Alexander Maverick Viñales scrambled to avoid a cable, but lost his footing and crashed into a large rocky outcrop, all that he could do to avoid the wave. His helicopter was in the clear of the waves, and but for the thin rope that was meant to be keeping him in the air, he would have died.
A film by Australian filmmaker Matt Harding on GoPro recorded the events of March 16, 2017, in Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic, which was held to honor World Surf League Commissioner Billabong and his own sporting achievements and dedication.
When Viñales headed into the water for a final outing before the world tour’s November stop in Puerto Plata, he thought he was doing fine until a powerful water current overtook him, tossing him far out to sea.
Strapped onto a buoyancy ring, Viñales could see the huge waves lapping at the helicopter and feared that he would not make it back up to the surface.
At that point, Maverick’s accident would have been fairly easy to avoid. But the rope separated from its cable-cutting colleague. Viñales started drifting away in a fast current that quickly picked up speed.
Roughly five seconds later, Viñales remembers the camera’s wide-angle lens jerking up, providing him with the crucial seconds he needed to pull himself into the air.
The 26-year-old had survived the fall and made it back to the chopper, where another panel watched it all unfold from the air. The video might have ended with Viñales’ death if the rope had not fluttered, allowing the camera to continue rolling for a precious final shot.
One person who did not have such a dramatic and dramatic recovery was the experienced pilot who was in the chopper, Carlos Berl. He not only survived, but Berl also managed to create a funny story out of the calamity.
“Was I scared? Yes. Am I a coward? Yes,” Berl told Harding. “But wasn’t it just too close to damn near not work out? I do know that very good things are the result of not going off limits.”
Berl’s story was told in a remarkable new documentary about the event, titled “Viva Maverick.”
In the documentary, Berl admits that he should have aborted the mission. In fact, a series of aborted landings seemed to indicate that he did not want to take on the challenge.
But Berl refused to quit. He eventually corralled himself, got back up into the air and flew back to the dry dock at the Mombasa port, where he underwent a check-up.
He didn’t just walk away from the episode – he became obsessed with making sure it didn’t happen again. Berl began making calculations to design more secure setups for the rigging that would prevent its strangling by overrunning it. The first attempts proved to be so tight that Berl had to submit them to his friend and Maverick’s Beach Hero, Mike Parsons, to be tested.
“What he just does,” Berl said, “I don’t think I could ever do.”