Featured Image: Dom Daher / Red Bull Content Pool
26th November 2018, Jaws, Maui: A huge swell has seen the world’s best big wave surfers convene on the Hawaiian Island of Maui’s north coast for the most anticipated stop on the WSL Big Wave Tour, the Jaws Challenge.
Having successfully qualified for the final after posting one of the highest scores of the event in her semi, France’s Justine Dupont has just completed a ride when a huge set of waves blackens the horizon. Caught in the ‘impact zone’, well beyond the reach of the safety teams on jetskis, Dupont readies herself just as she’d trained to do, time and time again.
“I could hear everybody screaming for the big set, I was paddling out, but not enough to escape.” With her safety vest only partially inflated, the 28-year-old knew she would be in for a rough ride when the wave hit.
“I think it’s funny to get blasted by a big wave. But it wasn’t funny this time, I’ve never felt so much violence underwater”
“I just got destroyed. Normally I almost laugh in that situation, I think it’s funny to get blasted by a big wave. But it wasn’t funny this time, I’ve never felt so much violence underwater. Luckily, my leash broke before the board could do any more damage to my knee.”
Taking the full weight of one the biggest Pacific winter swells forecast in recent years on the head, Justine was hyperextended underwater, dislocating her shoulder and knee, rendering her essentially immobile, unable even to kick for the surface.
“I knew, underwater, my contest was over. When I came up I was seeing stars, and then the next wave hit. Before I went under again, I was saying to myself ‘Take a breath, keep calm.’