Deadly Serious Surf

Gary Kewley
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Friday - January 19, 2007
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Competitors face some of the biggest, most dangerous waves ever ridden by women at the Rockstar Games Pipeline Pro
Competitors face some of the biggest, most dangerous
waves ever ridden by women at the Rockstar Games
Pipeline Pro

Hey, surfers and beachgoers! It’s been serious surf - deadly serious. It often is, but without a fatal reminder. So when the worst does happen, it shakes us - as it did at the infamous Banzai Pipeline last Friday evening.

Joaquin Velilla lived the hard-core North Shore surfing lifestyle. The young man was going to marry fiancée Mariela Acosta and live out their dream right here. He was only 35 years old.

The waves at Pipe that day were extreme and thick, maxing out at over 12 feet (20 feet crest to trough). Unless you were highly experienced, skilled and courageous, you wouldn’t dare think of paddling out. This particular west-angled swell had more than eight waves per set ... and they’d stack to the horizon. If you got caught inside, you were in for a long beating. You had to be in top shape.

Joaquin was in top shape. Experienced, skilled and courageous, he dared to paddle out on this fateful late afternoon. It would be his last surf session.

God only knows what happened. When you challenge such powerful forces of nature you truly are “in God’s hands.” As with most injuries and fatalities at Pipe, the reef is usually the culprit. Water is only 2- to 6-feet deep on average, not nearly enough water to safely cushion a wipeout. Surfers bounce off it every day ... several times a day. The body can only take so much “bouncing,” especially on the head. It really doesn’t take that much to lose consciousness.

Surfers at Pipe are clearly athletic daredevils. Our Puerto Rican surfing brother was one of them.

What happened to his body may never be known ... Some reason that the current must have swept Joaquin far out to sea. So much water pours up onto the Pipeline reef that the speed of the inside rip along shore can move over 5 mph! All this side current quickly bends outward in a powerful rip in front of Ehukai Beach Park.

One thing is certain, Joaquin died doing what he loved most. He lived his dream with passion and bravery.

Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with family, friends and fiancée. May he rest in peace.

In light of this tragedy, I turn cautiously and proudly to the women’s division of the Rockstar Games Pipeline Pro Body Boarding event.

In my humble opinion, it was the heaviest surf I’ve seen women surf and conquer, ever. The waves were easily 10 feet Hawaii Scale for the final, and breaking in their usual way, like a Pipeline ... Banzai Pipeline!

The girls erased doubt about being able to handle BIG Pipe. Not to say they didn’t pay! When I say “handle” I’m including wipeouts - the kind that make you cringe and cuss, even from the beach. There were injuries.

The female body boarders had some of the largest waves ever in a contest at Pipe, and the ladies got in on the action late Saturday to finish up a seminal performance.

Winning the Rockstar Title was past world champ Daniela Freitas. Daniela was a girl on a mission, winning every heat on her way to the final! She dominated with her strong rolls and smooth, clean style. Her form continued into the final, where her wise wave selection came into play. Dani completed the only maneuver of the final, a roll, to take victory.

Daniela spoke like a humble champion: “Really, it was too big for us girls. I’m just so relieved no one was hurt.”

I respectfully disagree - the women did it!

Female athletics set a new record this day. A bar was raised, and a new line was drawn. On this day, the human spirit prevailed in the raw power of Mother Nature. We can be proud to claim it!

For video clips of the action, log on to SURFNEWSNETWORK.COM - click the video link ... you’ll freak.

I’m GQ, dropping in 4 U!

Thanks to pro body boarder Claudia of for the photos and support of the amazing wahine.

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