only a surfer knows the feeling" because simply there really is no way to describe it. I was an good surfer and have ridden waves in excess of 20 feet. What these guys do at Mavericks and other really big wave spots takes about as much balls as any sport there is.

posted by Atheist at 10:34 AM on February 01, 2007

I've always wondered about that, Athiest. I mean, it would be hard to hold your breath for as long as it would take to get back up if you knew you were going under. But some of those wipeouts happen right away. How do they possibly get enough air in their lungs? I'm a competitive swimmer, and I can hold my breath for awhile, but even in the little Jersey Shore waves sometimes you get caught unexpectedly, and it's kinda scary until you get your bearings. I just can't imagine a 20 foot wave tossing me around without a full breath in my lungs and not knowing which way is up.

posted by SummersEve at 01:44 PM on February 01, 2007

Part of the key is your comfort zone and the ability to relax. Certainly every surfer starts out on small waves and eventually gets a greater and greater comfort level with what they can deal with. No doubt holding your breath in a warm swimming pool for a minute is no fantastic feat, but 10 seconds in dark frigid and turbulent ocean water can seem like an eternity. Staying calm and not fighting against the forces holding you down are key to surviving. Another thing to consider is that although you usually have time before you hit the water to get a breath, when surfing you may be out of breath from the act of paddling hard to catch a wave and the effort expended and excitement while surfing. Imagine running a few hundred yards, being out of breath, and then with one quick inhale, trying to hold your breath in a freezing pool. Of course at a place like Mavericks when you do hit the water and are forced deep down with little breath, by the time you surface and try to grab a breath, another monster is usually bearing down on you. You may have to go down for several waves and when you finally get a moment to catch your breath between the sets, you better not waste a second because you have to get on your board and paddle like hell to get out of the impact area before the next wave or set of waves arrives.

posted by Atheist at 03:20 PM on February 01, 2007

Yeah, we get some of the same stuff in whitewater kayaking. You have to train yourself out of your freakout reactions if you're going to stay in the sport, because sooner or later, things are going to get freaky, and if you keep moving up in the degree of difficulty what you're doing, sooner or later your life is going to depend on being able to suppress some of those instincts. There is a learned "yell for help" instinct that almost everybody has, when they're in trouble. It's not a bad instinct, but there are sports -- and surfing is one -- when the assumption that others can help you is a bad one. These are very lonely sports, in the moments when you know that you truly are beyond anyone's help but your own.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 06:50 PM on February 01, 2007

Good point, LBB. There are times when it's just you and whatever deity you may hold dear, and if you're counting on help from anyone else, you are well and truly screwed. Do it right, or literally die trying.

posted by ctal1999 at 10:21 PM on February 01, 2007

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