hour, where the wave will be when the wave runner comes from behind to catch it, and finally you have to correctly judge the moment of encounter to put the surfer on the tow rope exactly at the ‘sweet spot.’ Timing is critical at the point of release. There is kind of a whipping action. The tow rope slings you into the wave; you accelerate up to 35 miles per hour. You have to enter the wave just as it starts to get steep—not too early, not too late—at a high enough position to be able to run down the face as it curls over behind you and yet still be able to get out of the way before it buries you.
“Your partner hangs back behind the wave, looks for you to come out, or if you crash, looks for you to pop up, then races in to get you on the sled and get out of there before the next wave breaks. On this wave, my board didn’t release properly and I ended up fracturing my ankle. I got hit by another wave and then somebody came in and got me out.
“Timing is important with the wave runner also—blow it, get caught by a wave, and you can kiss it goodbye. Last season I think there were five that got creamed, ended up on the rocks. That’s $10,000 each. Then, to add insult to injury, you have to hire a helicopter at $700 to come pick it off the rocks. No littering the beach allowed!”
I asked Dan about his worst wipeout.
“Worst one—which time? As they say, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. I’ve had a lot of spills. That’s probably the only way you can learn. But I’d say on January 19, 2004, at Jaws, my first wave of the day was the most recent ‘memorable’ one. I went down in a bad way. I was on a new board; the wave was 20 to 25 feet high. I went into it and something happened to the board—maybe cavitation. I did an immediate face plant, then got sucked up over the falls. I was annihilated. It is hard to describe the violent motion that goes on inside a big wave. You have tons and tons of water pounding on you. When water hits at high speed, it is hard, very hard. It drives you down into caverns at the bottom of the ocean and then forces you back up under pressure. I don’t think I hit anything. It was just that the forces cause your brain to rattle around inside your skull. When I finally came up I was disoriented, seeing stars, dopey. I must have had a mild concussion. Two more waves dumped on me, until finally someone came in and got me out. I don’t remember much; I just saw a blur of motion, some-