3 October, 2018 3 October, 2018

Crazy Footage of a Big Wave Rescue in SA

Crazy GoPro footage has emerged of a rescue from a massive swell that hit the Cape out at Sunset at the end of September. Darty Louw got on the end of one of the biggest waves of the day as well as one of the worst wipeouts of the day. Insane PWC driving by Jem Johnson resulted in a successful pickup with no time to spare.

Surfer: Darty Louw; Water Safety: Jem Johnson and Murray Willcocks; Filmed by: Murray Willcocks

We got a hold of Jem Johnson to find out a little bit more about the event:

(Zag) Firstly, let’s talk about the conditions. Images have done the rounds on social media, but hows about a first-hand account of the day?

(Jem) We had paddled some good waves at Sunset on Thursday and Friday but knew that Saturday was going to be the really big day. The night before we paddle till dark and were expecting a 20 footer to break at any time. The next morning Wavenet was down and I got a report really early saying that it was only about 15 foot, so I drove to Kommetjie and was going to paddle from the beach, I took one look at the waves and it was massive so I rushed home to get my ski.

When we got out there the waves were huge, I have been trying to surf big waves for over 10 years now and I have only ever seen it that big a few times. You know Sunset is really big when there is no left, just this huge reeling right barrel. You see these massive bumps rise up on a reef a few miles out to sea and then you know that a really big wave is on its way. Those days are very special, massive waves with good friends, its what we all wait for really.

Talk us through the rescue itself, what happened?

If I am not surfing or towing someone in I always try and position myself so that if someone goes down on a wave I am in the perfect position to do a bow like course with the ski and give myself the best chance of rescuing him. I could see that Darty was not going to make a bottom turn in time, and knew that he was going to have to go straight. In those situations you don’t really have time to think, its almost like you just do it and think about it afterward.

I am fortunate to have Yamaha as a sponsor so I am always on the biggest and most up to date skis, in the video I was on the Yamaha FXHO 1800, there is no ways anyone would have pulled that off on a smaller ski or with a different hull I don’t think. The new skis also have what is called a RIDE system so you have a reverse option by using one of your left fingers, if you look and listen closely in the video you can see and hear that as I go past Darty I reverse at an angle and get the rescue sled underneath him which gives the person being rescued a much better chance of grabbing one of the handles on the rescue sled. 

The white water almost caught us but we managed to get away and make it out safely. You can also see in the video that there was white water for a hundred meters on each side of us so if we didn’t make it we would have been in a lot of trouble. 

I kind of know what I am doing but I would put it down mostly to the craft itself and myself having a huge amount of confidence in the craft. The best part of it was that I didn’t even know that Murray was filming with a GoPro in his mouth till about 20 minutes afterward (laughs)

Just how important is it to have a safety team out there that you know and trust, I’m sure experience is second place to none? 

The safety is everything really, touch wood here in Cape Town we have an amazing track record with no drownings so far. The vests make a big difference now as well but knowing that there is someone watching you on the ski is a huge confidence booster especially on those really big days. Once again the craft is everything, and you can’t beat a PWC (Personal Water Craft) when it comes to a rescue situation and safety in the surf, well in any situation on the water really. I feel that every NSRI base and lifesaving club in the country should have one. We have actually done some training with the NSRI and they were blown away by how practical they skis are in a rescue situation.

Thanks to Yamaha for their continued support, ensuring no compromises are made with regard to water safety. Keep safe all you big wave chargers out there. 

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