For me it's pretty hard to write a piece on what happened at Mavericks that day Jake came close to death. This is what I was able to share firstly with the Trette family, and now readers, about how I even found myself shooting Mavericks that day. It's bloody amazing that after all the "what if's" we all go through it in everyday life some have more consequence than others.
It all began when I was lying in bed with my oldest son, Kalani. He's an emotional kid, I was leaving for Hawaii the next morning. Kalani sobbed himself to sleep. "That's it, I'm not going, lets all go to the South Coast for a family trip," I tell my wife Catherine. But she has meetings and family commitments in Perth, so I sleep on the idea of canceling. In the morning Kalani's fine, he was more concerned and focused on a skate comp coming up the following weekend. Hawaii it is.
Arriving in Hawaii mid-morning it took a while to organize the hire car, and by the time I got to the North Shore it was late afternoon. I met up with Paul Morgan, Justin Allport and Brett Burcher, surfers from Australia that I was going to photograph for a week or so then head home. That night over dinner Paul talked about wanting to get up really early and surf the Bay before the so-called Eddie Invitational was on, and then follow the same swell to Mavericks. I took more than a lot of convincing, especially after two long flights. It would mean only one day on the North Shore and more money for flights. For some reason I booked my flight that night on my computer down at the end of the driveway of the house I was staying at, poaching someone else's internet service while getting eaten by mosquitoes. It took a while to book because the internet was so slow. I just about gave up.
The next night I found myself on a flight to LA via Arizona, not in the best of moods. Not only was I unprepared for the crowds in Hawaii and getting average photos at best, the airline slugged me for excess baggage, I remember thinking to myself, "This is not meant to be at all." Arriving the next day I had a two-hour layover. I took a quick glance at the information board: where is my flight on the list, better ask just in case, wrong terminal, you better hurry, you have to be kidding I had to go through all those security checks again, arriving for my flight as it was boarding.
Los Angeles, finally. It's just about lunchtime, I have to make my way to the hire car service, Brett and Paul are waiting, their flight arrived an hour earlier. The surfboards are on the roof, time for the long drive to Half Moon Bay after picking up a couple more boards they had made just for Mavericks. On the way we all started making calls to friends, friends of friends, or anyone we could think of, trying to organize a ski for the morning. I didn't feel like swimming all the way out there, not on the amount sleep I'd had over the past few days -- not to mention the jet lag I was suffering. One of those calls was to Ken "Skindog" Collins a world-renowned big-wave surfer. I was given his number by a mate, Ken and I had never met or even talked on the phone before, but still no luck. Ken had already organized another crew for his ski. We arrived in Half Moon Bay at nine o'clock that night and checked into the first hotel we saw. It'd been a very long day.
My alarm was set to 5:30am. None of us had been here before, so it was going to take time to find out where we could paddle out. I was going to put the camera in a backpack and try to paddle out too. The phone rang at 5:00, it was Ken. "My partner is not coming, meet you at the boat ramp at 6:30." A quick coffee -- actually three for me, I was starting to feel the lack of sleep -- and we meet and greet at the boat ramp with Ken. He wants to know if I can drive the ski. "No problem." We head out to Mavericks.
Trette family, this is where my little story ends, we all know what happens next, but I just wanted to highlight some points on how I even managed to be there, the "what if this happened" or the "what if that happened." My wife could have cancelled her appointment and I would have not even left home, well not for the airport anyway. The list continues. I am sure now Jake has his own story-behind-the-story on how he became stuck in the lip of a 25-foot wave at Mavericks. I can't wait to have a beer in person to get his side. But in the end, that's life, there is no going back in time. Just happy all this had a happy ending when it was said and done.
Editor's Note: Russell Ord was the photographer on the jet ski that helped pull Jacob Trette's body out of the water after a rogue 25-foot wave took him out on Jan. 22. After interviews on the Today Show and the rest of the talk show circuit, his life in West Oz is finally starting to return to normal. For the complete story and photos click here.