My Biggest Wipeout

Bruce "Snake" Gabrielson

Many times over the years I've been asked about my worst wipeout ever. Here it is. In 1974 I was surfing with Jeff Smith at Sunset in Hawaii on a 3x overhead day. I was the only surfer out in the morning at fairly low tide and there was a photographer shooting from the beach. I had caught about 5 or 6 waves without much problem other then having to take off a little late because the wind was holding my board a little high on the wave face when I dropped in.

Since I'm a goofy-foot, I was trying to crank from the tail without catching an edge and then driving across the first section slightly high on the face backside. It had worked from out on the shoulder during my take-offs so I planned to try it from right on the peak.

I saw a bigger set wave in the distance and started paddling into the peak for a fade-in drop. When I stood up to start my turn I was well committed and the board was driving nearly straight into the bowl. I simply couldn't get the edge out of the face and had to settle for a long carving rail turn that left me almost dead at the bottom when the wave hit. The photographer managed to snap this picture of me as I tried to bail.

I Eat a Bigger Set Wave

The wave left me on top of the coral shelf with several gashes in my back. The next wave sucked the water under me out and then landed on my head. It rolled me clear across the reef and turned me into a "skinless wonder" plus I also tore up my feet and board badly. I caught coral poisoning and had to leave for the mainland two days later to recover in a hospital.

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