Greg Long airlifted 100 miles to a San Diego hospital with suspected broken ribs and a punctured lung after wipeout at Cortes Bank
Rob Brown can determine an big day approaching at Cortes Bank before most and when he arrived over the horizon on Friday, after a 6 hour trip from Dana Point and saw the ghostlike peaks of the Bank detonating under the slightest west wind, he knew the alleged end of days was just the kickoff of 24 hours of big wave mayhem.
“It started picking up just as forecast,” says Brown. “From 2:30 it was on — easily 50 feet on the face and the wind was just laying down.”
In the following boat over from Brown’s was pretty much all of the gnarliest surfers: Greg and Rusty Long, Mark Healy, Shane Dorian, Peter Mel, Kohl Christensen, Ian Walsh, Dave Wassel, Garrett McNamara, Alex Gray, DK Walsh, Keali’I Mamala, Ben Wilson, and Shawn Dollar. After an already groundbreaking big wave season, this swell was just what these guys were looking for!
Cortes Bank continues to be one of big wave surfing’s most elusive, explosive, and life-threatening venues. Weather doesn’t frequently cooperate, the line-up can shift hundreds of yards, it’s cold and sharky. As the paddle revolution has swept more dependable venues across the world, like Cloudbreak and Peahi, Cortes Bank has remained the most challenging to tame with just man power alone.
“Cortes Bank is an extremely rare bird to score because it is so open and exposed to all the elements you would imagine occur 100 miles out to sea,” says Surfline Head Forecaster Kevin Wallis. “While there may be a handful of days that see the right swell direction, size and swell period to paddle each year (on a good year), it’s very uncommon to see light and favorable wind accompany those swells. Furthermore, even if the wind is light on the same day that the swell arrives, the conditions from the previous days can play a major role in the quality of the surf. While every surf break in the world needs just the right elements for it to come alive, those elements only come together once in a great while for Cortes Bank.”
But Friday’s paddle session was not without casualties, unfortunately. Arguably the most educated big wave surfer out there, Greg Long, had an extremely close call just before the end of the day.
According to Brown, Greg Long was cut down on a wave he shared with Garrett McNamara and was hit in the chest by his surfboard. After his safety vest failed to inflate, Long was found floating, apparently quite idly, on the inside. Greg was quickly plucked out and taken to the boat, where he recovered quickly. Greg’s lingering chest pain prompted the crew to call in a helicopter, which transferred Greg Long to UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, San Diego.
“His vitals were fine last night,” says Brown, “but for precautionary measures, they just wanted to get him to the hospital.”
Greg has been cleared to come home from the hospital. while he is thoroughly shaken, he’s in fine spirits and will be back home to spend Christmas with his family. According to Greg it was;
“as close of a call as you can have.”
Statement From Big Wave Surfer Greg Long Regarding His Serious Wipeout While Surfing At The Cortes Bank On 12-21-2012:
Thank you to the entire community of friends, family and well-wishers for your concern, your outpouring of love, support and prayers, following the serious wipeout I experienced while surfing at the Cortes Bank on Friday, December 21st.
I am home, following a 24 hour stay in the UCSD Hospital in San Diego for precautionary observation as a result of the near drowning experience and blunt trauma injuries I suffered from the impact of a sequence of four large waves, and a three wave hold down. I had taken off on the second wave of a four-wave set and was forced to straighten out. After enduring an extremely violent and long hold down, I barely broke the surface and was attempting to grab a breath of air, when I received the full impact of the lip from the third and largest wave of the set. All of my breath was knocked out of me. I nearly lost consciousness at this point and was again driven deep and was subjected to a furious beating. I attempted to swim to the surface as the energy of the wave began to release me, but only made a few strokes before the next wave passed overhead, pushing me back down. As this beating started to subside, I began climbing my leash, hoping to break the surface before passing out. I made it to the tail of my board while it was still submerged in the turbulent and aerated water, at which point I blacked out from CO2 saturation and lack of oxygen.
Three rescue skis operated by D.K. Walsh, Jon Walla and Frank Quiarte were tracking me following the initial wipeout. After a fourth and smaller white water had passed, I was quickly located, floating face down along side my surfboard by D.K. Walsh. D.K. abandoned his ski, jumping in the water in order to raise my head above the surface. Jon Walla arrived on his ski, and together they pulled me onto the rescue sled. I began regaining consciousness during the ride back to the support boat we were operating from. Several other rescuers assisted getting me on board at which point I began vomiting the small amount of water I had aspirated and a large amount of blood, which I later learned was from a combination of the blunt force trauma of impact and the rupturing of capillaries due to extreme breath holding. I was stabilized on board the boat by the lifeguards and paramedics who were part of our safety team, and a Coast Guard helicopter was summoned to transport me back to San Diego.
Having trained for extreme breath holding, at no point did I allow myself to panic or lose confidence that I was going to survive this incident. I do, however, fully acknowledge that I did exceed my limits of endurance, and that there will always be elements of risk and danger that are beyond my control while surfing waves of any size. Because of those elements of risk, I have always insisted on working with individuals that share my focus on training and preparation. Humbly, I express my deepest gratitude to the team of rescuers and fellow surfers who’s training and precise response contributed to saving my life. – Greg Long
The Cortes Bank is located 100 miles off the coast of San Diego which makes the spot far more life-threatening. While the surf was in the 40ft range on Friday, many surfers think that the sunken island is the most plausible location for surfers to ride a 100ft wave.