Surfing Soapbox: Pushed, bruised by a rogue wave

Last night was the first night I slept more than four hours. We have been stuck in gale force winds for more than a week now, with frequent downpours and churning seas.

Two days ago while on watch, I was up on the deck by myself. I had just sat down, turning my head around over my left shoulder and swoosh — a rogue wave washed me clear across the deck and onto the other side of the helm.

I'm not sure if I would have been washed overboard, because I was able to grab on with my right hand and then my left, jerking me back. Even so, thankfully, I had just clipped in my harness before taking the wave at full blast.

My whole right side is a bit bruised, swollen and sore from holding on. I ended up lying on my back with the entire gully of seawater emptying out on top of me. I thought I was dreaming; it all happened so quickly. I remember thinking, "Just hold on. Let the water drain out and you'll be fine."

Nothing was floating through my mind (no pun intended) at the time. No great revelations of life. Just a very clear vision of water pouring on top of me, like some sort of baptism. Time had slowed to an almost halt. In a strange way it felt very empowering.

There's a reason why I always say "I love you" to those I care for most. Because you never know when it will be your last time to say it. Especially on a journey in the middle of the ocean. Searching for the fourth gyre I had but one thought, one vision that day. Well, two, actually.

One: of treading water and watching the sailboat sail off into the distance.

Two: of a clean ocean one day.


JAMES PRIBRAM is a Laguna Beach native, professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include and He can be reached at

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