Monday, November 2, 2009


Mother Nature is The Boss . . .

An unusual tale of sea survival . . . or perhaps better described as SURF survival . . . . . . . S.L.

I SURFED THE TSUNAMI TO SAFETY: Briton tells of remarkable escape by riding OVER deadly Samoan wave
Mail Foreign Service - 2 October 2009

A British survivor survived the tsunami which devastated the South Pacific by paddling towards the towering wave, he has claimed.

Tom Gogola, from Devon, was in Samoa for a three-week holiday when the island was hit by a 20-foot wall of water.

The 22-year-old was in the water surfing when he saw the wave racing towards the shore.

He did the only thing he could - and paddled as hard as possible straight for the wave.

Situational awareness probably saved his life.

Aiming the tip of his surfboard up to ensure its nose was not pushed under by the towering wall of water, he said he rode right up and over the top of the wave.

It is not clear how far out to sea Mr. Gogola was at the time. The nearer tsunami wave comes to shore, the more quickly it will change height as the water becomes more and more shallow.

Mr Gogola's father Steve, 59, said: "He said it was pretty unreal surfing when the tsunami happened. He and a friend decided to paddle out, rather than in, and they were picked up by a boat.

"Tom also said half of the people who were surfing got washed into the jungle."
Mr. Gogola, keeping in contact with his family on Facebook, said the tsunami has taken everything apart from a few clothes.

The college student wrote yesterday: "I've lost everything but I've still got my life."

This young man - he is no longer a kid after what he went through - has a good survival attitude.

His father said: "When I saw the news I thought, oh God, Tom is out there, I hope he is alright."

Mr. Gogola was not the only surfer to survive the giant wave by riding it out.

SURFED TO SAFETY: Chris Nel rode out the tsunami for an hour and a half, fearing that he would be smashed into the land at any second if he lost control

New Zealand student Chris Nel was surfing on the south coast of Savai'i island in Western Samoa when the 8.3 magnitude quake struck on Wednesday morning. He had been in the water with four other New Zealand surfers and an Australian when the tsunami appeared.

Mr. Nel, a hospitality student, was forced to ride out the tsunami on his surfboard for more than half an hour, fearing he would be 'smashed into the jungle' by the surging water.

Now, back home on dry land, he is thanking his lucky stars that he lived to tell the tale.

RIDING THE WAVE: The roof of a building is swept away by a tsunami wave in Apia, Samoa, on Tuesday

Mr. Nel, from Wellington, was on holiday in Western Samoa when the massive undersea earthquake struck.

"I went out early morning for a surf, then I felt the tremor - you get them all the time in New Zealand, so I didn't really think too much of it. Then I went out in the water and caught a few waves."

Mr. Nel had been in the water with an Australian man and four other New Zealanders when the first signs of the coming tsunami appeared.

"All of a sudden the water went really weird, it kind of glassed off and got really lumpy, then we started moving really quick, getting sucked out to sea," he said.

CALM BEFORE THE STORM: The water is eerily glassy as the first of a series of tsunami waves approaches the shore outside the Ulimasao Marist Center, in Vailoa, in Samoa on Tuesday.

"It was pretty scary looking back and seeing the reef completely dried up; it looked like a volcanic riverbed, it was just gone."

Then he saw a giant spurt of water hit the shore.

"I was thinking, This is it, we're going to get washed away and smashed into the jungle."

"We didn't know what was going on, we thought, Why is no one coming out to help us?" but it turned out everyone had already been evacuated by that point."

The surfers tried in vain to reach the shore as whole trees started floating past them. They lay on the surfboards as wave surges swept ashore, riding them out and trying not to get smashed.

"After about 35 or 45 minutes of floating around, we managed to time it between a surge to get to land through the reef channel," Mr. Nel said.

When he made it to shore, he saw that the surf camp he had been staying at had been destroyed.

"A lot of my stuff got washed out to sea and I found one of my surfboards in the jungle," Mr. Nel told the Dominion Post newspaper.

Animation of the tsunami moving through the Pacific:

Initially he had stayed at the beach to help salvage a wrecked boat but left when he heard another tsunami warning.

"Everyone just got out of there. I managed to grab my passport and board shorts."
The surfers headed to a village and waited for about five hours until the threat of a second surge had passed.

Days earlier, Mr. Nel had been surfing off the south coast of Upolu, an area that was devastated by the tsunami.

Mr. Nel left Samoa on Thursday, flying back to Wellington wearing the pair of jeans he had managed to find in the jungle.

"We were really, really lucky," he said.

Luck is skill, preparedness & opportunity.

"If anyone had caught a wave closer to shore there would have definitely been people who would have died or been severely injured."

"Hey! Charlie don't surf!"