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Albee Layer on the Jaws wave that almost killed him

Story by Morgan Williamson 

As we heard a sickening amount of times yesterday: The Bay called the day. The Eddie was off, the swell was delayed and the contest that never runs, didn't run. Jaws however, by the afternoon started to kick. So what do the top big wave guys do when they’re told they aren’t competing at Waimea? They zip over to Maui posthaste and surf one of the world’s most perfect, hollow big wave phenoms, Pe’ahi. Shane Dorian scooped up Seth Moniz and took him for his inaugural Jaws session and Ian Walsh, Billy Kemper and more got after it.

Albee Layer, who’s quickly becoming one of the best ever out at Jaws, was maybe a bit relieved. “If Waimea is big, then Jaws is definitely going off,” he once told Stab, “and I’d be devastated to miss an all time day at Jaws.” Yesterday afternoon, he ended up going over the falls on an absolute demon that sent him to the hospital (5:23 mark above). We’ll let Albee take it from here:

Albee's always gunning for the vision. Photo: Tom Servais

“I was on my way to the airport to try and catch my flight and get to The Eddie on time,” Mr Layer tells Stab. “On my way I heard it might be off, I looked at the forecast and saw there were no waves. I missed my flight and they called it off right after that. I hung around and waited for Jaws to start working.”

“Yesterday there were really long waits and no in-between waves. Every 20 minutes there'd be a set. When they came it was hard to position because of the lolls. That one came and I was right on the edge of where I wanted to be. I was too far on the side and too far in, but it looked like it might have a second section to get a little barrel on.”

“I was paddling up and with the wind I swung around really last minute. I remember standing and I got some air under my board, but that happens sometimes. I didn’t freak out. I landed that part and thought Oh, I nailed it, I’m gonna make this wave. Right when I thought that, my board instantly hit this chop and disappeared from under my feet. I don’t remember exactly how I fell, it felt like I hit the water instantly. I watched it afterwards, I don’t remember doing that free fall.”

Albee's IG post: So I'm alive and luckily no fractures in my neck or spine tons or muscle and other damage but nothing that will stop me from a quick recovery. I feel like jaws owes me one now. Really hope there's a redemption swell before the year ends. Thanks to @kurtischongkee and the boys for keeping us safe. Till next time.

“When I hit I almost blacked out. My shoulders and neck shot back. It felt like I folded in half. Immediately both my arms went completely numb. That was super scary, I was thinking; oh shit, I don’t have any floatation on and I don’t know how I’m going to pull my vest,” Albee continues. “I went over, I could move my right arm a little bit and my left was dead. I grabbed my pull, but couldn’t pull it because I had no strength. I just gripped it with my fingers and waited for the wave to drag me away. When I was finally able to pull it, I relaxed and got pounded. Out of nowhere it felt like I went down another whole wave. While underwater I started getting some feeling back in my arms. I couldn’t swim at all because I was too shook. It felt like something was wrong but I didn’t know what.”

“I pulled my second canister, I needed to hit the surface and didn't want to be under for two waves. I popped up and luckily Kurtis (Chong Lee) was right there. I was barely able to pull myself up onto the sled. I wasn’t too out of breath, but my body wasn’t really working at all. That was the scariest part.”

“I sat in the channel for a while, it didn’t seem like anything was broken. My left arm wasn’t working and my neck started feeling worse and worse. I went out on the rocks. My parents were over there, my dad’s a paramedic and my mom’s an ER nurse. I always like to have them check me out before going to the hospital because hospitals suck. I was gagging a bit and throwing up. I thought I might have a concussion. We did a couple tests when I got up the cliff. I had tingling in my fingers, so we figured it’d be best to get checked out. I went to the hospital and got some MRI’s and Cat-scans, everything checked out, no cracked vertebras or anything. I basically just bruised my whole spine, I’m really lucky.”

“They released me last night,” he wraps up. “I got to wear a neck brace for a few days but I’ll be fine. I should be good in three weeks or so. For as bad as it was I don’t think there will be any long lasting side effects.”

Jaws is no joke, but you knew that.

Today, the swell has yet to subside and the boys are back at it again. Earlier, 21 year old Maui local, Tyler Lorrande, who’s been making a big name for himself over the past few swells at Mavericks and Jaws got on the wrong side of a 20 footer. His board landed on top of him, and his leg literally pierced his board.

He posted to his IG a short time ago: Thankful I made it home with just a super bruised and swollen leg after a 20ft wave landed on me and my leg went through my board. Going to the hospital to get it checked out. @skullbase_everything I love you guys! Thanks so much for pulling me out of that situation.

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