Illegal PWC-User Saves Life

Jan 25, 2011
Outside Magazine

Jet ski assistance. Photo Courtest of Flickr

Jet skis have been controversial ever since they hit the surf scene: they're loud, smelly, and dangerous. But, as proved during a recent swell in California, they can also be invaluable for safety in the ocean.

During the swell, photographer Russell Ord was illegally out on a personal watercraft (PWC) taking photos of surfers at Mavericks, according to A PWC ban was put in place for the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary in late 2008, effectively disallowing PWC use at Mavericks, unless NOAA releases a high-surf advisory. There was no advisory for this swell.

But, when a large set rolled through the lineup and caught many surfers inside, Ord had to put his PWC to use. He successfully pulled one surfer from the impact zone and then spotted the body of Jacob Trette floating unconscious in near the rocks. Trette reportedly suffered a couple of two-wave hold-downs before being washed through to the inside. Ord got Trette on his sled and took him to the beach. Trette had no pulse, but thanks to the quick work of EMTs and surfers, his pulse was revived. reports that after a couple of days in a coma, Trette is alert a talking again.

The incident brings up an argument that surfers have touted since the ban entered discussion: is it worthwile when lives are at stake? During big swells around the world, there are normally small flotillas of PWCs around, just for life-saving purposes.

And where was the NOAA high-surf advisory? The set that washed through the lineup was reportedly about 25-foot.

Or are these big-wave surfers just crazy? Sound off below.

--Will Taylor

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