Saw this story on Seabreeze.com.au, which to those of you that don't know it is a bit of a port of call for Australian waterman. I emailed the guy involved and asked him I could reproduce it here. I think it's an incredible story, and perhaps one that may be accused of exaggeration if it wasn't for the fact it was all caught on camera by the guy involved. I'm not going to preach on safety in the ocean, and neither does David, the guy involved in it. It's just a timely reminder to not take things for granted, and no matter what it's doing right now, it can all change moments later. Over to David for the full first hand experience, and thanks for letting me publish it!
With down-winding becoming more and more popular I think too many people don't take it seriously enough.
I was loving it out there and can't wait to get back out there.
The day started with blue sky and a honking westerly wind.. Perfect for our first attempt to cross the bay from Pt Cook to Sandringham Marina.
This is looking across to Pt Cook from Sandy.
We drove across to Pt Cook in Cams car with our two Naish 17s and Pete and Roscoe had Naish 14s.. The forcast was for 20-30 knots true west and that's about what it was already.
We unloaded the boards and the wind didn't seem all that strong but the direction was perfect.
Pete fitted his home made GoPro mount on the tail of his 14.
Here's the two old farts ready for a great adventure.. We're both in our mid fifties and loving the down-winders.
Getting ready to head off.. Come on guys.
We could clearly see our destination by the tall tower on the hill behind Sandy.
Here's a map of our coarse.. The wind was true west but the swells were coming from a more south west direction (green arrow) .. Not perfect but still ok.
Aaaar.. That feels better.. I had been drinking heaps..
Roscoe just ahead of me.
Cam just to the right of me.
Time check.. 11.15.. I'm thinking about two hours without falls.. So probably it will take about two and a half hours..
Roscoe with the sun behind him and the wind seems to be getting stronger.
Let the fun begin..
We'd been paddling about an hour or so and heaps of runners.. I had Roscoe and Cam just ahead of me and at times I'd link a few runs together and get right onto the back of Cam but it just took one fall and the gap would open up again.
That's either Roscoe or Cam directly ahead.. Sure it's just a dot in the distance but the slightly wide angle lens makes it look further than it is.. Anyway it's time to catch up again before the gaps get too big.
Now the wind really starts to kick and the waves start to get serious.
I started to fall just a little too much.. It was like get up and fall straight off again and after doing that a couple of times in a row it's time to just sit and rest for a minute to re compose.
Once up and going again I could just see Cam and Roscoe in the distance and it looked like they were sitting on their boards and waiting.. I'm thinking great.
I put together a few runners without falling and it seems like I'm not getting any closer.. I then realize they're not sitting they're still paddling and I'm not getting any closer to them.
It's just when you really don't want to fall that you often do.. Bugger!
I put my paddle across my board as I climbed on and it slips out of my fingers for a second and the wind blew it about ten feet ahead of me.. Bugger!
I got on my knees and paddled after my paddle and the wind flipped it off the water and it flew about twenty feet ahead.. Double Bugger!
I was now up and going again and starting to get my confidence back with a few great runs and the waves were starting to get huge.
There was a great section before the shipping channel were it must have got real shallow because the colour of the water changed and the waves were jacking up and so steep.. Just looking at the from behind was amazing.
I now couldn't see the guys ahead and I could see Fawkner Beacon in the distance and It was time to stay on the board.. Link the runners together.. and see just how quick I can do the final leg of our trip.. and also try and catch the others before we get to Sandy.
I got a few high speed runs with the nose of my 17 well under water and it was cutting through like a hot knife through butter.. Great fun.. I was having a hoot..
I was thinking I need to get back more more on the board to keep the nose from pearling on the steeper drops and when I did on a huge runner I fell off the back of my board and I was going so fast the leggie pulled hard on my board to slow it down and I thought for a second about my hook on the end of my leggie.. Glad it held then.
Next minute I'm swamped by a huge wave and I hadn't even started to get back on.. When I surfaced the next wave hit.. My leggie pulling on my board pulled it backward through the passing wave and with the last couple of feet of my board sticking into the air the wind caught it and spun the through the air dragging me behind it.. and then it happened.. the tension was gone on my leggie and I thought 'Oh No'.. I dropped my paddle and swam hard for my board thinking (wishing) 'no you don't'.. and it did.. It flipped again.. The wind caught it and it was off spinning through the air and landed about 50 feet away.. I knew that if I was going to get it it had to be now before it flipped again.. I swam hard only to see the next wave lift the tail and it was off again.. I watched as the very next wave it was off again.. I had no hope of catching it.
I watched hoping it would stop.. I took that pic.. ( btw that's Fawkner beacon on the far right of the pic on the horizon.. It's huge so it was still a long way off).. I thought if it stopped for long enough I'd start swimming again.. but it tumbled across the water like it was on hard sand.. I turned to see if I could see my paddle.. I though I might be able to use it to wave for help.
I saw a wave break top to bottom and going over the falls was my paddle.. Great I could see it and I swam back to it.
I tied my paddle to my camera strap and started to swim for Fawkner beacon.. It was now about 1.15pm.
I had been swimming for only about half an hour and already feeling pretty stuffed.. I tried laying on my back and just kicking with my legs because my arms had nothing left.. Thank God for my PFD.. and lucky I didn't use my other PFD that I strap to the nose of my board.
I was now in the shipping channel and not feeling to good about being there like this.. It seems that Fawkner beacon was not getting any closer.. I could see a yellow channel marker beacon back up wind and much closer so I decided to head that way and away from the center of the shipping channel.. I swam.. and swam.. and swam.. I sometime wondered it I was ever going to make it.. but after another half an hour it was defiantly getting closer and I felt like I was going to make it after all.. I was pretty happy about that and took a pic.
Waa-hoo.. almost there now.
this thing was huge once I got close.. and it was still getting tossed around in the waves.. My next problem was how to get up onto it.. There was no steps that smooth all around.. It was at least ten feet in diameter and about five feet up to the surface from the water but as the waves surged past I was able to just get my finger tips over the edge.. I hung on.. It swayed and lifted me clear off the water and then dunked me back in.. I could not hang on with my finger tips any longer and when the slipped off I was so pissed off.. I was exhausted.
I was determined to get onto it.. I must have tried four or five time with my feet scratching at the barnacles on the edge below the waters surface.. I got a leg up and hung there for what seemed like ages and the whole time it was swaying back and forth.. I finally got up and rolled over on my back in the center of it and I was totally stuffed.. I couldn't lift an arm or even open my eyes.. and I was panting like It's finished a marathon foot race.. Laying there I felt the huge swaying motion and soon became very sick.. and I threw up.. I could see that McDonalds cheese and bacon and it was all over me but all I could do was turn to my side and throw up again.. I had swallowed a lot of salt water.. I threw up a couple more times until my stomach was empty.. I knew laying on that thing swaying about was half the problem.. I sat myself up and was starting to feel better.
I had checked my phone while floating in the water I wanted to call Alan and ask him to keep an eye out for my board.. and let the others know where I am.. But the case was half full of water and my iPhone was full of water and would not turn on.. Bugger.. I had used that case for ages without a problem but the way I folded it and jammed it into my PFD and caused a little nic in the plastic.. I noticed a yellow box on the channel marker buoy and opened it hoping to find a phone like they have on the side of the freeways.. But no.. it was just batteries.. Bugger!
My feet were cut from climbing up the side with all the barnacles.. and my forearms were also bleeding from hanging over the edge for so long before I got up and onto it.. My legs were also cramping every time I tried to move them.
I still had lots of water in my PFD bladder and I drank some because I must have been very dehydrated.. But I just thew it back up.. I tried again after a while and it came straight back up.. I was vomiting clear water.
I was now in a squatting position with my arms around my legs and I was starting to get very cold.. I kept getting sprayed with water as the odd big wave slammed onto the buoy and I had to hang on very tight.. I started to shiver uncontrollably and it was now about 4pm.. the sun was getting lower.. It was getting colder.
I was over dressed for the crossing.. I had a short arm steamer with a wetsuet vest on underneath.. and my PFD was snug and offered heaps of warmth.. but the cold was starting to soak through.. My Roar hat did a great job keeping my head warm and my face from getting burned.
I had thought what to do next for a long time and I decided I was going to swim/drift to shore and if I didn't go now it would be dark before I reach land.. I was so cold and it would be much warmer in the water.. I tied my paddle to the deck thinking I'll paddle back out and get it another day when it's glassy.
I was getting ready to jump.. I looked to the left.. and then the right.. and then the left again.. I thought I could see a ship.. It just looked like a building in the city but I decided to wait just in case it was a ship.. well it was a ship and I knew it would go right past me.
The ship soon was right on me and as it passed I was waving like crazy and I though my arms would drop off.. The ship was huge.. I could see a strip of windows way up the top level were the captain would steer it.. It had almost passed and I saw someone though the top windows walk to the last window and it looked like he was waving back at me.. was I seeing things?
I thought if he did see me he would call so maybe I should just wait there now.. So I sat back down and tried to keep warm.. About half an hour later I suddenly heard a helicopter buz right over me.. It was a Police helicopter.. I got up and waved.. and waved.. as it headed back towards Sandy.. Bugger!.. I watched as it buzzed around the shore where my board had washed up (right at Sandy Marina.. What's the chances or that).. and the guys at Sandy had called the water Police so they were looking for me.. The helicopter came back towards me.. Waa-hoo!
It went right over me again.. I was hanging off the side and waving like crazy.. Did they see me.. No.. I could even see the pilot they were so close.. It passed me and headed off towards Pt Cook and out of sight.. Bugger!
After a while it came back towards me.. there was a rainbow.. The sun came back out.. I climbed up the side of the buoy and waved like crazy again.. the thing was still swaying heaps side to side and it was pretty hairy up there.. they slowed and hovered above me.. Yaaay.. They had finally seen me.
Then all of a sudden this flash boat appears from no where.. The people on board were taking pictures of me like I was some kind of freak.. and I climbed back down.
The Police flew off and the boat came alongside.. they yelled saying that can I swim across.. I said sure.. I felt a bit rude asking but I said "can I bring my paddle?" .. they said sure so I untied it and jumped in.
Half way to the boat they threw a lifesaver ring to me.. I said there no need and they said just grab it or put it around me.. I wrapped one arm around it than they started to haul me across.. then all of a sudden they started letting rope out and the were motoring away from me.. I thought 'what-the?'.. I look behind and a wall of water that looked about eight feet tall washed past me.. I went up and over and I saw the boat go backwards up into the air then splash down spraying me with water.. They started pulling me in again.. and then back out as I look around to see another wave coming.. This went on for about fifteen minutes until during a lull in the waves they got me in.. I climbed over the side and fell into the back of the boat.. I hurt like hell but I didn't care.
It was the Port security and the captain of the big ship had told them that I was there.. They were great and insisted that they take me back for a hot shower and a hot drink.. and would then get me back to Sandy.. Wow!
Once back at Port security they asked me heaps of questions..They asked how I came to be out there and I said I was training for Hawaii and they were impressed that I was dressed for the cold.. wore a PFD, had a phone etc and that I even knew about the shipping traffic (thanks Phill).. They suggested I get one of those GPS thingie's and I said I'll look into it.
Cam and Pete turned up and they let me go.. I thanked them.. Once at my car it was a quick stop at Macca's for a quick burger.. No pie shops were open..
Thanks to everyone who helped out and sorry for the worry and concern that I caused so many people... A big lesson was learned.