Today, National Geographic announced the 2014 Adventurers of the Year whose extraordinary achievement in exploration, adventure sports, conservation, and humanitarianism have distinguished them in the past year. One of the 13 nominees this year is big-wave surfer Greg Long who nearly lost his life in a massive wipeout off Cortes Bank in 2012.
"As I was dangling from the basket of the Coast Guard helicopter, being lifted from the middle of the ocean in huge seas after basically drowning, I said to myself, 'There’s no way. I’m done. Thank you for this second chance at life. I don’t need big-wave surfing anymore,' " remembers 30-year-old Greg Long. That day, he vowed he would never surf big waves again.
On December 21, 2012, Long had just dropped into a massive 25-foot wave at Cortes Bank, 100 miles off the coast of San Diego, when fellow surfer Garrett McNamara unknowingly dropped in on top of him, cutting him off and causing him to fall. The airbag in the back of his wetsuit, failed to deploy when he pulled the cord that activates the CO2 cartridge.
He managed to hold his breath long enough to crawl up his leash to the tail of his surfboard, but the board was still submerged in aerated water, which prevented him from catching a breath before he blacked out. Three consecutive waves pinned him underwater.
Despite his initial reaction to the accident, not only did Long go back to riding big waves, he went on to earn the title of Big Wave World Champion less than a year later when he won the 2012-'13 Big Wave World Tour, a yearlong competition in which the world's top 12 big-wave surfers..
Long put a lot of thought into his decision to return to big-wave surfing, but ultimately, he came back to the reason he started in the first place.
"It's always been my passion to explore this, and where I really feel alive," Long says. "I wanted to find my physical and mental potential as a human being—that was the avenue by which I was exploring it. So I decided I was going to go back."
TO SEE THE FULL LIST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ADVENTURERS, AND TO VOTE FOR GREG LONG CLICK HERE