Surfer’s camera goes for an 18-mile swim without him

Surfer Alex Vaquer
Surfer Alex Vaquer

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The massive swell that slammed south shores over the past five days led to dozens of rescues.

One Oahu surfer avoided being another statistic, but his board and GoPro camera were not as lucky. That’s what he thought until fate intervened.

Surfer Alex Vaquer will never forget the first south swell of 2013.

“Wow! That summer swell was the best ever,” Vaquer said.

Last Friday, Vaquer decided to sneak in an early morning surf session at China Walls in Hawaii Kai before heading to work. On his fifth wave, he suffered a nasty wipe out.

“I didn’t make the drop, the leash broke and I saw the board just drifting forever,” Vaquer said.

He swam to safety as his surfboard, and the GoPro camera attached to it, drifted away, caught in a current some call, “The Molokai Express.”

All he could do was watch.

“After half an hour, it was easily like two miles out. I could barely find it with the binoculars,” Vaquer said. “Then I realized, ‘Okay there’s no more hope.’ The only hope I had was I put my phone number on my camera. I was so sad the whole day Friday. I was all grumbling.”

Then early Saturday, Vaquer received an unexpected phone call.

“These guys from 955-FISH just called me and said, ‘Did you lose a camera on a surfboard?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’” Vaquer said.

A fisherman and his crew spotted the surfboard floating about 18 miles off Oahu. The camera was still mounted on it.

“And they grabbed it and only until they got to the shore that they opened the camera and they saw the phone number, so they said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to call that guy.’ It’s like true aloha spirit right there,” Vaquer said.

Vaquer rushed to Kewalo Basin to meet the crew.

“I brought them some beers, we traded. They just couldn’t believe. It was like so amazing,” Vaquer said.

What was even more amazing was his digital camera had rolled for nearly an hour before running out of memory.

“I can see like Hawaii Kai getting slowly like far and far away on its way to Molokai or Japan who knows,” Vaquer said. “Sad and alone in the middle of the ocean.”

Now it’s back in Vaquer’s possession, just in time for his next surf session.

It’s a surfing tale caught on video.

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