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Surfer Rescuer: I Thought He Was Dead

A daring rescue played out 40 miles south of San Francisco Saturday. A surfer nearly drowned after suddenly being overcome by a wave up to 30 feet high.

VIDEO: Giant Wave Injures Surfer in Calif.

Known around the world as a surfer's paradise and for its giant waves, Mavericks, in northern California, was relatively calm over the weekend.

More than a dozen surfers were riding waves of 12 to 18 feet when they suddenly found themselves fighting a wall of water up to 30 feet.

Eric Nelson, a videographer who captured the wave on tape, said it "just came barreling through like a freight train. And everyone was trying to get out of the way."

Many were wiped out, including 30-year-old Jacob Trette. In the moments after the rogue wave hit, only his green board was visible.

Nelson said, "He was probably in the water for about 12 to 15 minutes, maybe a little bit longer. But that whole time he was being run through like a giant washing machine."

On this -- his first trip to Mavericks, Trette -- who is an experienced surfer -- found himself pinned under, unable to escape.

Bobby Trette, Jacob Trette's brother, said, "It sounds like he got held under for two waves and popped up face up."

When Trette finally surfaced, he was unconscious.

He was eventually pulled from the treacherous surf in a daring rescue by Russell Ord, who was nearby on his jet ski.

Ord, a freelance photographer and firefighter from Australia, brought Trette to shore where he helped revive him.

Trette was flown to Stanford University Medical Center and was in critical condition. "Early Show" co-anchor Jeff Glor reported Tuesday that Bobby Trette has told CBS News his brother is more responsive now and is now even talking.

On "The Early Show" Tuesday morning, rescuer Russell Ord told co-anchor Chris Wragge the day was uneventful at the popular surfing spot.

He said, "It was a pretty small day for Mavericks really and then two big, deep rogue waves came through and just cleaned up the whole pack."

Ord continued, "The first wave cleaned up about five guys. And then they got caught in the inside. And the second wave was not more than 20 seconds later. And then a surfer was waving out for a bit of help. Alex from Portugal, I think. And so I just zoomed in there and got him. And then that's when we thought we saw Jacob in the water. But it was really hard to tell. There was a lot of white water. And so we had to get out of there. And by the time we got back, he was gone. So we went around the rocks and we found him there."

Ord said when he found Trette, "He was in a real bad way."

"I actually thought he was dead for sure," Ord said. "I was really surprised when we got him to shore that he had a pulse. I was pretty happy about that."
From there, Ord said he put Trette in a recovery position and cleared his airways.

"Because he had a pulse, we didn't really need to do too much. But try to get some of that water out of his lungs and his stomach," Ord said. "He was full of water."

Wragge pointed out an irony of Trette's rescue: "You were not even supposed to be in the area; you were supposed to be at another destination. And jet skis are actually not even permitted where you were. Do you credit the fact that you were on that jet ski for being able to save the life of Jacob and rescue some of the other surfers?"

Ord said, "I didn't even know jet skis were banned from the area. I rang up a surfer from the area and seen if we could get his ski. After the fact, I found out that skis were banned. And it's pretty hard to believe."

Ord said on days like the day he rescued Trette having access to rescue jet skis is "critical."

To see the rogue waves at Mavericks that day, click on the video below.