Surfers are constantly on the hunt for the “big one” – that epic wave they’ll be able to tell their grand kids about. But for New Zealand surfer Chris Nel, that epic wave turned into a nightmare. Nel was out surfing with five friends in the Samoan Islands last week when a catastrophic 8.3 magnitude earthquake struck, sending a towering tsunami of water rumbling his way.
Before they even realized it, the ocean around them was rushing back out to sea, sucking Chris and his friends along with it. Chris describes the scary feeling of doom as he was pulled towards the giant mass of water, powerless to do anything but ride out the waves. For the next 45 minutes, Nel and his friends struggled to stay afloat in the pounding tsunami surge, worried they would be smashed into the beach or jungle. Finally, the friends caught a lucky break, scrambling to safety back on land in between surges. However, the surf camp where he was staying was completely destroyed. Chris returned to New Zealand wearing nothing but a pair of jeans found in the jungle.
For all the tragedy that came from last week’s earthquakes and tsunamis, it’s heartening to hear of some good news. Despite the increasing availability of tsunami warning systems in the Pacific Ocean, it’s not likely Nel or his friends would have even had time to get out of the water, even if they learned of the wave in advance. Like any outdoor sport, surfing is not without its occasional risk – sometimes you just happen to get lucky.