Mavericks SUP Surfer Gives First Hand Account

While the recent session at Mavericks is being hailed as 'all time,' nary a session goes down out there without an incident or two requiring a hospital visit. Greg Long's scary eardrum bursting two wave hold down is a case in point. But wait, there's more… SUP surfer Haley Fiske contacted us and gave his account of a tow-in surfer (Santa Cruz surfing icon Anthony Ruffo) vs. himself. Fiske lost. Reliable sources in the channel have told us that Fiske "got dead-on, full-speed hammered." – SURFER Magazine

Haley Fiske's first hand account as told to Scott Bass:

I was out at Mavs on Sunday Morning. According to Todd Glasser at Surfer Magazine, it was apparently to offshore to paddle; but clearly not to offshore to SUP. I had SUP'd out there Saturday morning and had it solo for 1-2 hours. I was looking for the same experience. It was high tide in the morning and I figured the crowd would be minimal. I try to avoid the crowds.

Boy was I wrong. I paddled out at 7:30AM. I was not alone. There were 7-10 tow teams, 10-20 other skis with photographers, a couple of boats and a helicopter. The tow-in guys were buzzing around me like giant gnats. Many of the original Mavs tow crew were out there: Skindog, Flea, Jeff Clark, etc… all of the tow-guys paddle and clearly they thought it was to offshore to paddle. I knew from experience that it was not too offshore to SUP. Plus, I had my "cheater" board, specifically made for the biggest of big days. It is a 12"6' PSH and will let me into crazy waves that you'd be a nut to try to paddle into laying down.

I start inching toward the bowl. It had been glassy the day before, but this day it was choppy in the bowl due to all the ski wake. I kept trying to catch waves and the tow-crew kept whipping guys in behind me. After about three or four sets I pick off a medium sized wave (probably 4-5X overhead). After the drop there was too much shoulder on it, so I kicked out. I personally like the waves that bowl up down the line and jack up all crazy on the inside in front of the rocks.

I paddled out to get another one.

Much of what is printed in the magazine about tow-in vs. paddle has not been what I have observed. Very few tow-in guys will stop when I show up. The unspoken agreement between the tow-in crew and the SUP-guy is, "f**k the SUP-guy." To them I'm just another kook on a SUP. I don’t count.

I usually don’t care what they think. I am used to getting vibed. Plus, to their credit, they will check on me when I get mauled. I do, however, get bummed when the face of the wave is all waked up from the ski. Some of the guys drive a little fast for my taste, but it is really the guys that lack skills behind the ski that scare me the most. And believe me, there are some tow-in teams that lack skills.

As I moved outside the 4-stroke circus continued. Clearly many of the tow guys were thinking “f**k the SUP-guy”. They seemed to be motoring by pretty fast and pretty close. To me, it seemed as though they were trying to get the wake as close to me as possible to make me fall. But I am used to the chop four times the size of their wakes, so it didn't work. After a lot of the buzz-bys I’m thinking, “fuck them, it's my turn." For me to get a wave, I am going to have to resort to stuffing someone. But every time I paddle for a wave, I know the tow-in guy riding the wave. In fact, they are all guys I know or know of. Finally I catch another wave. I look back and Skindog is behind me. He might have issues with me but I don't have any issue with him, so I kick out.

Now I'm paddling back out and Anthony Ruffo has been whipped in and is already riding it. The ski is real low in the trough and Ruffo is high lining it. This is the opposite of what usually happens. Ususally the ski is up high and the surfer is down low. Anyway Ruffo, you know his deal, from the Westside, he rips in all conditions and he is taking the blazing fast high line. He is taking what I would call the "speed line." I, of course, am plodding along on my SUP, paddling for the shoulder. My primary goal is to get out of the way of the ski. If I get nailed by the ski I know that I am toast.

Luckily, the ski goes blowing by. With that accomplished, I am now making my way for the shoulder, watching Ruffo, and I am thinking “What the hell is he doing? He isn't going to kickout? Crap, he’s taking the wrong line."

Maybe he was trying to spray me? Maybe the sun was in his eyes? Who knows? But he tries to lay down this crazy turn on a 30 ft face. Now, let me tell you, if he'd have pulled it off, it would have been sick! Unfortunately for me he didn't pull it. The fins on his board release and I see all three fins leave the water. Not good. He and his board came skipping down the wave, directly at my head. I dove into the wave to try and avoid the collision. I get very little penetration because of my floatation vest. BLAM! I get hit by the tip of his tow board and am instantly laid out like a wounded dog hit by a car.

After the collision, I was pretty messed up. Ruffo was very apologetic, and I harbor no ill will towards Ruffo, but I was not in the mood to chat.

I kept telling everyone that I was okay. Even though I felt like I was going to puke. It pained me each time I took a breath. Frank Quirarte pulled up with he's ski and convinced me to grab on and pulled me off to the side. I somehow got my composure back and paddled back out to the bowl.

The tow-guys continued to catch waves until Twiggy (Grant Baker) came out and picked off his first paddle wave. I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t paddle on my right side. I manage to pick off another three waves. One is a bomb! It goes top to bottom, spits and envelops me with spray.

The pain wouldn't stop. Later that day I went to the hospital. There was a clicking sound in my chest. After lots of tests they diagnosed me with two fractured ribs.

Sunday was a good session. I am stoked that I got one solid bomb. I bummed that I will be out of action for three weeks.