Experience: I was attacked by a boar while surfing | Surfing

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I have always loved being in the ocean. As a child, I swam before I walked. My dad was a Navy Seal and used to take me bodysurfing, on his back, near our home in Kailua, Hawaii, where I now live, a block from the water.

When I was growing up in the 80s, surfing was considered a boy’s thing. I was jealous of them with their boogie boards and surfboards. When I was 12, a family friend gave me his board. As far as I know, I was the first girl on this side of the island to surf. It was glorious, even though people often told me I didn’t belong there.

I went to college in California and surfed there. Feeling adventurous, I bought a truck and started driving south, settling in Costa Rica, where I started a women’s surf camp. A decade later, I returned to Hawaii for a master’s degree in linguistics and to work as a massage therapist and personal trainer, and to continue surfing, which took me to Mexico, Fiji, Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

One day in December 2021, I drove at dawn to Mokulē’ia Beach on Oahu’s North Shore. I picked a place to surf and went down to shore with a friend. It was a beautiful morning. The sun was out and the waves no bigger than two feet. We rowed; he went right and I turned left. The closest people were 200 meters away.

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I started to ride the waves, then I saw something floating towards me. I wondered if it was a seal, but it looked stiff. Suddenly he stuck his head out of the water. I was face to face with a wild boar, only 1.5 meters from me. He was shocked – and so am I. It had a bloody face as if it had been attacked, the longest muzzle, with tusks like a baby juggernaut, and a desperate look. I was scared and, more than that, surprised. What was he doing here?

He started paddling towards me with all his might. I turned to paddle, but his face was at my feet. I got off my board and placed it between us as a safety barrier. The pig sat up and pulled out a piece of the board with its teeth. I swam underwater the other way, and when I surfaced to 3 meters I realized he had gone through the fiberglass board casing and crunched through the foam. There was a giant bite mark. It could have been me.

The last time I saw the boar was when it was swimming out to sea, but I still needed to get out of the water as the blood from its face could cause larger animals to binge feed . I rowed to the beach, where I discovered his tracks alongside those of the hunting dogs. It looked like he had been chased into the ocean. My friend said that was the only time he saw me scared.

On the beach, a surfer known as the Surf Trivia Guy asked to record an interview with me. It was picked up by news channels and broadcast around the world. I didn’t dwell too much on what had happened, but I understood why the others were intrigued. It was fun to see my interview translated into different languages.

I wasn’t too traumatized; I don’t consider this to be my most shocking encounter in the ocean. Three years ago, while swimming off Namotu Island in Fiji, I was stung by an Irukandji jellyfish, among the deadliest creatures in the ocean, with venom 100 times stronger than a cobra. I had to remove its tentacles from my face and was airlifted to hospital by helicopter. In 2000 I was stung by a stingray in Mexico, and in 2002 I dodged a poisonous sea snake in Costa Rica.

Despite all the near misses, I never tire of the ocean. There are days when the water near the house is a bright, clear aquamarine, with purple coral visible. It’s beautiful and always surprising. I surf three times a week if I can. I also do snorkeling and racing canoes. I participated in canoe world championships for 12 years.

A few dangerous or painful encounters hardly seem like a bad price to pay for extraordinary experiences. To take a risk is to have the chance to discover a new world and freedoms. If I had died in one of my adventures, I feel like I would have died. My love for the ocean will always be greater than my fears.

As told to Deborah Linton

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