The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: sos

Holy Hell. This is Why Giant Waves are the Greatest Show on Earth.

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That’s gonna hurt. In fact it might just kill you. A frozen moment of carnage at Jaws.
All frame grabs courtesy: World Surf League. 

Yesterday I had the honor of reporting on the the inaugural Big Wave World Tour Pe’ahi Invitational for Surfline.com. Holy hell. The. Most. Insane. Surf. Contest. Ever. Watching it live in my living room on, and wondering if Greg Long, Billy Kemper, Carlos Burle, Shane Dorian and a slew of other madmen were going to even survive this cerulean gladiator pit was a wild, stomach clenching ride – even from the safety of the couch.

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Shane Dorian. Will he make it? Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

At the end of the line, feel free to give my Surfline story a click, and comment on whether you agree with my prognostications, or whether I’m missing something altogether. — CD

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A view from the contest HQ. Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

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Maui Local Albee Layer. Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

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Helicopter Pilot Don Shearer gets his cameraman a drone’s eye view. Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

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The ski would end up a casualty of the wildest surf contest in history. Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

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Greg Long. Maybe the biggest wave ever paddled into at Pe’ahi. At least Jaws guru Dave Kalama thought so. Frame grab courtesy: World Surf League. 

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“It was the Best Thing I’ve Ever Done.” Back in Salt: Living to Surf Again, Thanks to Big-Wave Surfer Darryl “Flea” Virostko and FleaHab.

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Photo courtesy of Henry Skipp.

Henry Skipp was the brightest, most interesting and articulate mind I encountered during my collegiate years. He was also my best friend.

We were both pursuing higher education with some degree of reluctance. I had left my dream job where I was preparing to take over a successful charter fishing business out of Long Island Sound, and Henry had turned down an invitation to join a surf team based out of Miami, Florida. These were, perhaps, wise decisions in the long run, but at the time we shared the agony of being trapped in academia after rejecting more aquatic career paths.

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Photo courtesy of Henry Skipp.

Instead, as our gills began to dry, we were forced to endure “society” parties, as they were called at our school, all awash with bad music, frat boys, and worse still, bad beer. We found solace in commiserating.

I was just finding my way in the world of surfing, and Henry was all too happy to show me the ropes. There weren’t too many other people interested in surfing at our tiny liberal arts school in East Los Angeles. We were obliviously optimistic in thinking we might tailor our schooling to 45-minute surf trips to Newport Beach, with no car. But no one shared our lust for the sea. Anyone who does, generally would have the common sense not to go to school in East LA.

We lived in the same dormitory, but Henry was crammed in with two obnoxious baseball players whose lives seemed to revolve around their shot glasses and Carmen Elektra posters. I took pity on my new companion and offered to have him move into my spacious single room.

When we weren’t in class, Henry would talk Thomas Campbell and Dave Rastovich, or peel through Surfer’s Journal magazines with big, glossy double page spreads of photographs by Tom Servais; I’d ramble on about fly fishing for striped bass and missing the bluefin tuna run each fall. We’d also talk literature–mostly Hemingway, about whom his grandfather had taught an entire course for something like two decades at Duke University.

Occasionally we’d scrounge a ride to the beach, where Henry would try, and mostly fail, to enlighten me with the finer points of surfing.

Time passed and we tore our way, fighting tooth and nail, through academia, dreaming of a life outside, and the surf trips we’d take to Nicaragua and Panama after graduation – trips which, I’m grateful to report, are still being considered.

Then I went off to Portugal, where less class and better public transportation meant I could make it to the beach almost every day after school.

Henry stayed behind in LA. He continued to struggle with some inner demons, and somewhere along the way, he went dark. I stopped hearing from him, mostly. When he did call, his voice was flat and dull. His responses to my suggestions of far-flung surf adventures were curt and bleak.

Our lines of communication shut down, and we all but lost contact.

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Photo courtesy of Henry Skipp.

More recently, on my way to New Zealand, I gave him a ring, recalling that he’d mentioned having moved to Santa Cruz several months before. I asked him to meet me in San Francisco for the weekend. We could catch up, and I could break up my long flight from New York.

“Sure,” he said to my surprise. He didn’t have a car yet, but agreed to bus up on Friday night and meet me.

Meeting him on Lombard Street in my old neighborhood, I could have just as soon passed him by – not that he’d visibly aged, but because his head was high, his eyes were bright and he wore a genuine, bonafide smile I’d not seen in years.

“Where have you been?” I asked after the pleasantries.

“FleaHab,” he replied.

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Lessons in Boating: So This Is Why My Father Told Me Never to Buy an Aluminum Boat.

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD

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Don’t ever buy an aluminum boat with rivets. This is never a good sight, but I must admit it evoked comical imagery from my Disney and Looney Toon-watching days. Word to the wise: A cork or partially chewed gum may work in the cartoons, but it most certainly does not work on an aluminum boat in the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Owen James Burke.

I promised I’d buy myself something classic for my seaward adventures in New Zealand. Something wooden, open-sea-worthy. Timeless. Big sweeping lines with a tall, sheer bow, ready for any swell the South Seas might throw her way. Instead, I ended up with a small, leaky tin boat. I suppose I got what I had coming.

We used to call those “fizzies”, my dad replied when I wrote to report that I’d purchased an old aluminum boat.

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Yes, the entire deck of my poor, neglected skiff doubles as a livewell and petting tank. At least my mussels, abalone and sea urchins can stay fresh. Photo: Owen James Burke.

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“This Is My Wilson”: A Canadian Man Survived Rapids and Whirlpools Clinging to a Crab Float and Jerry Cans for Hours off Vancouver Island

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Photo: CTV News.

“Kevin Strain is having difficulty deciding where he’ll hang the crab float he credits with saving his life,” the Vancouver Sun reports after Kevin Strain, who was not wearing a life jacket, remained alive and afloat for more than two hours thanks to a pair of 20-liter (6.6 gallon) fuel cans and a crab float to which he clung after the fishing vessel he was aboard struck a rock.

“This is my Wilson,” he told the Sun.

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Semper Paratus: Watch The USCG Coordinate the Rescue of 36 Fishermen from a Burning Vessel. . .Over 2,000 Miles Southwest of Hawaii

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Credit: USCG. Video below.

The United States Coast Guard’s 14th District in Hawaii is responsible for a 12.2 million square mile swathe of land and sea (that’s almost twice the size of Russia). When the 70 meter (230-foot) fishing vessel Glory Pacific No. 8 activated their EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), it was the USCG’s responsibility to organize the rescue of the Papua New Guinea-flagged ship, which had caught fire 2,071 miles southwest of Hawaii.

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The Long Rain. Joaquin’s Filthy Barrels, Epic Devastation and Rising Tide. A Photo Diary from Charleston.

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Griffin Jackson. Folly Beach. Photo: Justin Morris/Follyhood.

THE rain continued. It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and the ton, it hacked at the jungle and cut the trees like scissors and shaved the grass and tunneled the soil and molted the bushes. It shrank men’s hands into the hands of wrinkled apes; it rained a solid glassy rain, and it never stopped. — Ray Bradbury.


Here in South Carolina, the past two weeks have been best of times for surfers, and the worst of times for everyone else. I’m not really sure how to otherwise describe the last two weeks of life here. As everyone knows, Hurricane Joaquin and the Almighty conspired just over a week ago, to unleash an apocalyptic fire hose of precipitation and surf on the Palmetto State. Rainfall in some places near my home in Charleston was along the lines of 25 inches over the course of three days. That’s half of the average annual rainfall for many parts of the state – over the course of 72 hours. If you’ve ever seen a “Pineapple Express” hit southern California – it was sort of like that, only much, much worse.

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A couple of days before Joaquin. Photo: Chris Dixon

In the days and hours leading up to the first drops of rain, while hapless Bahamians and the crew of the container ship El Faro were being mercilessly hammered, our coast was blessed with a stretch of heavenly weather and perfect waves. That’s always been the Faustian, nerve-wracking, and immoral bargain Gulf and East Coast surfers make with hurricanes. Someone is being slammed. Someone else is feasting on tropically sourced waves – and that someone may soon be under the gun too. And we would indeed be under the gun.

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The first line of storms just offshore from Folly Beach. Photo: Chris Dixon

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The Last Dive Into Devil’s Hole.

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James Houtz came into this world nearly 80 years ago during a raging snowstorm. He lived the first three years of his life in a tiny Colorado outpost called Allen’s Park, but at the age of four, he and his older sister moved to Catalina Island after their mother was offered a job running a popular Girl Scout camp. When the Houtz’s weren’t on the island, they lived in an equally remote cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains above Los Angeles. Jim was rarely indoors, spending his early years hiking playing and hunting in the hills or diving and spearfishing in Catalina’s crystalline waters. Eventually he also took up surfing, growing particularly fond of the long pointbreak rollers around Santa Barbara.

A fanatical obsession with diving eventually led Houtz to enlist in the U.S. Navy’s submarine forces on an underwater demolition team – the precursor unit to the SEALS. He dove to recover spent torpedoes and Regulus II missiles (the first nukes ever to be launched from submarines) and led in acoustical experiments aimed at helping ships and subs run silent through the water.

Houtz was honorably discharged in 1960. He became a diving instructor and fell in with a team of experimental mermen who were working determine what sorts of exotic cocktail of oxygen, nitrogen, helium and other inert gasses might prevent the deadly state of deep dive drunkenness known as nitrogen narcosis.

By the early mid 1960’s, Houtz began a well-publicized mapping exploration of the deepest depths of a gigantic, tidally influenced western aquifer whose sole connection to the earth’s surface is a tiny volcanic fissure near Death Valley – a scar called Devils’ Hole. The hole is home to a critically endangered species, the Devil’s Hole Pupfish, and is steeped in lore. Native Americans held that a beast hid in its depths that would leap from the water and pull careless humans to their deaths. The Reverend Ethan Allen believed it a gateway to Hell, while Charles Manson thought his Family could hide safely in its depths during the coming chaos of Helter Skelter, and find a lost city of gold.

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Merl Dobry and Jim Houtz inch their way through a narrow passage on the way to Brown’s Room. The photograph illuminated a world of utter darkness darkness at 92 feet. Photo courtesy, Jim Houtz.

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Watch an Ocean Sinkhole Swallow a Beautiful Campsite, Car and Trailers on Australia’s Sunshine Coast

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Devastation of the campground lost into the sea by a sinkhole, which forced the evacuation of over 300 campers and staff. Photo by Kieren Hudson.

Earlier this week, a major sinkhole occurred at the Inskip Point Campgrounds on Australia’s Sunshine coast. Luckily no one was injured but according to Clayton Towing, campers ” Heard a noise like a storm. On looking they realized the sand was rapidly disappearing into the ocean at an amazing speed. They only just got their 4wds and caravans out with seconds to spare, as their campsite disappeared 3 metres down into the ocean. A 4wd, large caravan, camper trailer, and tents on the site next to them were all swallowed into the ocean.”

Sinkholes are caused by the collapse of underground caves or other cavities due to heavy rain, flooding, or earthquakes, which can destabilize the rocks beneath Earth’s surface.

“This area has a history where sinkholes occur regularly, it has something to do with the way sediments are formed and the way water moves through the Earth over millions of years or thousands of years,” geotechnical engineer Allison Golsby from consulting company ConsultMine told the ABC.

Check out the dashcam footage of the chaos that ensued below. The sh** gets real at about 8 minutes in.

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