Shortly after the conclusion of the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters, Hayden Rodgers, the under-14 national surf champion of San Clemente, Calif., took off on a 10-foot wave. Then he disappeared.
Hundreds of juiced watched as safety workers gunned their juiced Skis toward the impact zone, where the distance between the water’s surface and the jagged, lava rock reef below can be as little as several feet.
Hayden’s motionless body bobbed up and down in the sloshing foam. He had collided headfirst with the reef below. He was not breathing and had no pulse. After two forceful compressions to his chest, he coughed up a torrent of sand and sea. He was moments away from a fate far worse.