Death, destruction and Jacob Wilcox’s near-miss at the hands of Oma
“One second I was having so much fun, loving life, so happy to be where I was, in the moment, yahoo’ing myself, having the best time ever. The next moment I’m tripping out unconscious,” recalls West Australian hellman, Jacob Wilcox, of the the wave that nearly ended his short but illustrious career during Tropical Cyclone Oma.
Jacob and a handful of others had made the mission out to sea to surf a mysto offshore sandpit on the east coast of Australia and scored through their teeth, the wave churning out below sea-level grinders wider than they were tall, according to Jacob.
“It was amazing. I hadn’t seen anything like that before. So shallow and super wide,” he says.
With wave heights peaking at 13 meters off the Sunshine Coast, and intervals averaging around 12 seconds, Oma, produced some of the heaviest conditions the east coast has seen in years, leaving a trail of destruction that included numerous injuries and the death of a surfer on one of the points. A friend of the author, meanwhile, copped nearly identical treatment to Jacob at the same wave, on the same day.
Moments before the wipeout, Jacob had scored one of the waves of the day, threading a long tube from the top of the point. As he raced down the line minutes later, weaving in and out of tubes, a potentially career or life-ending injury was the furthest thing from his mind.
“I got a lift back around and then I took off on one, got a fun barrel on the first bit, was racing down the line, and you know when you get one good barrel and you get a little confident and super frothed up? I’m deep behind this next bit, no hands, no hands, pulled in, and I’m a bit deep, should be alright, then I remember the barrel just dropped out from under me,” he says.
“I remember getting sucked over and it felt like I had all this blood in my head. I was like, ‘woooah,’ trippin, like what the fuck just happened? Maybe I smacked the water really hard? I was trippin.”
“I came up, there was one wave behind it, this white-watery double up thing, I was like, ‘I just gotta get under this wave,’ I was trying my hardest to swim, got under the wave, had so much sand in my eyes, don’t remember how I got my board, don’t remember how I got out the back. And then I just paddled out the back and was sitting there with my my eyes closed tripping. I touched my head and was like, ‘Oh fuck, I must have hit the bottom.’ That’s when I realised I hit the bottom - when I was out the back!” he says.
Barely conscious and seeing stars, he was taken to shore by a jet-ski and stumbled up the beach where he was met by a medical professional who phoned an ambulance. He was taken to hospital in a neck brace for scans but cleared shortly after.
The irony that a “four-foot” sand-bottom drainer nearly ended him, having grown up surfing some of the heaviest slabs on the planet (The Box, North Point, Gnaraloo etc), was not lost on him.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever gone head first into the bottom so I was pretty happy it was sand and not reef,” he says. “It could have been a lot worse if that was the Box or Gas or somewhere at home. It was the last thing I was thinking of,” he says.
“You just gotta be careful no matter if you’re surfing one foot shit or a ten foot slabby reef break. Anything can change so quickly in the ocean,” he says.