Couple years back, I don't remember the storm but my buddy and I had been waiting for the swell to show for days. It finally started to fill in nice and clean waist to chest so we head out to get some. After about 45 minutes of trading waves the wind turns onshore a bit and the swell really starts rising. We caught a few more but it was like after every wave you had to paddle out further and further. My friend, being the smarter of us, says hes going in. I give him the old "one more good one" speech and paddle back out. By now its pretty much out of control couple of feet overhead and breaking everywhere. I catch one and as Im kicking out I see a monster breaking right in front of me. I did my best to get as deep as I could but my feeble attempt was rejected and as Im getting destroyed I feel that horrible sense of freedom one feels as their leash snaps. My only thought was to do my best to stay inside the jetty and eventually the current would push me to it. Obviously I made it. I was humbled as a surfer that day but I gained a ton of confidence in my ability to maintain my composure and survive a bad situation.
Lipsmacker is right on when he speaks of the unwanted freedom from a broken leash. When you're thrown through the drink and don't feel the yank that comes from your stick tombstoning upward, you shake your leg to find a pull and no pull is found. You really already knew by then what the deal was but you were hoping this was an exception and that the light feeling on the ankle was just unusual slack on the leash. No dice. Free from the harness.
Then you look at the soup between you and the shore and it looks like you just poked your head out of a frozen lake covered in snow. You see that's not so viable then you look back at the sets coming in. You can't go front or back so you look to the side and see that jetty you hate so often for similar yet different perilous reasons. Now how good is your naval combat sidestroke?
The DR, of all places, a few years ago. Storm surge from who knows what storm event. It was just .... big....
Battled out in large, heaving troughs, paddled up the face of one critter, super tired from trying to make it, didn't make it, got slammed backwards by the lip, did a full 360 reverse, landed flat on stomach, wave pile drivered into me a split-second later, drove the wind out of me, then thrashed me fairly deep under, board broke in half, and then I felt the leash let go.
Scratched to the surface, barely, with no air cause I went under with no air. Exhausted & yeah it was spooky, sketchy & scary. Local pro, named Pedry, awesome dude, he saw it all from 40' away & paddled over & let me hang on his board to survive the next set. Lessons learned.
Waves where not that big... Out of no where and unexpected a cleanup set -broke way far out - unbelievably far- by the time it got to me in the lineup it was 10 to 15ft of foam white water- went under and was pinned to the bottom forever and couldn't move or know which way was up... Out of breath and still pinned - I climbed my leash
One of my scariest moments in the water wasn't even on a huge day. I was long boarding during hurricane Earl in 2010 and the waves were stomach to chest. It was a real fun and I was snagging rides all day. I caught a good ride and got greedy as I was paddling back out. Another set was coming through and I spun around and paddled twice going for the late drop before I decided to bail and dove into the wave. The board dragged me for a little bit then must have come tomahawking back at me and nailed me in the head as soon as my head was breaking the surface. Everything flashed white and then was fading to black and I remember thinking "don't be knocked out" as I reached up and grabbed my board. I ended up holding it for a couple minutes until the waves pushed me to the beach. I kept feeling my head but couldn't tell if I was bleeding, I just knew it hurt.
When I got to my truck I looked at the board and saw the cracked rail of my heavy, volan glassed board with my hair stuck in the cracks. I got a couple funny looks and told another surfer to have fun out there before heading home. This pic shows the cleaned up view.