I have surfed for over 35 years and the last 22 in New England. During the Fabian swell on Saturday 6th of September 2003 I arrived at my favorite east coast "big wave" surf spot to find waves in the range of 15 to 18 foot faces. It was early morning and the waves were on the rise. I took a few photos suited up in a relaxed manner, no need to hurry since the waves were not going anywhere, and headed out to catch some bombs. After an hour and a half of catching increasing bigger sets I dropped into an easily 20'+ set wave made a sweeping bottom turn and headed down the line.
This is where the fun ended and the real story began. I have surfed hurricane swells for over twenty years in town and never really had any injuries. As I rode down that wave and attempted to pull into a large barrel, the lip hit my right arm and knocked me off my board. Stretch-stretch POP. I came up from the wipe out and there was my arm floating in front of me. I'm unable to move it, broken or dislocated, were my first thoughts as I dove under set wave after set wave and finally make it to the channel. After about an hour and half of repeated attempts to make it to shore through 15' breakers in the channel, and a near helicopter rescue out of Otis Air Force Base, I placed my feet on day land.
The thankful part about this story were the valiant efforts, of initially, one young man from the cape, who paddled and swam through 4 cycles of attempting to catch a wave in only to wipeout with me and wash out about 200-300 yards offshore with the sunset like rip. Finally 3 other experienced watermen and the gentlemen mentioned earlier were able to paddle us into the impact zone and catch a wave, stabilize me and make it to shore.
The sad part is that a number of "surfers" paddled by, offered no assistance, even when asked, and proceeded to make their way out into the line up. Maybe those individuals felt out of there element, just didn't care or have the skills to assist. But I hope they never find themselves in a similar situation with a broken, dislocated shoulder, shock and hypothermia and worrying about their chances of making it to shore. We all need to remember that surfing can be dangerous and we need to look out for and assist each other in times of need because it can be a life threatening situation. If we can't do that with each other in our own neighborhood, how can we expect to have peace and caring in the world.
I have since had surgery to repair a broken greater tuberosity, this is where all the muscles of the rotator cuff attach and the dislocated shoulder was set the day of the accident. I look forward to a complete recovery and being back in the lineup in the spring and riding the waves of southern New England during hurricane season next year and wanted to send a heartfelt thanks to the "men" who assisted me on that day.
NESurf.com comment: There has been talk about setting up a surfer-based rescue team in RI. If you'd like to read more and maybe chime in please follow this link.
Copyright Â© 2003 NESurf.com and Anonymous.
It starts in about July, constantly in my thoughts, the idea of the perfect hurricane swell. Daily checks of the tropical update, planning, dreaming. Long before the first hints of the swell hit, I start to lose my head a little. Its the only time in my life when balancing work, family and surfing become an issue. The first day of the swell, itâ€™s clean and chest high and I think to myself how the anticipation of what is to come is almost the best part of being out there. I think how with each set, that hurricane is getting closer and the waves growing. Itâ€™s a perfect scenario; the storm track keeps it just far enough off shore to avoid damage on the coast.
Iâ€™ve been surfing for a good amount of years, I consider myself experienced, Iâ€™ve traveled a bit, frequent trips to the Outer Banks, a winter swell in Puerto Rico, a hurricane swell in Barbados. I grew up on the Jersey Shore, spent a few summers in college as a lifeguard. I feel confident in the water. I wasnâ€™t questioning my fitness level; Iâ€™m an avid runner. I enjoy running long distances like marathons. With each passing year, I have become even more comfortable in bigger waves. Rhode Island is not exactly a big wave spot but we do get some decent size waves in the winter and during hurricanes. No problem.
Maybe I got ahead of myself, I became overconfident. The ocean is its own force; itâ€™s somewhat unpredictable, especially in the turbulence of a storm. Its power needs to be realized. Saturday was a beautiful sunny day with light offshore winds. The waves were double maybe even triple overhead. We had a babysitter for the day; we planned to surf until we couldnâ€™t paddle anymore! What a fantastic session it was shaping up to be. I caught some incredible bombs, the drops were exhilarating, the rides long. Some of the waves were beginning to close out but why worry; I would just need to have good wave judgment. The forecast was for the swell to get bigger as the day went on. Occasionally we needed to paddle further out. Three hours go by and I am stoked, Iâ€™m lying down on my board, resting a bit between waves. My arms are like jello. Iâ€™m joking with friends about how Iâ€™m so tired from paddling out after long rides. What a great thing, being able to have such a long session in such epic conditions. Everything was perfect.
I hadnâ€™t seen my husband in a while. We werenâ€™t really sticking together in the lineup since the rides were so long and frequent. I was in my own little world of bliss. I see a nice outside set coming in. I paddle into position and take off on the first wave. The peak is a little shifty and I end up on the wrong side of it. I make the drop but need to kick off the top to keep from getting worked. I jump off the back of the wave but my board gets caught. I feel a strain and â€œpoofâ€ the board is gone, the leash broken. I look behind me and there is a very large wall of water cresting and about to break on my head! I dive under and then up, then again and again and again. When will the set end, where is the lull. There is a rip that day. I donâ€™t really know how strong it is, but I spend a good amount of time swimming and diving under waves trying to make my way to calmer waters, get to the shoulder. I was starting to panic. I didnâ€™t think I could take another seemingly endless tumble underwater, I needed to rest, to breath, to not get pounded anymore. I looked for someone who could help me out. No one. After what seemed like a long time (probably wasnâ€™t though) I see a guy on a shortboard, a stranger. I call for help. He hesitates since it would bring him into the impact zone. But he says o.k. He grabs me in a bear hold and attempts to keep me afloat. He thinks Iâ€™m drowning. Am I? I think he is more afraid than I am. He keeps saying, â€œoh my god!â€ when a wave comes. I think how this is not helping me, just making the situation more dangerous, Iâ€™ve got to get myself out of this, I think I remember telling him that we needed to get over to the channel, find a longboarder I can float with. I donâ€™t even know what happened to him, maybe he paddled away or maybe he got caught inside? I finally saw some longboarders and called to them for help. I think my exact words were, â€œWill someone please help me, I donâ€™t think I can swim anymore!â€ They kept waving to me to swim out of the impact zone, to swim to them, obviously they didnâ€™t want to get caught either. If I thought I could swim to them I wouldnâ€™t be asking for help! Anyway, I dove under a few more waves and got over to one of longboarders who helped me up on his board (another stranger) and we paddled over to a channel, there I found my husband who helped me in to shore on his board. He only knew I lost my board and at the time didnâ€™t seem to understand what I had just gone through.
Saturday should have been one of the best surf sessions I've had in years. It was - up until that moment when my leash broke and I began to question my survival. If I didn't get caught, I probably would have taken one or two more waves and gone to lunch with my husband, relaxed and content with my perfect morning. I've heard people say, "It was probably an omen". Maybe, but I'm still going to rely more on my own abilities. I'll be more aware of what can happen on a big day. I plan to surf more often with no leash at all and to work on my swim endurance. If you can't swim in from the lineup, you have no business being out there.
Back in the 60's, before they wore leashes, people were out there in large surf. The difference then was, if you weren't able to swim in, you would drown. I have an even deeper respect for people like Greg Noll who would surf Waimea on waves twice the size of what I was onâ€¦.. leashless. I was relying on my board to keep me afloat. There is something to be said for purity and getting by on what nature gives you.
As for the fate of my board, someone noticed it rocketing by and managed to grab it before it hit the rocks. When I finally did get to the beach, I saw someone bringing it out, looking for the person who used to be attached to it.
Article by Janet Sanderson. All Rights Reserved.
The Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) celebrated the surfers' unofficial start to summer with the 2002 Massachusetts Open Surfing Championships. Held June 1-2 at Narragansett Town Beach in Narragansett, RI, the contest was originally scheduled for May 25 at Egypt Beach in Scituate, MA but was reluctantly moved south because of flat surf at Egypt for a second straight week.
For those surfers, including myself, who didn't realize the vibrant amatuer contest scene in New England, the Massachusetts Open might seem like some sort of misprint or delusional fantasy. However, the New England district of ESA organizes over 20 contests a year according to Lee "Gidget" (yes, Gidget) Ferrera, Association volunteer and self-proclaimed "old lady" of the ESA.
Contestants hail from throughout the region, though there is always a high concentration of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut surfers for contests in southern New England.
"We had smaller numbers today [approximately 40 riders] because of the last minute change in location, but it's not unusual to see well over 100 surfers turn out for summer contests," said Ferrera.
Those that did show weren't disappointed by the four to six foot swell, nor did they disappoint in their mastery of those waves. Clean rides were the order of the day. Sure, some surfers were caught inside and others were tossed off the lip and into the blue slosh, but their skills still impressed, causing furious chatter amongst the judges whenever a quality floater or cutback was performed. Even some grommets put on a clinic, teaching older competitors some humility while astounding novices, like myself, who watched slack-jawed from the beach.
"Everyone who surfs with ESA is pretty friendly, but that doesn't mean it's not very competitive. I love to compete and to fight when I'm out there surfing. The good-natured competition that these contest offer is excellent," said Ron Belanger of Connecticut, who took home top honors in the Master's Longboard Final and second in the Master's Shortboard Final.
Ripping by the Rules
While contestants compete in a wide range of categories, including those for men, women, groms, shortboarders, and longboarders, the rules for judging and awarding points stays the same.
"Contestants in finals competition are judged on their best four waves with a 12-wave limit during a 20 minute period. And any ride where a surfer takes his or her hands off the rails counts," said Ferrera, who judged several competitions.
Preliminary heats last 15 minutes and surfers are judged on their best three rides with a 10-wave limit.
Surfers must also catch their waves within the approximately 50-yard tract designated for the contest, says Ferrera. While contestants can ride waves out of bounds if they are caught within the competition area, any waves caught outside the area may bring personal nirvana but not points.
"When I grade a surfer's ride," said Lee Anderson, a judge and contestant in the MA Open, "wave choice is very important to me because a lot is dependent upon it. What kind of speed does the surfer get from the wave? Can he cutback, turn some maneuvers, and make his ride as long as possible? All this counts. Points are not awarded for trying maneuvers, but completing them."
Surfers are graded on a scale of zero to 10 for each ride, and though .1 integrals can be used in judging, no one inserts those extra numbers unless the competition is exceptionally fierce or the judges want to irk the person adding up the totals at the end of the day.
It's a Lifestyle Thing
Forget "Beach Blanket Bingo" and that obnoxious Britney Spears commercial, a local surf contest, ESA or not, is an introduction into something good. Kinda like the first time your older brother allowed you to tag along to that killer party. Except kegs aren't allowed on the beach and you're not going to wake up next to some drooling stranger with underwear on his head.
"People don't just surf in contests to improve their style, but because they want to be part of a culture," says Belanger, who's been surfing with ESA for four years. "All the pretty girls don't hurt either."
And though Belanger's remark regarding the abundance of natural beauty (in all forms) that surround a beach are quite accurate, most participants agreed that the relationships that can be formed during these contests keep people addicted.
"Every year I can't wait for regionals and maybe I'll even make it down to the Eastern Surfing Championships in Cape Hatteras this year," says Ferrera. "I've met friends up and down the East Coast through contests. They're just great people who love the beach, are willing to help you out, and want to have a good time. There is nothing 'fake' about the whole experience."
That balmy weekend at Narragansett Town Beach was no different. As blue swells doggedly greeted the sandy shore, the talk was of drink ("What? You brought a flask with you?"), the opposite sex (said as much with the eyes as with the voice), and surfing great waves ("Do you remember that time Lee Anderson rode in on his head? Man, that was great."). Nothing that was said meant much in the grand scheme of things, but the simple conversations reminded everyone that life was worth living.
Malia Rimavicus, a 15-year old surfer recently transplanted from the Caribbean island of Tortola, made the MA Open her first ESA event.
"I came out to have fun and meet new people and I haven't been disappointed," said Rimavicus.
"We've been talking like we've know each other for years," interjected Ferrera, sporting a big toothy grin.
"I've not only enjoyed the company, but competitions push me that extra step," said Rimavicus. I'm here because I want to get noticed and bring some recognition to girl surfers from the Cape."
She had little trouble making a first impression. Rimavicus won the Girl's Shortboard Final in dominating fashion and duplicated the feat in the Women's Longboard Final.
"When you're out there in competition, you can shut out the world and everything just flows away. It's only you and what you have to do," she said.
"When you're young and establish some wins in these contests you can go far. You build up your rank from there and can get some sponsors. With hard work, you could even turn semi-pro," said Belanger. "It's a great life."
Results of the 2002 Massachusetts Open Surfing Championships
Narragansett Town Beach, held on June 1-2, 2002
Menehune / Boys Final
Junior Mens Final
Senior / Grandmasters Final
Junior Longboard Final
Mens Longboard Final
Masters Longboard Final
Senior Longboard Final
Womens Longboard Final
Womens Bodyboard Final
Mens Bodyboard Final
Look for ESA and other surf contests throughout the year. While some are by invitation only, many are open for anyone to join. Check out nesurf.com, surfesa.org, or your local surf shop for more details.
There are no good excuses for dropping in. That doesnâ€™t stop some people from trying. Here is a good cross selection of some of the most common and lamest excuses ever heard in the line up. The idea for this list (as well as many of the items) came from Surfermagâ€™s Message Board but has been expanded upon and organized by category of excuse.
â€œI didn't see youâ€
- I didnâ€™t see
- The sun was in my eyes
- The spray was in my eyes
- Iâ€™m blind,
- have you seen my seeing eye
â€œIts your faultâ€
- I thought you were going left [or right]
- I didn't think you'd make that section
- I didn't think you'd make that drop
- Remember that time you cut me off on that really good wave on that epic day?
- You've been catching all the good ones
- If you and
- your long board let us have
- one every once in a while I
- wouldnâ€™t have to drop in
- Did I drop in on you before or after you paddled around me?
- Your board is made for smaller waves, you shouldn't have even paddled for that one
- Your board
- is made for bigger waves, you
- shouldnâ€™t have even paddles
- for that one
- Fuck off!
- Get out of the water you kook!
- [Stink eye, before, during and after dropping in]
â€œFeel Sorry For Meâ€
- I haven't had a wave all day
- I haven't had a wave in the last hour
- I haven't had a wave all week
- That was you? I thought you were that asshole who cut me off before
- I thought you were a dolphin
- I thought you were a seal
- I thought you were my seeing eye dog
â€œPlenty of Roomâ€
- Plenty of room for two on that wave!!!
- I tried to stay high to give you room
- The ocean is for everybody dude
â€œFake Apologies & Random Excusesâ€
- Sorry! (said with a shrug)
- Whoops! (said with a grin)
- That was my first wave
- That was my last wave
- I owe you one!
- I've surfed here for 20 years! [or 15, 30, 40, etc.]
- When youâ€™re my age you can to the same
- The break is for locals only! [usually followed or preceded by stink eye]
- Didnâ€™t you call that one a party-wave?
- Party Wave! Everybody Surfs! [followed by drop in]
The last one is one of the funniest. As the wave comes just yell â€œParty Wave! Everybody Surfs!â€ and
drop in at your hearts content. Then get ready to pay the consequences.
Regardless, business and atmosphere are no longer what they used to be at WaterBros and NESurf.com has been trying to get the full story for some time. Because of pending litigation Sid has declined to give a full interview, but in a recent phone conversation he agreed to let us publish these few comments:
1. When Sid's partner Rick decided to leave WaterBros, Sid started looking for a new partner. Sid found a willing party in Skater Island Inc. and they worked out a deal whereby Skater Island and WaterBros would be joined under the same corporation with Sid getting 1/3 ownership.
2. WaterBros was remodeled as arranged and things seemed to be working out O.K. However, upon his return from the ASR in California, Sid found a new retail manager (aggressively recruited from Island Sports) and that his trusted employees no longer worked there. Sid tried to get his staff rehired, things escalated, and Sid is now no longer Store Manager. He is also not receiving any mail sent to the store and requested that we post his new address:
6 Thurston Ave
Newport, RI 02840).
3. Currently, Sid is trying to work out a deal to get back full ownership of the store. Lawyers are involved and while a settlement out of court would probably be desirable for both parties going to court is always an option.
4. Sid wishes everyone Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas. He also thanks everyone for their support and extends an invitation to attend the all ages, 6 band show at the Elkâ€™s Lodge (Bellevue Ave, Newport) on Friday January 5th. Tickets are $5 and benefit the Original Water Brothers.
We would like to add that NESurf.com is still working on getting a full interview with Sid regarding WaterBros and other subjects. If you have any questions you would like covered please send us an email. NESurf.com is also trying to work out a way to have a Sidâ€™s Newport surf report on the site.