Two stormy days kicked up a substantial swell that rolled in yesterday am. High swells and long periods with very dark skies and rain and almost 60f.
Periods of no wind and glassy water alternating with strong gusts and downpours made it interesting. At times, there were long waits but then a lot of sets would roll in back to back. Occasionally huge waves reminded us who was boss.
When I was there it was low tide. At this particular spot low tide makes one cautious. You paddle for a wave and look down ten feet below you only to see a broken back in your future if you make a mistake. Black boulders lurking, waiting for the hapless adventurer to visit.
To the left is this catcher’s mitt. Don’t wanna get friendly with this family. I have seen beginners who don’t belong here washed up upon this jetty unable to leave, repeatedly assaulted by wave after wave after wave. BLOOD. There is NOTHING that anyone can do to help the foolhardy when this happens.
One time about ten or or fifteen years ago I heard
HELP, I can’t move!!!”
I looked over towards the voice and saw a guy being washed up on the boulders just floating on his back, shouting but not moving. I was THE ONLY ONE who paddled like crazy over to him. Four other people from shore went towards him also.
The aggressive waves kept pushing him up on the rocks and gravity pulled him back down, over and over again. It took me a few minutes to get to him, and when I did I found that what we had to do to get him out sounded easier than it was going to be. My surfboard, attached to my left ankle with a leash, tangled with his, and our boards kept smashing against the rocks and each other.
I knew that the sooner we got the boards outta the way, the sooner we could get him out so inbetween waves we got rid of the boards as others held the floating guy against the bashing waves, keeping him off the boulders as much as possible. All five of us wrestled his body over towards the left where sand and slippery rocks meets the sea. Incoming waves, in their demonic way, tried to thwart this Herculean effort but eventually we got him out.
He could talk just fine. We asked him questions, and it became apparent that he could not move any part of his body, and could feel no pain. The ambulance arrived and we all stepped back so the guys could find out more. They cut off his wetsuit, poked, pinched, and prodded and theorized that he had broken his back or severed his spinal column. Off he went in the ambulance to an uncertain future.
I was fucking astounded that I was the ONLY ONE of the surfers there that day who valued the well-being of another human-total stranger, over passion for surfing. Fucking disgusted at humanity describes one third of my hatred for people that day.
After I finished surfing I got out, got dressed, and went to get something to eat before I went home. On the way out of town I stopped back to watch for a while before leaving and started chatting with this guy who was watching too. After a while, I said “you look familiar.”
He replied “I should, you pulled me out of the water this morning.”
Turns out, he HAD somehow disconnected temporarily his spinal column but in the hospital his feeling started to return. He could move again. He got up and was able to regain all of his lost sensations.
Whatever happened that day to him I will never know, but whatever it was is a tribute to the magnificence of the human body that we all inherited from our ancestors and Mother Nature.
Surfing sometimes has a local’s possessiveness about it. The townies somehow feel that they own the place, and the hostility of a few is tangible. I have surfed in several places around the world, and the biggest assholes I have come to recognize are right there in that town. I guess if I lived in this town, I would feel the same way sometimes. All that melted away that day for me after the ambulance left the scene as one guy who had helped us pull him out declared to me that he was awarding me “honorary local” status. I went home and told my young son this story, and to this day, he sometimes reminds me that I am an “honorary local.”
Hi, my name is
David Benjamin and I started swimming in Chappaqua, NY., swam for Badger swim team, Mercersburg Academy, NC State University, then Westport YMCA masters. I got bored of the ol' back and forth of competitive swimming and the high cost of skiing. Surfing took over and I never looked back.