Jan 27, 2021

A Veteran Surfer’s Big-Wave Nightmare

What happens when you’re out there and the waves just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger? (Photo: RugliG/iStock)
Reef Break

It began as every surfer’s dream: an empty point break, a rising swell, and a good friend to share the rides. But what happens when you’re out there and the waves just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger? So it went for William Finnegan at a break off the Portuguese island of Madeira. This happened decades ago, back when surfers had to more or less guess at the conditions they’d encounter on any given day. In this episode, Finnegan, whose surfing memoir Barbarian Days won the Pulitzer Prize, shares one of his most harrowing experiences in the water. He and another longtime surfer were stuck out past the impact zone in a remote section of seas as night descended. Exhausted and frightened, they were forced to decide how to go about saving themselves.

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Outside’s longstanding literary storytelling tradition comes to life in audio with features that will both entertain and inform listeners. We launched in March 2016 with our first series, Science of Survival, which was developed in partnership with PRX, distributors of the idolized This American Life and The Moth Radio Hour, among others. We have since expanded our show and now offer a range of story formats, including interviews with the biggest figures in sports, adventure, and politics, as well as reports from our correspondents in the field.