One of my greatest fears is having an eardrum rupture in big surf, which makes you lose your equilibrium. Without it, you don’t know which way is up. It happened to me a few years back at Maverick’s. I fell on a huge wave and got pushed so deep, so fast, that I couldn’t equalize the pressure. The only way I was able to find my way back to the surface was by climbing my leash.
Long is widely believed to have surfed the largest wave ever—a 90-footer.