A Hazardous Situation at Pipeline


It was another beautiful day in Hawaii! Sunday is a when everyone goes to church or family functions, so I figured not too many people would be surfing today. I heard on the radio that North Shore was huge. Waimea Bay was about 20 feet, so my favorite surfing spot should be just as big! When I got to Pipeline, it was epic! Easy 15 to 20-foot waves and it was coming from a West-North-West direction. The conditions were perfect with the winds blowing light trades and offshore. The best part was that there weren’t many surfers out.

I quickly grabbed my surfboard from my truck, waxed it, and got ready to jump in when the lifeguard came down from his guard shack to stop me. Mark Cunningham was the captain of the lifeguards on the North Shore. When he approached me, he said, “Oh it’s you. Are you going to be okay?”  “Yes, I’ll be alright thanks,” I said and then jumped in and started paddling out into the line-up. The only surfer’s that were out surfing at Pipeline that day was Marvin Foster, Brian Buckley, Rory Russel, Buttons Kaluiokalani, Mark Liddel, James Jones, and a few other friends.

After catching a few set waves, some of my friends started going in because they either got caught inside when the sets came or they wiped out. I remember watching Mark Liddel taking off on a huge 15-foot wave. His take-off was okay, but the wave pitched and he ended up going over the falls and losing his board! I quickly paddled over to see if he was okay and he said, “Yeah, I’m going in see ya.“Buttons met with the same fate as Mark. Marvin went in on a 20-foot wave.  He would have come back out but the wave closed out on him. The sets were coming and now it was my turn.

I turned and took off on a 20-foot wave at Pipeline. The wave was steep, and when I tried to turn my board started to slide, so to compensate I straightened out. When I bottom turned, the wave came crashing down on my head and I ended up being pushed down to the bottom of the reef 20 feet down! As soon as I hit the bottom of the reef, the current dragged me on the sharp reef for 20 yards. Luckily, my board was still attached to my leash on my foot and was able to make it to the surface. Bleeding and bruised, I was fortunate to have made it up to the surface.

James Jones was waiting for me to see if I would come to the surface. As I was catching my breath, he asked, “Are you okay, because you didn’t come up for over 2 1/2 minutes!“I said.I‘m okay thanks,” he then continued to paddle out. I swam towards the shoreline because I lost my board when the next wave came. When I made my way to collect my surfboard, I heard someone yelling at me on the bull-horn.  “Hey, you! Are you going back out,?” the lifeguard said. I nodded yes, and then he said, “You should come to the guard shack I have something to show you.“I shrugged my shoulders and proceeded to walk to the lifeguard. When I arrived, he asked, “How you feeling,?” and I said“Okay.” He then told me to look at my left elbow. I was in shock because my elbow was open and bleeding profusely. The lifeguard said,I don’t think you’re going back out. You should go to the hospital and have your elbow checked out.“The lifeguard then cleaned and bandaged my elbow. I thanked him, packed my surfboard and went to Kahuku Hospital. At that moment I thought to myself how lucky I am to be alive!


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