Big-Wave Surfer Describes Near-Drowning Incident

Man trapped under waves as high as 25-feet at break about 100 miles from Calif. coast


 
 

Laylan Connelly, The Orange County Register | | Thursday, December 27, 2012


SAN CLEMENTE, Calif.-- Greg Long was pulled out of water after losing consciousness.

Surfer Greg Long has issued a statement describing his near-death experience in big waves at Cortes Bank, Mexico, taking the chance to thank well-wishers and the rescue team that pulled him out of the water, face down, after he lost consciousness.

Long issued the update from his San Clemente home after being released from UC San Diego Medical Center in San Diego, where he was flown by the Coast Guard for observation after the three-wave hold-down. Cortes Bank is a big-wave break about 100 miles west of Point Loma in San Diego, and about 50 miles southwest of San Clemente Island. The massive wave breaks occur only during certain swells, and only a few surfers in the world are experienced enough to take them on. Waves on Friday afternoon were in the 25-feet-high range, and some of the best big-wave surfers in the world were out.

Here's Long's description of what happened:

"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 alongside 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 onboard, 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 onboard 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 whose training and precise response contributed to saving my life." Long is one of the world's most accomplished surfers at taking on massive waves.

Long won one of the most prestigious big-wave contests, the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, in 2009. He has racked up more wins than anyone else at the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards, and last year he was named SIMA Waterman of the Year.

He appeared in the recent surf movie "Chasing Mavericks."



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