On Friday, December 21, big-wave surfer Greg Long suffered a wipeout on a giant wave at Cortes Bank. In the aftermath, he fought through a three-wave hold down before losing consciousness in the water. A detailed report from ESPN described the full incident on December 24. Here is part of their account:
Long—a repeat Billabong XXL winner who's also taken the Maverick's contest—was forced off his board when fellow surfer Garrett McNamara unknowingly dropped in on him, blocking Long's line and causing both men to tumble into the deep. The massive wave the pair paddled into (about 25 feet, according to on-location photographer Frank Quirarte) pinned Long down through a rapid series of bombs and knocked the wind out of him, preventing him from catching his breath whenever he managed to break through the wash.
Rescue-team member DK Walsh (brother to pro big-wave surfer Ian Walsh) was finally able to retrieve Long in the impact zone. Abandoning his Jet Ski, Walsh grabbed an unconscious Long tightly and held on through another set wave, at which point fellow rescuers Quirarte and John Walla powered through the roiling water on their Jet Ski and extricated Walsh and Long via sled.
"I began regaining consciousness during the ride back to the support boat we were operating from," Long said. "Several other rescuers assisted [in] 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."
Long was taken to a hospital where he was treated for blunt trauma injuries and monitoring after the near-drowning experience. He has since been released.
Online rumblings began that by dropping in on Long, McNamara caused the wipeout and hold down. In response, McNamara released a detailed statement. "What happened at Cortes Bank this December was very scary, and I’m still sifting through some thoughts about what occurred," he said. "I’m so sorry this happened, and thankful that Greg is safe and healthy. If I could turn back time, I’d make sure we either didn’t take off on the same wave, or gladly be the inside rider taking the pounding."
Long has a reputation for being one of the most careful and thoughtful big wave surfers on the planet. After taking time to recover, he responded with his own statement on how the surfing community should move forward after the incident. Here is a portion of that from Surfing Magazine:
I hope everybody is doing great. This message is to be shared with the entire surfing community. It is time to move on and focus our energies in a positive direction.
I have no hard feelings toward Garrett nor do I blame him for what happened to me that day at Cortes. I have seen the video of our wave, and acknowledge that neither or us were going to successfully make it. I can easily think of a hundred things that people did that day, including myself, that would have potentially put me in a different place and time on that particular wave. But thinking about such things is a waste of precious time, energy, and life. I choose to live my life in the present moment. Not in the past and down a rabbit hole of “what ifs” “could haves” or “should haves.” It was my choice to be out there that day, and in doing so, I assumed full responsibility for anything that could have happened. There are countless lessons to be learned from that experience for myself, Garrett, and the entire surfing community. I am confident these lessons will be taken to heart, and used to better ourselves as we all continue on our paths of personal and professional growth.