This Pismo trip was a little bit different than what I usually expect. Every trip I come home pumped with lots of good memories to reflect on. This trip I came home with none of those feelings. This trip I came home bummed and with an empty spot on my trailer.
The trip started like any other Pismo freeride trip. We headed out Thursday night and came home a few days later. The conditions on Friday were pretty nice. I had a great time surfing the waves and hanging out with everyone, it’s always good to catch up with friends. Saturday the waves were much larger and I was able to get my SuperJet upside down for some awesome pictures. I kept pushing it and wanted more. Nothing but smiles.
Sunday was a little different, usually I don’t ride on Sunday because we have to head home. This trip we decided to stay an extra day and head home first thing Monday morning. I was stoked to have one more day of progression for the trip. I had a good riding session in the morning and then relaxed for a bit. Then I enjoyed some cake by the ocean (Thanks Evan Kilkus).
Now it was time for an afternoon of riding. I suited up and started sending it, this was the first trip that I was really trying to get flips dialed in. I was in the back playing in the big sets with everyone. I was getting tired and I decided it was time to go for one last flip before I head in. Well it turns out that saying ‘just one more’ will burn you every time.
I landed the flip but then bobbled and fell over. I scrambled to get my lanyard back in. As I was going to plug my lanyard in I look over my shoulder and see at 10’+ wave right behind me, I knew it was going to be ugly. At this point all I could do is hold on as tight as possible and hope I don’t get separated. That wave was a beast. The ski was instantly ripped out of my hands and I got tumbled like a rag doll. When I finally surfaced I searched for my ski, I saw that it was about 50ft from me towards shore and floating upside down. I immediately started swimming for the ski, luckily my buddy Anthony Nelson swooped in (on the Wave Jammer) and brought me back to my ski. I quickly noticed that not many people were riding at the time, I guess everyone had gone in. So it was basically just me, my swamped ski, and the ocean.
When I up righted the ski I knew there was no way it would start, it was completely swamped. I knew the only way to get it back in would be lay in the tray and hope the waves push me in. My hopes were immediately crushed as another massive wave broke right on top of me and ripped the ski out of my hands again. Luckily after this tumble I could get back to my ski quickly. At this point I noticed that it had taken on lots of water and the nose was starting to go under. I got on the tray and hoped that the bilge pumps could clear it out and I could safely get back to shore.
The ocean decided it had a different plan, I just kept getting hammered with wave after wave. The nose of my SuperJet started to go under and the tail of it started to bob. As the ski was bobbing the current swept me out past the back set. As I was on my way out to sea, my buddy Jake Biland found me and headed to shore for a tow rope. Not long after Jake left, my ski slowly began to go deeper and deeper underwater.
At this point my ski was under the surface and I was the only thing keeping it from going to the bottom. My JetPilot life vest does a great job of floating me, but it’s not really designed to keep a ski afloat. The swells in the ocean were massive, but my ski seemed to stay at a constant level. As a swell would come my ski would pull me under water for a few seconds, when the swell left I could catch a breath of air. I kept holding my breath and going under with my ski as long as I could.
This was where I made one of the toughest decisions of my life, I finally had to let my ski go. (It felt like that scene in the Titanic where Rose lets go of Jack and he slowly sinks to the bottom of the ocean) I watched my ski slowly disappear as it went down in the ocean. I will never forget that moment as long as I live.
Now I was just floating in the middle of the ocean all alone. I was hanging out for quite some time until I saw Jake pop up over a wave. I could tell he was looking for me, but couldn’t see me. I waving my arms so he could easily spot me, he finally noticed me and rode over. I was very relieved to know I would finally be on shore soon.
I grabbed on to Jake and he began to tow me back in. The ride was a bit smoky from the exhaust, but it was still better than swimming. Before we got to the break I realized that I had to go into the hellhole that I just got out of. Since I was being towed there was no way we could outrun the waves. I held on the Jake as long as I could. When a massive wave came up I had to let go and get tumbled while Jake circled back around to get me. We probably did this 4 or 5 times before we finally made it to shore.
I’ve never been so happy to be back on land. As I slowly walked up the beach everyone stared at me with a puzzled look. They soon realized that my ski was gone. I slowly walked back to the truck and sat down to reflect on what just happened. Riding the surf is like playing with fire, eventually you will get burned. Sadly that Sunday I got burned badly.
After sitting for a moment I flagged down a ranger to report that my ski had been sunk. They took a quick note and said to keep an eye out for it. I was told to fill out a missing vehicle report the following day if it hadn’t shown up yet. After talking to the ranger I walked up to the Liquid Militia tent for some food (Thanks Kyla). We finally started packing up and I noticed a big pile of trash bags on the beach from inconsiderate people that attended the freeride. I piled as much trash as I could on the empty spot on my trailer to take to the dumpster. I thought if I made peace with the ocean it might give my ski back unharmed. Once we made it back to the hotel we had a quick hot tub session and then it was off to bed.
The next morning we checked out of the room and hit the beach. I drove up and down the entire beach hoping that I would spot my ski. Sadly we didn’t see anything. At this point I knew I needed to fill out an official missing vehicle report. I went to the ranger station, filled out the report, and headed home empty handed. The whole drive home I kept looking in my mirror hoping to see my ski, but all I saw were some empty bunks. I got home, unpacked, and prepared for work the next day.
As the week went on reality finally set in and I was super bummed that my ski was gone and I may never see it again. I always had hope of it washing up, but as the weekend approached I began to loose hope. The following weekend I was working at my shop and all I kept doing was staring at my empty stand that used to hold a SuperJet. I felt like I had lost a family member, that ski helped me achieve all of my accomplishments throughout my jet ski career. It was one of a kind and could never be replaced.
Almost exactly a week later (Sunday afternoon) I received a phone call form a blocked number, I answered the phone to hear that a Pismo park ranger was on the other side. He said that my ski was found washed up on the beach and that a towing company picked it up and had it at impound. I immediately called the towing company to find out the details. They couldn’t tell me much since it was the weekend, I had to call back in the morning to figure out what’s going on. I was stoked that my ski had returned. Now I just needed to figure out how to get the ski back.
The following morning I called the towing company and they hit me with some bad news. My tow bill was currently at $580 for getting my ski off the beach and storing it overnight. I was also informed that storage was $100 a day and if I picked it up on the weekend it would be a gate fee of $150 in addition to the current bill. I was really worried that I wouldn’t have the cash to get my ski back. I asked if I could have a friend pick my ski up on my behalf, they said it was fine if they had a note from me.
After calling a few locals I got ahold of Sean Starr who was one of the local freeriders. Sean and I had met at the Grayland Open, but we didn’t really know each other that well. I explained my situation to Sean so he knew what was going on. Before I could even finish my story Sean took the words out of my mouth. He offered to pick up my ski and get it cleaned out for me. Sean also gave me a place to stay when I drove up to grab the ski. Without Sean I would have really been in a bad spot. He did a great job of cleaning the ski and sent me plenty of pictures to help me assess the damage.
I was stoked to know that my ski was back in good hands, now I just had to finish a long work week before I could be reunited with my ski. Friday morning finally came and I couldn’t wait to hit the road and get my ski. As soon as I got off, Brandi and I got up to Pismo as fast as possible. We arrived at 2:30 am and found that Sean had a bed for us that was ready to go. We crashed out for a few hours and woke up to a nice dog hoping on the bed. I immediately got up and checked out my ski in the daylight. My ski was absolutely hammered, the hull seemed sound, but everything else was pretty trashed. The ocean broke off my bars, steering, and hood. My ski also got a wrecked paint job along with massive amounts of sand and even a bird skull. At this point it was basically a total loss. I was bummed, but I was happy to have my ski back. After assessing the ski we grabbed some breakfast and hit the road back to Las Vegas.
After I got home I could check out my ski to see the extent of the damage. Besides the hull and a few parts I basically have to start from scratch. I’m pretty bummed about the time and effort I had into my ski, because it was all ruined. I’m now trying to figure out where to start with the rebuild, or if I should just start over. Right now the possibilities are endless.
Since my incident many people have asked if I am done with freeride or done riding skis all together. Do you drop a beer and stop drinking forever? Hell no! I will definitely be back. I know my event was very tragic, but it wasn’t bad enough to stop me. I’m sure my SuperJet will live to ride another day, it will just take some time and money to get it back on the water. When I come back I will be pushing harder than ever to make up for lost time. Progression is my drug and I want to keep pushing until I am killing it.
After reflecting on everything I am very grateful for the freeride jet ski community. Without my buddies I may have not gotten my ski back or I may have floated out to sea forever. Our riding community is like nothing else, people went out of their way to help me out and some even put their lives in danger to save me. This is a scenario that I will never forget. If it wasn’t for Jake, Anthony, and Sean I could be much worse off. I may have not been able to write this article.
I’ll see you all this summer, I know there are a lot good time ahead of us on the water!