5 of the craziest near-misses in surfing


Some of the world’s top big-wave surfers have sadly died in the water while pursuing their enthusiasm for massive waves throughout surfing’s history. Others have been luckier, coming within seconds of drowning while riding some of the world’s most dangerous waves. We take a look at some of the near-death experiences of elite surfers who lived to tell the tale.

At Nazare, Maya Gabeira is brought back to life.

It was undoubtedly one of the most well-publicized annihilations of the twentieth century. Maya Gabeira, a Brazilian big-wave surfer, fell down at the bottom of a 70-foot wave at Portugal’s Nazare, and her odds of life appeared to be bleak. She’d injured her ankle in the fall, her lifejacket had come undone, and although being close to shore, she couldn’t get out of the dangerous seas. Her tow partner, Carlos Burle, failed in his first attempt to save her, and she was unconscious and face down in the water by the time he made a successful second attempt. Burle gave her CPR on the beach, resuscitated her, and took her to the hospital, where she was discharged 24 hours later. “I was vomiting.” Gabeira told Stabmag.com, “It took a long time in my head to come back. “I opened my eyes, yet I knew exactly where I was as soon as I did.” I realised I’d just drowned.”

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Shane Dorian’s Mavericks close call (not pictured)

Mavericks is regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous waves, having taken the lives of famed Hawaiian big-wave surfers Mark Foo and Sion Milosky in 1994 and 2011. Shane Dorian came within seconds of reaching the afterlife in 2010, when he suffered a two-wave hold-down the first time he surfed the Californian wave. Dorian told GrindTV, “That wipeout is remains the biggest surf experience I have experienced.” “The second wave hit me just as I was about to run out of breath. That pushed me back down, and I was afraid I was going to drown. That, I was certain, was it.” Dorian eventually reappeared, but his close call has left an indelible mark. Dorian invented the inflatable life jacket after the wipeout, which has resulted in increased safety and the ability to ride even bigger waves.

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At Pipeline, Tamayo Perry received an axe wound.

Since it was first ridden in the 1960s, Hawaii’s Pipeline has been regarded as one of the world’s most hazardous waves. At the break, seven surfers have perished, and several others have been seriously injured. Tamayo Perry, a local Hawaiian who was regarded as one of the greatest surfers in the area, was one such surfer. In 2005, he was hit by a surfer’s board, the fin of which lodged in his brain. “As I was being rolled and pounded into the reef, I felt a burning agony,” Perry told GrindTV. “I awoke with my hand on my head. I could only feel soft stuff, and my hand was barely big enough to fit inside the wound. I felt like I’d been slashed with an axe. My brain and blood were gushing out of my head.” Perry managed to pull himself to the beach, where a trauma doctor, who happened to be on the beach at the time, stabilised Perry’s blood flow and saved his life.

At Jaws, Ken “Skindog” Collins is finished.

Jaws, on Maui’s island, offers without a doubt the world’s largest rideable waves. As a result, falling here has massive ramifications. Ken “Skindog” Collins discovered this the hard way on his first surf there in 2009. He was hurled over the falls after coming off the bottom of a 70-foot wave, suffered a massive hold down, and then took the following wave on the head. In the video below, Skindog says, “I ripped my ACL, hyperextended my neck and hip, and hurt my back.” But it wasn’t completed yet. A third wave burst as he was being rescued by a Jet Ski, carrying Skindog, the driver, and the Jet Ski, which was thrown on the rocks. “At that point, I was like, ‘I’m done,'” Collins explained. “I’m never going to surf huge waves again.” I’m not going in the ocean ever again.”


Jordy Smith had a near-death encounter in Teahupoo recently.


Teahupoo is appropriately recognised as the world’s most terrifying wave. It’s probably remarkable that just one person has died as a result of it: local surfer Briece Taerea, who died in 2000 after being slammed against the reef. Kevin Bourez, the younger brother of world championship contender Michel Bourez, sustained a broken skull and several lacerations following a wipeout in the Billabong Pro Tahiti trials event this year. Then, during the event itself, South African Jordy Smith had the worst experience of his life, according to him. “I’m just thankful to be alive,” Smith told the ASP after being slammed by a 10-foot wave following a fall. Nothing else matters right now, since I believed it was all over for a little time. It was certainly the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had in the ocean.”

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