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Originally published December 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 5, 2007 at 5:47 PM

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Surfing star rescues companion in 80-foot Hawaii wave

Ever in search of the 100-foot wave, extreme surfing star Laird Hamilton came to the aid of a fellow surfer off Maui. Brett Lickle, who was...

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WAILUKU, Maui — Ever in search of the 100-foot wave, extreme surfing star Laird Hamilton came to the aid of a fellow surfer off Maui.

Brett Lickle, who was rescued by Hamilton, his dramatic rescue "the most intense thing I've been through."

Lickle said Hamilton stripped naked so he could tie his surf trunks into a tourniquet after Lickle suffered a huge gash on his leg in a wipeout on what he said was an 80-foot ocean wave.

Lickle, 47, was recovering Wednesday at home in Haiku.

In the incident Monday at a tow-in surf spot called Outer Spreks, Lickle says he was cut by the fin of a board on the Honda AquaTrax watercraft he and Hamilton had used to get to the spot where the waves were breaking. He says he was trying to stay ahead of the monster wave, but it crashed down on him.

Hamilton is among extreme surfers who have pioneered in the riding of superwaves that ordinary surfers don't tackle. He and fellow big-waver Dave Kalama premiered a short film, "All Aboard the Crazy Train," on tow-in surfing in 2005, warning that it wasn't a sport for the inexperienced. Hamilton also was among surfers performing in feature-length films highlighting the sport, "Step Into Liquid" and "Riding Giants."

The outer reef off Spreckelsville is a big challenge for big-wave surfers.

"If ever you're going to find a 100-footer, it's there," said Lickle.

He and Hamilton had surfed the area in the morning and then returned in the afternoon when the accident occurred. He said only one other tow-in team was on the waves at the time.

Lickle said he was trying to outrun the looming water wall in the watercraft when it caught him. Hamilton was in tow.

"I'm in big trouble," he said he told himself.

After the wave crashed down on them, he reunited with Hamilton about three quarters of a mile offshore.

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One fear, Lickle said, was the blood from his wound would attract tiger sharks that hover around the Maui shoreline.

He said that after tying the tourniquet, Hamilton swam "like a bat out of hell" for about a half mile to recover the watercraft.

Surfers said ocean conditions on Monday created waves of historic size.

"There were the biggest waves that any of us have seen," said Buzzy Kerbox, another Maui big-wave surfer who saw the Outer Spreks waves but chose to taken on another surf spot.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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