by Corky Carroll
When I am normally coming in from a surf session at my favorite spot I have a set way I land myself on the beach. As I am on a Stand Up Paddleboard I always drop to my knees for a beach landing. Just before hitting the sand I kind of lean back a little bit, allowing the wave I am riding to get sort of underneath me, and then float up the beach on the back of the surge. As it stops, I am able to step off and stand up in a few inches of water. Then I can pick up my board and casually walk off looking like I know exactly what I am doing. Very cool. Except for the other morning when it all went terribly wrong. As I was doing my little lean back thing the wave I was on sort of doubled up and shot me out in front of it. My board bellied into the sand with a bit of speed. I went rolling off the nose head over heels, the board and my paddle both hitting me in the head and my leash getting wrapped around my neck. I was left squirming around in the sand under my board trying to untangle myself and I was getting sand everywhere, my hair being the least of the issue. This was not pretty. Thankfully nobody saw it, at least that I know of. I didn’t hear uncontrollable laughing coming from anywhere at least.
I was telling about this unfortunate event on my deck, over Corkaritas and our new house drink, the “Blue Mango,” that night and the subject came up of bad shallow water wipe outs. Most people don’t think about the dangers of the shallows, it’s always the dangers of the deep. You need to be extremely careful in shallow water, especially over rock or reef bottoms.
First example is my good friend Lourdes, the Queen of La Saladita. Lourdes is a great surfer and grew up surfing this spot. It is a rock bottom break with a sand beach. She was coming in one morning and stepped off her board thinking she was over the sand. But she was still over the rocks and he foot wedged between two rocks and broke her ankle. This was a year ago. She had surgery and has a bunch of pins inserted into the area of the break. It still hurts her to try and surf and maybe always will. Simple mistake with bad result.
Another friend just recently was coming in on a wave, at the same spot, and from what I understand his fin hit a rock causing him to lunge forward. But he saved himself and went to straighten up when his board surged forward after the fin hit and became free again. He fell backwards on to the tail of his board and severely broke his back. Fractured a number of vertebras and had to be airlifted back to the U.S. Might not ever surf again. Same thing, simple mistake but with even worse result.
The worst one I know was when a guy I know was surfing at a beach break and dove off his board into what he thought was fairly deep water. Turns out he was over a sand bar and it was only about a foot deep. He broke his neck and was paralyzed the rest of his life. This happened in the sixties when he was in his twenties and he just passed away a few years ago. His wife took care of him his whole life by making wigs, along with some help from Hobie Alter. The guy was a Hobie dealer in Maryland and was surfing with Mickey Munoz the day it happened. I think Mickey saved his life if I remember the story correctly. A few years before he died Mickey strapped him onto the hull of his catamaran and rode about an eight-foot wave at Trestles with him. He said he was both terrified and thrilled at the same time. One last ride. Once again, simple mistake with horrific results.
The bottom line here is to pay attention when you are in the water no matter how deep it is. You can get hurt or even die in knee deep water, seriously. It’s not just the zillion foot monster surf that is deadly kids, most of the time it’s those simple mistakes that you don’t ever think will happen but then they do. Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet. (That line is from a Jackson Browne song). Pay attention
Dangers in the Shallows Article