Scott Chandler

Scott Chandler
February 2, 2006 Ujusansa Surf Klub

Scott Chandler v intervjuju govori o surfanju velikih valov, svoji poskodbi in najvecjem strahu, ki ga ima (v anglescini).
Scott Chandler on the highs and lows of big wave surfing

On December 21, 2005 a deep low-pressure system manifesting itself across the North Pacific created a massive west swell. The swell bore down on Todos Santos Island right off Ensenada, Mexico. As the day elapsed, so did the size of the waves. So much so in fact, that a handful of the world’s best surfers turned to their comrades on jet powered watercraft.

Once dispatched to the lineup first shot of the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards was fired. Surfers such as Greg Long, Rusty Long and Mike Parsons were photographed on the biggest waves seen anywhere in the world since last April. Before the day was over, the aforementioned surfers were leaders in the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Award.

Another rider digitized for posterity was Scott Chandler, age 40, of Carlsbad, California. In fact the photo of Chandler riding a 60-foot wave showed up on the cover of the London Times. But what price glory?

In early January, Chandler and a number of colleagues went big wave hunting in Northern California. One may be led to think that dropping in on and riding a 60-foot wedge of water would be enough of a rush to get a person through the year, but not Chandler.

“I guess it’s like you own a house and want a bigger house, or you have a car and want a better car,” he laughs of his never ending lust for waves as high as a small office tower. “I always want a bigger wave. Now it’s to the point that we’ll show up somewhere and see 30-foot waves and say, ‘I thought it would be bigger.’”

On January 4, 2006, Chandler was forced to come face-to-face with the dark side of his passion. “Five storms had piggybacked on one another,” he begins, explaining the day he’ll never forget. “The storms were big. The biggest we’ve gotten in California in the last 10 years. We went up to San Francisco to look for surf, but the winds were an issue. We ended up in Central California where we found a slab — a reef that rises out of the water — about a mile and a half off shore.

At low tide the reef actually sticks out of the water. You have to hit the wave when the tide is medium or high. The waves were up to 40 feet high and were as thick as they were tall. I went toward one wave and chased it down. I was too late and decided not to go. I hit some chips in the water a jet ski had made and I flipped up and landed on my butt.

I kicked my feet out of the straps on the board. Then it was full-on Niagara Falls. It was all water. Then I slammed the reef. When I hit, the water exploded. It tore all my limbs and I felt my right arm twist around my back. I also felt pain near my armpit. A pain like I had never felt before. At first I thought that my board had speared me. While going through the washing machine and being pushed on the bottom of the reef, I took inventory.

I could feel my arm hanging. When I came up out of the wash, I signaled for the rescue driver to hurry up and get me before the next wave came. He grabbed me and swung me up onto the sled. I felt my arm hanging, but I couldn’t tell how bad it was because I had life jackets on. “Back on the beach I found out I had torn my pectoral muscle — a chest muscle down near the arm pit.

There is a major tendon that connects to the bicep and it had snapped and pulled right off the bone. My pectoral muscle was torn off the bone. I had no muscle.”

With some help from the players and doctors of the San Diego Padres baseball team, Chandler received excellent medical advice and treatment. “I had surgery on January 16. The surgeon made a 6” incision and drilled four holes in my chest plate and four into arm. He then re-laced the tendon, re-lacing muscle to the bone.”

Now he’s on the way back. Healing-up and training, Chandler, while keen to get back in the Ocean, is taking things easy. “The injury is very brittle and fragile. Kind of like gluing a flat piece of glass to a piece of angled glass. My doctor keeps telling me to ‘let it mend!’ It’s all going to work out well, though. Yeah, I won’t be able to bench-press 315-pounds anymore, but I won’t have any deformity and will have a full range of motion.”

Nearly having limbs torn off your body by Mother Nature would likely keep most people on the sand, but not Chandler. He can hardly wait to paddle back out again.

“Oh yeah, I can’t wait to get back out there,” he exults. “I’m in the healing process and anxious to get back out there. I hope to be back in the water before the season is over in March. If not, I’ll focus on the Southern hemisphere swells in Tahiti, Chili and Peru. I miss the adrenalin rush of being in the “safe zone”. I’m a junky for it.”

Safe zone?

“You know it’s one of those things,” he answers. “Eric Dickerson [NFL Hall of Fame football player] is a friend of mine. I used to ask him if he heard the fans cheer while he was running or scoring a touchdown. He told me he’d be so focused that he would not hear the fans until he threw the ball down. It’s the same thing with me if I’m surfing at a place like Jaws. There will be helicopters and boats around and I won’t notice anything. When I’m on a big wave, I don’t really hear anything until I’m in the “safe zone”. When you’re dropping down the face, you’re almost in a numb state.”

Scott Chandler isn’t afraid. Wait… he is afraid of one thing. “My biggest fear? A 9-to-5 job.”

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