Steve Pike

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

HOPE has faded for a surfer – miss­ing pre­sumed dead – in Hawaii.

Kirk Passmore, 32, van­ished while surf­ing an outer reef in Hawaii on Thurs­day, but his body had not been found by yes­ter­day. The spot, called Al­li­ga­tor Rock, claimed the life of fa­mous big-wave rider Todd Chesser in 1997.

A huge clean swell hit Hawaii ear­lier this week. How­ever, con­di­tions at nearby Waimea on the North Shore of Oahu were crowded. Many guys headed out to the outer reefs, in­clud­ing Al­li­ga­tors, which lies to the west of Waimea.

Wit­nesses say that the waves were 20 foot, which means wave faces of around 30 to 35 feet. Ac­cord­ing to his friend, a fa­mous big- wave surfer called Jamie Stir­ling, Passmore wiped out on one of the big­gest waves of the day. Be­fore he could sur­face prop­erly, another big wave caught him and he dis­ap­peared.

His big-wave rhino chaser was found in pieces later, but his body was not found de­spite fran­tic searches be­fore it was dark, and then more search­ing yes­ter­day.

The ac­ci­dent fol­lows sev­eral who have died chas­ing their pas­sion, in­clud­ing Mark Foo (Mav­er­icks, 1994); Don­nie Solomon (Waimea Bay, 1995); Peter Davi (Ghost Trees, 2007); and Sion Milosky (Mav­er­icks, 2011).

In big waves, there are nu­mer­ous hazards, de­spite the use of jet ski sleds to pull surfers from the im­pact zone and flota­tion vests that en­able surfers to pop up the sur­face from the roil­ing, aer­ated may­hem of a bro­ken wave.

How­ever, th­ese are the tools used by tow-in surfers. When surfers are pad­dling into waves, the risks are at their worst.

In a wipe­out, a wave can force a surfer deep be­low the sur­face. Some say as much as 50 feet. Not only must you con­tend with enough pres­sure to burst an eardrum, you can be­come dis­ori­en­tated.

You have to work out which way is up while the ocean is do­ing its best to tear you apart limb by limb.

Of course, you’re do­ing all of this while hold­ing your breath. And as many surfers will ad­mit, some times you for­get to take a breath when you take off on a big wave. Most big waves break at in­ter­vals of be­tween 14 and 20 sec- onds. That’s not a lot of time to get to the sur­face be­fore the next be­he­moth rum­bles through.

Imag­ine that you’re a few me­tres from the sur­face. You can see the light of the sky. Your lungs are burn­ing from lack of air. Just as you’re about to burst into the air, it goes black as a gi­ant shadow blocks out the light. Huge foam­balls smash you back down to where you were.

A two-wave hold-down is pretty nasty. But a three- or four-wave hold down? That’s life and death stuff.

All of this does not in­clude get­ting choked by your leash, or hav­ing it wrap around a rock. The force of some un­der­wa­ter surges make it im­pos­si­ble to get your leash off when this hap­pens.

Some­times the force of this tur­bu­lence can ham­mer you into rocks, reef or sand. At other times, your heavy, big wave surf­board can knock you un­con­scious.

Most deaths are caused by drown­ing, but only af­ter an ini­tial in­jury in­ca­pac­i­tates the surfer.

And with names like Cy­clops in Western Aus­tralia; Ghost Trees in Cal­i­for­nia, Jaws in Hawaii, and our own Dun­geons in Cape Town, there is plenty rea­son to be scared be­fore you even pad­dle out.

Faye Way

FAYE ZOET­MUL­DER, a ta­lented young­ster from the East­ern Cape, has qual­i­fied to surf in the World Qual­i­fy­ing Se­ries in 2014, from where she aims to get into the World Cham­pi­onship Tour.

How­ever, she does not have the funds to get there. See

to see how you can help.

Six­teen Sight­ings

IT’S NOT a good day to go surf­ing in Muizen­berg, St James or Kalk Bay at the mo­ment.

On Thurs­day, there were 16 sight­ings of white sharks along that stretch of coast. A whale car­cass at St James has cre­ated a feed­ing bo­nanza for our res­i­dent sharks, so it’s a good idea to lever­age the en­light­en­ment that our co­hab­i­ta­tion strat­egy has brought us.

Surfer’s Cor­ner re­mains de­serted af­ter another sight­ing yes­ter­day, which is good, al­though there have been a few souls – other ad­jec­tives spring to mind – who have ven­tured

out into the wa­ter there.

Weather Tip

CRAZILY con­torted con­di­tions lash the Western Cape this weekend. To­day sees a big SE windswell fill up False Bay af­ter very strong SE winds last night, with 6’ sets.

Heavy rain falls were ex­pected to fall in the early hours of to­day in er­ratic spurts.

On the other side, a new long range swell to 6’ should start show­ing in clean south­east breezes but the ocean could be cross hatched by the two swells.

By tomorrow, muddy rides on the MTB trails and fresh SE winds go strong again as the groundswell builds to epic 10ft. Re­ally good waves if winds play ball.

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