By Jamie Brisick

A 15-Foot Wall of Water Looms

Out the back, a fifteen-foot wall of water looms. I scratch frantically and barely make it over the crest, which gives me a brief glimpse at the procession of waves that follow. It’s otherworldly: silvery, smooth, impossibly large lines stack to the horizon. In the magazines they call this “corduroy” but in fact it looks sci-fi. It’s everything a surfer dreams of, but on a scale that is deadly. It stirs both rapture and dread.

Hawaiian John Shimooka whips around and drops over the ledge of a wave that looks six times taller than he is, an avalanche of whitewash exploding behind him. Brazilian Fabio Gouveia catches a beast that caps on Second Reef, a gentle entry followed by a heaving inside section.

I catch a wide shoulder, an icebreaker, and ride it to the channel. With a surge of half-confidence I paddle deep into the pit. A wave looms: it’s double overhead, pops up extremely fast, and is so steep and hungry to throw me shoreward that it takes only a stroke or two to catch. I pop to my feet, attempt to angle down the reef-ribbed face but instead airdrop and land in a kind of jackknife and abruptly halt. There’s a millisecond in which all goes calm and mute. Then with a loud, violent explosion comes the lip on my head, which feels like a refrigerator dropped from a second story window. It squashes me flat on my board then ragdolls me in a thousand different directions. My heel grazes coral, my board slams me in the back, my jersey peels inside out and dangles from my shoulder. I feel nauseous, violated. Only when I break the surface do I realize that my left knee is severely wrenched.

October 1, 2015