By Brock Little
I decide to take a quick look at the buoy before I go to sleep; it’s 25 feet, 17 seconds. For people who don’t speak buoy language, that’s giant! It’s as big as Waimea can handle, or possibly even too big for the Bay. I have no reason to be nervous, the Eddie is over, and I’ve proved myself enough times. F*&%, I still can’t sleep!
When I wake up in the morning and drive down the hill, I see it’s really big. I have a doctor appointment I shouldn’t blow off, so I go. Driving around the Bay I’m seriously hoping it will drop by the time I get back. When Waimea is this big it’s not fun; it will kill you, or me. When I get back from town, around 11:00, it’s as big as it gets. I’m not sure why, but I have to go out. Waimea has nearly killed me twice at this size. I’m afraid. One of my things at Waimea is I don’t like to watch it before I go out. I get down to the beach and paddle out. People usually follow me because I’ve been around a while, but jumping in when I do is a bad idea. This time my friend Arnold Dowling followed me out. He paddled towards the channel, I stuck next to the rocks. He got his ass kicked in the middle of the Bay. I got tossed around by about 25-foot whitewaters next to rocks. When the waves finally let up, I paddled my ass out to the lineup. All the way out I was worried about a closeout set. When I finally made it out, I was winded.
I knew I shouldn’t be out there. I’m not in shape, mentally, or physically for maxed-out Waimea. Usually, when I’m on the beach, I’m scared, I feel sick in my gut. On my way out though, those feelings start to change, and by the time I reach the lineup, I’m fearless. This day was different. When I got out I could only think, shit, it’s going to be hard to catch a wave in. Not the right mindset.
All my life I’ve seen when people surf closed out Waimea, most of them don’t want a real wave. They paddle out thinking they want one, but when they get out there, they figure out it’s a bad idea. On this day there are about 20 guys out, but only three or four who actually want a 20-foot wave. I was surprised by Kahea Hart, he charged. Arnold and this nice South African guy also wanted one. Pretty much everyone else looked like they’d seen a ghost.
I was on the so-called fence, not sure which way I was going. I told myself many times if I was one of the guys not wanting one, I’d quit. All of a sudden I realized, I might be one of those guys. I’m 42, have a great wife, I can’t achieve much more wave-wise than what I’ve already done in the past. Why am I out here when I know it can kill me? I also know that when I’m out in the thick of it I make bad choices in regards to my wellbeing.
So all this crap is going through my head, but I’m starting to get my wind back. I’ve been out about 10 minutes, and a set starts to form way out in the ocean. Horns are honking, everyone is paddling for the horizon. I don’t paddle out because I know if you want to catch one, you have to stay close to the reef. For some idiotic reason, all of a sudden my mindset has changed, and I’m going to get one. When the set came, I was too far in for the first one, out of position for the second one, and the third (and biggest) was aimed right at me. I turned around and took off, knowing I’d make the wave. It was outside the main reef, so getting in wasn’t very hard. A wind chop pushed me in, and before I knew it I was halfway down the face. Then the wave hit the regular Waimea reef and created a little bump. I went over that and knew I had the wave made. After a sigh of relief, my board slowed down but my body didn’t. I’m not sure what happened, but I went shoulder first into the bottom of the wave face. It wasn’t a big deal, I knew I’d be under awhile. I’ve done it before. I got worked, and when I made it up, I felt fine.
Then I noticed that although I was swimming with two arms, one was just floating. I freaked out. I screamed like a little girl. I had dislocated my left shoulder. It was so heavy to be thinking I’m moving my arm, and then look at it just dangle. There was a 20-foot wave coming, so I had to start thinking about functioning with three limbs instead of four. I took off my leash because I didn’t think it would be a good idea to drag my arm through the water, with the leash pulling me. The wave thrashed me around pretty good, but not too bad. While I was underwater I swam like I had two good arms, it didn’t feel any different than normal. When I popped up, both arms were working. I was actually swimming. Did that just happen?
Somebody who was on the shoulder came in and let me jump on the back of his board. I’m sure he heard me screaming because before that wave I truly yelled like a big f—in’ pussy. Clyde Aikau came over to help push me into the channel. Everybody was waving for the jet ski. The weird truth was, I felt fine.
I was paddling on the back of some guy’s board and my arm didn’t even hurt. The lifeguard came over on the ski and had me climb onto the sled. He took me in and dropped me perfectly right on the sand. End of story…
But I don’t know. I’ve come a lot closer to drowning, broke my kneecap, blah, blah, blah. But I think what I’m asking myself is whether or not I should keep surfing giant Waimea? I know this is cocky, but usually, I’m the best guy out, even now (but to give credit where credit’s due, Shane Dorian and a few others are definitely better than me). I can’t pass up a closeout, if I’m in the spot, and in the mood. I’m 42 with nothing to prove. I haven’t made a decision, but leaning towards walking away…but we’ll see.
Editor’s Note: This excerpt comes from a blog post made by Brock Little. Six years later he would succumb to cancer. Little passed away at home on February 18, 2016. He was 48 years old.