Forcing my wife to watch me drown!

I took the person I love and forced her to stand idly by as I tried to kill myself…

Last year was rough year for my body. I ruined my shoulder bodysurfing Pipe, underwent surgery, broke my collar bone in a freak spearfishing accident almost immediately after finishing physical therapy, then was diagnosed with a life threatening skull infection soon after my collarbone had mended.

It was a tedious twelve months, awash in painkillers and weight gain, constantly struggling to keep that demon named depression from getting too firm a grip on my soul. I won’t go into too much detail, I’ve written about it before, and if you’d like to learn a little more you can check it out here.

I was cleared by my ENT to re-enter the ocean on December 24th and was excited to find that Kurt Chambers would be holding a three-day intermediate freediving course a few weeks hence. I’d taken the course on Oahu in 2013 and it was an unbelievably positive experience.

Kurt is an amazing diver, and an excellent instructor, capable of explaining the physics and physiology behind freediving, building your confidence, and then guiding you into the longest breath holds and deepest dives you’ve ever done. Over the three-day course I pushed my static breath hold to a personal best of 4:10 and hit a depth of 130′, two things I could not have done, or, at least, not in any manner resembling safe, without his assistance.

Further fueling my desire to retake the course was the fact that my wife has recently fallen in love with diving. She’s very talented in the water and her ability soon outpaced my ability to safely teach her proper technique.

I am not the best instructor. I don’t have much patience, tend to push myself in a manner which isn’t particularly responsible. Compounded with her rather unfortunate propensity to peg her performance goals to my own I was creating what was quickly approaching a very unsafe environment.
I live in fear of people assuming we have a Pipin/Mestre type relationship.

While I am proud of her accomplishments and drive to improve I take care to never, ever, push her to try anything with which she isn’t comfortable. Nor do I have any real desire to see her reach an elite level regarding her free dive ability. I have my own goals, but they come with decades of ocean experience.

For her this is supposed to be a fun hobby, a great way to see fish and take photos without risking her life to reach some arbitrary notion of accomplishment. When she suffered a case of baurotrama our ENT read me the riot act. I was pushing her to unsafe depths with my supposed hockey dad approach to partnership. And that killed me inside, because it’s just not true. But I can see how an outside observer would think it is.

We reserved our spots in Kurt’s class and she eagerly awaited the coming weekend (I did as well. I desperately needed a chance to check the condition of my newly rebuilt ear drum at depth, with an elite level diver present to ensure my safety, should my head explode at the bottom. Also, Kurt allows former students to retake the class for free, which is just freaking awesome!)

I’d seen blackouts before, and they are not pretty. Blue lips and limp arms, the chest convulsing as it struggles to pull air through a sealed epiglottis. Your body arches, appears to seize, until your throat finally opens and you pull in a long, rattling, gasping, breath; staring at those around you wide-eyed and confused until your mind restarts and you rejoin the living.

Day One begins with a few hours of dry land instruction, focusing on the physics of diving and your body’s response to depth and hypoxia. Fascinating topics, and Kurt is an excellent teacher. Despite being well aware of things like the mammalian dive reflex, the cause of diaphragm spasms, shallow water blackout, and safe methods of breathing up, I was as engaged as though I’d never taken the course before. Even better, he was able to touch on things I’d not thought to mention to my wife, as well as communicate ideas and methods I had struggled to convey but never been able to make truly clear.

The final two hours of the first day are moved into shallow water, where we worked on proper technique, ran rescue drills to prepare us in case of a partner’s blackout or loss of motor control, concluding by splitting us into two groups where we worked with our partners during attempts at static apnea (floating face down and holding your breath for as long as possible.)

Each group was given three tries. They were proceeded by a few minutes of breathe up- deep inhalations followed by long, slow, exhalations. Lower your heart rate and calm your mind, find that happy place, which is, to me, the blessedly empty sensation of being purely in the moment. The final seconds are called and you breathe deeply, then lower your face into the water. Attempt to relax, go completely limp. Kurt’s calming voice walks you through relaxing your body, focusing on individual muscle groups in an attempt to release any existing tension and prolong your time.

I’d seen blackouts before, and they are not pretty. Blue lips and limp arms, the chest convulsing as it struggles to pull air through a sealed epiglottis. Your body arches, appears to seize, until your throat finally opens and you pull in a long, rattling, gasping, breath; staring at those around you wide-eyed and confused until your mind restarts and you rejoin the living. A man in the first group blacked out during his final attempt. I watched it happen without much caring, safe in the knowledge that he’d be fine. I failed to appreciate the effect it would have on my wife.

My first two tries went well, meant to warm up and calm down rather than set any personal records. On my third try I set my sights on five minutes, planning to reach it or pass out face down trying.
Safety protocol in static apnea involves the time being called, the spotter tapping on your back. You give an “okay” sign, raising one finger to indicate consciousness without expending unnecessary effort.

Personally, with a proper calming breathe up, the urge to breathe kicks in at around two minutes. The time is called, okay. Again at 2:30, then three minutes. At two minutes and thirty seconds I began to have diaphragm spasms, light convulsions which are to be expected and aren’t so bad once you’re accustomed to them. At three minutes time is called every fifteen seconds. 3:15, 3:30, 3:45… I’m getting very close to my personal best.

At 3:30 I began to have very bad contractions, wracking my body and pulling my knees towards my chest with each one. Stay calm, ride it, you’ll be fine. I felt the blood shift begin, when the blood vessels in your extremities contract, forcing blood into your torso where it feeds your organs. Hands and feet tingle like finding warmth on a cold day.

At 3:45 the time was called. Tap, tap on my back, lift a finger. Tap again, lift again. Tap,tap tap, more urgently. Somewhere in the depths of my mind I knew my wife was panicking. I lifted a hand above the water and touched forefinger to thumb, “okay.”

Tap, tap, tap.

Within a minute I realized what I’d been feeling. It was the last endorphin rush you get before death, your mind getting you high to make the end bearable. I was dying.  And I made her watch. I took my partner of fifteen years, the person I love more than anyone else on Earth and forced her to stand idly by as I tried to kill myself.

I felt her fingers wrap themselves into my wetsuit top as she struggled to pull me from the water.

Which is how I found myself battering at her arms, straining to keep my face submersed, desperate to breathe, but too focused on my goals to give in. My last coherent memory is watching bubbles stream past my mask, wondering why I was exhaling. I need that air, it belongs in my body.

I went limp and she won, twenty seconds after our struggle began. I’d burned what little resources I had in the fight, eventually succumbing to a total loss of motor control. While I had not truly blacked out I was in the final throes of consciousness, moments from drowning in waist deep water.

Hypoxia euphoria is a very real thing, and for a few moments I was high as a kite, unable to focus my eyes or articulate my thoughts.

Thought which were, “What the fuck? I’m fine.”

What came out was, “Uh buh, uh buh, buh buh buh.”

Four minutes and five seconds. Six seconds from my personal best.

It’s shameful to admit, but my first reaction was fury. How dare she rob me of my chance to push myself? If hadn’t had to fight her for the last twenty seconds, if I’d stayed calm, I could’ve lasted.
I am such a fucking asshole.

Thankfully that feeling passed, and quickly. So quickly, in fact, I never got the chance to open my mouth and make a fool of myself. Within a minute I realized what I’d been feeling. It was the last endorphin rush you get before death, your mind getting you high to make the end bearable. I was dying.  And I made her watch. I took my partner of fifteen years, the person I love more than anyone else on Earth and forced her to stand idly by as I tried to kill myself.

If what I’d gone through was bad, what I’d just forced her to do, to stand and watch me taunt death from an arm’s length, was worse.We were laughing about it by the time we were in our car, on the way home.

Later, we drank a few beers, Pacifico for me and whatever terrible microbrew she currently loves for her, and talked it over. She says she knows I’m nuts, and she’s sorry for fucking up the attempt. For my part, I feel terrible, I had no right to ask her to spot me. I hadn’t realized it before that day, but you shouldn’t have a partner who can’t watch you die. It’s a crazy thing to say, but when you walk that edge you need someone who cares, but not too much.

The next two days went swimmingly (stupid pun totally intended.) She hit a personal best of 62 feet after overcoming a mental block I can only blame on my own close call. I managed to bottom out at 100 feet over a dozen times, proving, once and for all, that my new ear drum is sound and can make it to two hundred. And that’s the goal, for now.

See Rory hit a 100 feet here.

For information on Kurt Chambers’s class locations and availability, check out Hawaii Freedivers on Facebook

Note: This story forced appeared on the excellent, if cynical and race-baiting website, The Inertia.

Gettin' ready for da tube!

Thrilling: Vic Secret model gets barreled!

A shorebreak tube to rival Bruce Irons' 2004 Waimea gem!

The shorebreak is most undervalued in our surf-centric universe. It is something to punch through on the way to proper waves. It is something to hitch a ride on when the session is over. Some boogies and Jamie O’Brien, of course, find joy in the demolishing, neck-breaking Waimea shorepound but that is the only one I know of that even has a name.

Do you ever have fun in the shorbreak? Do you ever take a rest from your out-the-back surfing and loll around in the knee deep regions? Well Victoria’s Secret model Josephine Skriver does! Watch her here in St. Barths. She got sandy being sexy and had to wash it off and then got very barreled!

Does this win Wave of the Winter™? Was it better than Bruce Irons’ 100 point ride?

Filipe Toledo flogged Bruce Irons with soul based, brute machismo, round two, Billabong Pipeline Masters. | Photo: WSL

Pipe: Title Contenders’ Suckling Artistry!

Even Kelly Slater restores his crippled season on day two, Pipeline Masters… 

Were your hands as gluey as mine this morning? There were so many round two scenarios to consider, that even in the grey fingers of a North Shore dawn, the air was pregnant with tension.

Three title contenders faced sudden elimination.

An 11-time champ was on his last roll to emboss an ugly season.

Stumbling, low-rated surfers would attempt to squeeze a little last-minute dignity or, god willing, maybe even re-qualify.

Let’s snapshot.

First, Filipe Toledo whiplashed Bruce Irons with typically Brazilian derring-do. Did you see that coming, fourteen points to five? There’s nothing monotone about the maybe-soon-to-be-world-champ Filipe’s oily crouching and weaving. Memories of zero-point heat totals quickly fade when you entertain like Filipe.

Adriano’s blood pressure problem is getting better now that he twitched past the 17-year-old Pipe Invitational winner Jack Robinson. Did you know Adriano is staying at Jamie O’Brien’s house and that Jamie will surf against the title fav Mick Fanning in round three?

“He opened his house to me a few years back to practice at Pipe and I can’t thank him enough,” De Souza said. “He understands I want it so much and it was so big for me and my career. I really hope I can win this. I don’t have a big sponsor like Quiksilver or Billabong that have houses out here, I just have a national brand so I went to Jamie and just said you’re the man, if I can’t stay here I’ll sleep at your door because I want to surf every day here. I have so much respect for the locals out here and just want to spend as much time in the water as I can.”

Do you love Adriano even more now?

Julian Wilson blew past Haleiwa contest winner and wildcard Wade Carmichael without giving up too much of his sugar.

And Kelly! So last minute against Dusty Payne! Watch Kelly get the score and Dusty, who is now off the tour again, twist his face into a cretinous sneering monster. As if you wouldn’t be instantly transformed.

And Jordy, he was so priceless he makes life worth living.

Did you hang around for the women’s invitational? Carissa dug up the beans! I felt, maybe you did too, a rush of happiness watching Carissa belt down the front door.

Meanwhile, the surf is slowly disappearing. New swell middle of next week.

Who will fall under the dark curtain of oblivion?

Is it Adriano’s destiny to be the champ, 2016?

Will Jamie O, the fleshy but not fat Hawaiian, grope the past and snatch a second Pipe Masters, 11 years after the first?


Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 14.23 def. Bruce Irons (HAW) 5.07
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.77 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 11.20
Heat 3: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 13.10 def. Jack Robinson (AUS) 12.50
Heat 4: Adam Melling (AUS) 15.50 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 4.46
Heat 5:  Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.83 def. Wade Carmichael (AUS) 6.00
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 13.17 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 12.50
Heat 7: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.57 def. Dusty Payne (HAW) 14.93
Heat 8: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.50 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 6.74
Heat 9: Glenn Hall (IRL) 8.60 def. Nat Young (USA) 7.80
Heat 10: Keanu Asing (HAW) 10.33 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 4.90
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.93 def. Ricardo Christie (NZL) 5.43
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.00 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 4.87

Heat 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
Heat 2: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 3: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. C.J. Hobgood (USA)
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Michel Bourez (PYF)
Heat 5:  Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Jamie O’Brien (HAW)
Heat 6: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Taj Burrow (AUS)
Heat 7: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Mason Ho (HAW)
Heat 8: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Kai Otton (AUS)
Heat 9: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Sebastian Zeitz (HAW)
Heat 10: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 11: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS)
Heat 12: Adriano De Souza (BRA) vs. Glenn Hall (IRL)

1- Carissa Moore (HAW) 18.96
2- Courtney Conlogue (USA) 10.50
3- Keala Kennelly (HAW) 9.23
4- Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) 4.84

Confession: I’m cheering for ADS!

An Adriano de Souza championship could unite the world!

Pipeline is giving ‘er hell on day three of competition. It is not as big as day one, the trials, or day two, the Fall of Kelly, but it is very clean and looks fun. The commentators are talking lots about how You Can’t Script This™ and Only a Surfer Knows the Feeling™ and I Bought My Wedding Ring from a Surf Shop™ etc. because all the contenders are still in the running because Nobody Loses in Round One™ or Round Four™.

Filipe marched through his round two heat this morning, Mick Fanning moved directly to round three. Julian Wilson has an unseasoned Wade Carmichael in heat five and Brett Simpson is back to the World Qualifying Series.

There are many scenarios, still, but if I am really going to look in the mirror and be honest with myself, I must say, “I’m an Adriano de Souza man!” The little bee slaves away in all waves while people at home say he has a “poo stance™.” But he closes his ears to their caws, shows up to work and does work. He is the professional surfer construction workers from New Jersey can get behind (plus he wears a delightful gold chain over his hairy chest in WSL profile pic). He is a people’s champ.

He just dismissed the young Jack Robinson and did you watch him sit on him toward the end. He wants this title more than all!

And don’t you want a people’s champ to hold the trophy this year? Our world is very fractured. The 1% fights the 99%. Islamic radicals fight good-livin’ folk. Donald Trump fights Mexicans and Muslims and handicapped people. An ADS championship could unite us all. Don’t you want that? Don’t you wish for world peace?

Adriano De Souza

P.S. I’m only cheering for world peace if Julian Wilson cannot miraculously win. If J-Dub does it than I am all for divisiveness and golden boy smiles!

The wildcard Bruce Irons was under terrific scrutiny at the Pipeline Masters: In Memory of Andy Irons. But he returned with a thunderous whack! Second to Mick, sure, but real close. | Photo: WSL

Pipe: Bruce, Jamie, CJ are plumed serpents!

And Kelly accelerates towards worst season ever! Day one, Pipeline Masters.

What an event of passing contradictions the Pipe Masters is. A quick glance at the six-to-eight-foot hissing waves would’ve suggested nothing but blue tubes with sunbursts dancing over it all, the very best surfers riding ‘em to oblivion.

Tens and tens.

But the famous Pipe ain’t like that. It’s in the middle of the Pacific, for one. All that bellowing of rip and wind.

“I don’t want to be cruel but it’s extremely tough out there,” said the commentator Ross Williams.

And so we must examine these contradictions of a wave so perfect, yet so raw.

Where else might a retiring athlete well into his third decade emerge with the fluid power of a tiger from nowhere and collect a perfect score?

But where else, in the very same event, might a two-point, two-wave total ensure an easy win, as Bede Durbidge discovered in round one against Adam Melling and Wiggly Dantas? The worst heat ever in competition!

The heaviest wave in the world, as some call it, with a perfect air wedge? John John just humps the joint.

Bruce Irons’ social media campaign to get into the event thrilled plenty, disappointed a couple, when he got a start in the contest as a wildcard.

And yet his performance, the third-highest heat total of round one, and vigorous enough to suggest he ain’t spent, wasn’t enough to blow past the unnatural white brilliance of Mick Fanning.

With those ping-pong ball eyes bulging on either side of his face, Filipe Toledo almost disintegrated BeachGrit’s #1 pick Jamie O’Brien. That last-second insider just about did the trick but judges are consistent, if anything, and an insider ain’t gonna get you shit.

Kolohe Andino, meanwhile, nearly belted through to round three with a one-wave total.

Kelly Slater continued his trajectory toward his worst year in 22 seasons, possibly spinning out of the top ten. He has the energy of a 20 year year old and he gleams with enthusiasm… such a joy of living!… but it don’t mean a rideable wave is going to appear in front of you.

Who knew he could be so vulnerable?


Heat 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.26, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 9.33, Glenn Hall (IRL) 1.70

Heat 2: Mason Ho (HAW) 6.17, Jadson Andre (BRA) 5.70, Dusty Payne (HAW) 1.70
Heat 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.60, Keanu Asing (HAW) 7.84, Wade Carmichael (AUS) 3.73
Heat 4: Michel Bourez (PYF) 9.33, Adriano De Souza (BRA) 7.23, Jack Robinson (AUS) 5.06

Heat 5: Jamie O’Brien (HAW) 8.06, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 7.84, Kolohe Andino (USA) 6.50

Heat 6: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.60, Bruce Irons (HAW) 14.33, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 4.37

Heat 7: Kai Otton (AUS) 12.40, Julian Wilson (AUS) 3.84, Ricardo Christie (NZL) 3.10
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 11.27, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.17, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 3.94
Heat 9: CJ Hobgood (USA) 14.97, Taj Burrow (AUS) 11.26, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.80

Heat 10: John John Florence (HAW) 13.33, Nat Young (USA) 6.67, Brett Simpson (USA) 1.50
Heat 11: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 2.84, Adam Melling (AUS) 1.14, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 1.10
Heat 12: Josh Kerr (AUS) 13.06, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.17, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 3.44



Heat 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Bruce Irons (HAW)
Heat 2: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 3: Adriano De Souza (BRA) vs. Jack Robinson (AUS)
Heat 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 5:  Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Wade Carmichael (AUS)
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 7: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 8: Jadson Andre (BRA) vs. Sebastian Zietz (HAW)
Heat 9: Nat Young (USA) vs. Glenn Hall (IRL)
Heat 10: Keanu Asing (HAW) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Ricardo Christie (NZL)
Heat 12: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) vs. Jordy Smith (ZAF)