I am pretty book smart. I have an MBA from a top 15 ranked business school. I can create a NPV model and tell you about Black Scholes. I'm proud of my smarts.
I am pretty street smart, too. I moved out of my mom's house when I was 17, before I graduated high school. I think I understand how the world works and how to navigate my way through.
Something is wrong with me, though. I'm frequently missing the kind of smarts that keep me safe. I frequently choose to put myself in harm's way for no apparent reason other than adrenaline.
It was March 11, 2011.
I had planned the night before to jam down to Santa Cruz for an early morning surf before work. My board was in the car and I was ready to go.
On the drive down to SC, I heard on the radio about the 9.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan overnight. I heard about the awful Tsunami and the potential tsunami heading our way.
In fact, as I got closer to Santa Cruz, they had narrowed the window of the Tsunami making landfall in Santa Cruz around 8:20 am that morning.
Here is what a smart person would have done: gotten away from the ocean. There is absolutely no reason to stand on the shore and wait for an un-known sized Tsunami to make its way to land.
I'm not that smart.
I was with a few friends and our collective intelligence seems to decline when we are together. I don't know if it's bravado or brotherhood or a little of both, but we are, well, dumb.
Of course we paddled out.
The forecast for the surf (pre-tsunami) was around 6-8'. Not super huge but enough to demand respect. We paddled out at Rockview in Santa Cruz.
On a normal Friday with surf this size there would be 20 guys in the water. There were none. There were a bunch of people standing on shore, but no surfing. In fact, there was a sheriffs deputy parked at the overlook.
We're going. We jumped in and made it to outside Rockview. Looking at the time, the tsunami was scheduled to make landfall in about 15 minutes.
A nice set came and we each picked off a great wave. Paddled back out and we were on the hunt for the next wave. Oh, and a tsunami.
Next set is curiously about 4' BIGGER than the last. Um......
I paddled my ass off and had a killer wave. Killer! Still no tsunami. Paddled back out to the 3-man lineup.
Then, things changed.
All of a sudden, there is huge current where there should be none. Boils start coming up from the depths (not really boiling water, just water uprising through the reef and rocks as the currents get crazy).
Things were getting real.
We didn't know what to do. We were out pretty far and the ocean was draining. One of my friends started paddling one direction. The other guy paddled the other direction. I decided the safest approach was to paddle out further. Like get out as far as possible and if there was a wave coming maybe it wouldn't break on my head.
Every man for himself.
I felt like I was paddling to Hawaii. As fast as I could. I then started to look around and freak out a bit. I was alone. I then changed my tactic and tried to paddle for shore. Hard. It was like paddling up a river, as the water drained out like a bathtub. I told myself to keep calm and just paddle.
After an enternity (like maybe 5 minutes) I made it back to land. The water had drained so much it was super duper low tide. I grabbed my board and headed for high land.
Just as I exited the water, it started to fill back in. The was crazy! There was no huge breaking wave, it was just like a crazy fast rising tide that I had never seen in my 16 years of surfing.
I made it to high land and was all safe.
The ocean is so powerful. She can and will do whatever she wants to you. I'm grateful no one I know got hurt that day, and I never turn my back from the water.