Photo: Robert Zaleski

Photo: Robert Zaleski

On Monday, November 11, Zane Schweitzer was up before the sun to greet some fresh winter swell with his standup board. He didn’t know his surf would turn into a rescue mission. Here’s the story in his own words.
—Will Taylor

I woke up at five in the morning to check the surf. I left the house and went straight to Little Makaha. The guy (I'd save) was on the point watching. Even though it looked good there, I decided to check the waves at Honolua (Bay). It was washed out and rolling through so I went straight back to Little Makaha.

When I got there I pulled my 7'l" and paddle from the truck and went straight to the water. This guy Don (Rickerd) that lives in a condo right there was on the point with his binoculars. He said there was a guy with a rental standup board and an adjustable paddle out that had broken his leash. It was early, early, just when the sun was coming out. Luckily, Don was keeping an eye on him.

It was 10-12-foot faces. Don was watching him through the binoculars. By the time I got in I couldn't even see him. Don pointed (his board) out to me and said the guy had been without a board for 20 minutes and that I might want to go check on him because he was definitely having a hard time. He was probably 300 meters or so away from the point. I took my 7'1" paddleboard (and paddle) out there, and paddled right over a perfect, barreling six-foot Hawaiian set. I needed the (SUP) vantage point to keep an eye on him. I was just looking at his board.

Little Makaha. Photo: Darrell Wong

Little Makaha. Photo: Darrell Wong

When I got close enough to see him, he was panicked, waving his hand and yelling for help and he hadn't even seen me yet. He was choking water by the time I got to him. It was definitely a blessing that I was able to get to him in time. I think he was more embarrassed than grateful when I got to him, that he got himself into this crazy situation.

I got off my board, took my leash off and put it on his ankle. I told him to rest on my board, take a breath, relax and that (he was) going to be all right. After a few minutes he caught his breath and I said, "Hold on for your life, I'm gonna go get your board." It was about 100 meters away. I knew it would be hard to get us both in on my 7'1."

It was a gnarly (swim). About ten minutes into it I though, "Shit, this is sharky." I put that out of my head and fifteen minutes later I got the board and got back to him.

We were three bays down because of the current, about 500 meters away. I got him on his big board and helped him in to the beach. He was able to paddle in lying down but he lost his adjustable paddle. On the way I could see ambulances and fire tucks going up and down the highway, someone must have called it in. We got on the street and my grandparents were there because they live right there. We got in with them to get a ride to our trucks.

Driving back, a fire truck came the other way looking for him. I got out and waved them down. They gave me a handshake, hug and said thank you, asked him a few questions and we were on our way. The whole thing probably took an hour. I had to teach a class at the surf school at nine so I didn't even get to catch a wave.

His name was Aaron. He was a young, fit guy. A friend said he was a kite surfer so he was probably comfortable in the ocean but he broke his leash and was in rough conditions and was swimming for 20-30 minutes.

There are two lessons to learn from this: first, if you're going out into surf that's dangerous you always check your equipment. His leash string untied and left him without his board. Second, don't go out by yourself. You should always have a buddy system. I'm in the wrong there, because I was going out by myself. You always want to keep an eye on each other.