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 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.
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.
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.