My stepmother, Laurie, is an amazing waterwoman. She’s one of those lunatics who actually enjoys paddling, and she spends her free time in an outrigger canoe grinding her way through the open ocean. I’m very proud of her, and more than a little in awe. Stroking your way across the Molokai Channel is for crazy people, I want nothing to do with that stretch of water.
Many years ago, when I was nineteen or twenty, my father and I were sitting on a jetty on Catalina Island, waiting for her to finish a race. It was a beautiful day, we had a twelve pack of cold Miller High Life that we’d overpaid for in an Avalon market, and while we waited and drank we watched a beginner group of SCUBA divers dorking around in the water next to us. The SCUBA area was a roughly twenty by fifty foot area surrounded by a buoy/net contraption, totally devoid of even the tiniest of swell. Which was why we were surprised when a woman surfaced, looked at us, and began screaming for help. It was Winter, the water was somewhere in the low fifties, and there was no way we were going in after her. And, anyway, she was no more than ten feet away from the safety of the jetty.
“Swim to the rock,” we yelled, “You’re not in any danger.”
“Help me!” she shouted.
“No, just swim to the rock.”
What happened next was a stunning display of the contagious nature of panic. The guy next to her began yelling for help as well and, again, we refused to jump fully clothed into freezing cold water in order to drag them a few feet to safety. Not that they were actually in danger, the entire time they were yelling they were also treading water without difficulty.
They both, eventually, swam the short distance to the jetty. The woman proceeded to hold onto a rock and sob, but her fellow had better plans. He attempted to climb up the boulders onto the little paved area upon which we sat. It was actually rather impressive, with all his gear still attached, including his oversized open heel fins, he nearly made it. But only nearly.
Watching him lose his grip and fall backwards, bashing himself a few times before gravity returned him to the murky depths which had so terrified him, took only seconds, but the joy in my heart made it last forever.
While I don’t have it on video (this was long before digital recorders were ubiquitous), I’ve collected a few videos that capture the essence of the day. Some are more brutal than others, but they’re all funny as all hell.
If you’ve spent any time on the North Shore during the Winter you’ll be familiar with exactly how terrifying Sharks Cove can be during a run of large swell. The sheer obliviousness that a person would need to possess in order to walk all the way to the end of the natural breakwater is mind boggling.
Ever seen a drunk fat woman nearly drown in knee deep water? Well, if not, now you have. Her cries for help are what make this one for me.
The actor that played Greg Brady was, apparently, a pretty good surfer. This incident, however, was totally unscripted. Serves him right for stealing a tiki god from da ‘aina.
I don’t know how you turn a flat day into a near death experience, but this guy does an excellent job. And there’s just so much going on! From the glasses tied to his wetsuit string, to the worried total stranger, to the kids laughing as their father barely escapes becoming a quadriplegic, this is pure gold.
This video was posted in 2007, but I can guarantee that a day doesn’t go by without this dude feeling the burning shame of its memory. The only thing worse than a beating over sharp rocks is doing it in front of a laughing, and filming, peanut gallery.
Stay tuned for part two. There’s no shortage of this stuff on the internet. And, if I ever run out, I can just use videos of fat people falling down. Pure comedy gold!