Sunday, June 20, 2021

safety on big surf

 Safety on surf After many lives were lost in a sequence of tragedies on big waves, the surf industry started to make flotation vests that would enable a surfer to surface before the next wave hits. Sounds simple! There is only one problem. The surfer needs to pull the cord under the water. “Blow the vest on his own “ Easy? Sounds easy. The reality is that the surfer needs to be in shape, fit, trained and have some luck as well. Two stories will follow! Both at Nazaré. The biggest and heaviest wave in the world. French-Brazilian surfer Eric Rebiere was talking to his partner during the session. More a discussion than a talk. Why? Details of how to drive. The main thing about surfing the worlds biggest waves, is that the driver is as important as the surfer. He is the one that selects the wave and hopefully puts you at the perfect place on it. The right spot at the right speed. And if you don’t fall, the driver is the one that picks you up before another wave reaches you. If you fall, it is a totally different scenario. The surfer can surface anywhere and even if someone has a radio to hand and a perfect view from the top of the cliff, it is rare the the driver will have time to figure out where you are and reach you before the next one hits. And what happens is this: “You feel the speed of the jet ski on your board. You know your going fast and you can take any wave you want. Your last moments doubt to go or not go is when you still have the tow rope in your hands. As soon you let go you have two options: find more speed in different zones of the wave with more risk or follow the same line the PWC driver placed you and hope your lucky enough to have the speed to avoid the wave breaking on you. On this specific case I didn’t have a chance to choose my line. We came from way deep and fast. Board was flying! The irregular surface combined with the speed was making the board vibrate a lot. My concentration was on not falling and making sure my stance stayed strong and held. It Looked like the take off was almost ending and it was time to change the line to the wall when the hit came. Such a heavy impact that it is hard to describe. Body goes all over and you don’t roll.  Not like a small wave. You get spit out to the sky at the same time you loose body coordination. Your still in this mutant washing machine when you realize that you need to pull the vest. How? Not sure. Wait? When? You focus on your arm strength against the wave strength as you try to reach the vests little string cord. You know its somewhere, but where is it? Somewhere. Time goes. The Wave still has the same intensity. Same powerful body washing machine. And you don’t know to be afraid of God or ask for his help. LOL. You finally reach the string on the vest and you pull. Nothing happens. Your still rolling and going deeper up and down. Seconds feel like minutes and you think that the vest hasn’t worked. If it had, you would be up and not up and then drawn back down. In a second there is one last punch and a small break from the wave. You feel a hand forcing you up fast. Really fast. As you shoot up out the water you realize that all 4 CO2 canisters have blown. Your fully inflated and can barely breathe with the pressure of the vest on you. Its over! The driver will pick you up No! Nobody will pick you up. Your somewhere nobody can reach you. The second wave may not break where the wave of the set breaks. If you picked up the wave at the normal spot and not way outside as it was a huge one. Your right in the impact zone for the second one and you will need a second strength to face the 540 000 horsepower of energy the wave generates! Wave Energy - Ocean Energy Council What is wave energy? Wave energy is an irregular and oscillating low-frequency energy source that can be converted to a 60-Hertz frequency and can then be added to the electric utility grid. The energy in waves comes from the movement of the ocean and the changing heights and speed of the swells. Kinetic energy, the energy of motion, in waves is tremendous. An average 4-foot, 10-second wave ... All your training is now what counts, that and your mind. Where does your mind go? In my case I asked God to keep me safe and bring me back to my kids. All the images of my kids started to show up and even fully inflated like a ball, I had to hold on. A third one came, fourth, fifth.. I lost count. Before I could see the shore I knew that I couldn’t swim there. The PWC showed up and my hand couldn’t hold the sled. I took more “little” 10 foot waves on the head. Another PWC stopped by and I had to roll into the sled. All the life guards were waiting, as always on giant days. It was finally over. Oxygen. Rest. And if nothing is broken. Go back for more! One of my best friends was really prepared for those mutant impacts, but he didn’t have the same luck as me. He reached the back of the PWC before another wave hit him after finishing his ride, but after they hit a “lump” of wave that is all over the Nazare inside, he hit his head and passed out. He couldn’t inflate his vest and they pulled him to the beach 10 min after. For me God saved him. One thing is for sure our sport requires increased attention on creating better flotation vests and stronger and more eco-friendly personal water crafts.