Updated: November 27, 2012 10:28AM
Gerard Butler was sure he was going to die.
It was a murky day on the Santa Cruz, Calif., set of the surfing movie “Chasing Mavericks” (opening Friday), and Butler had spent eight hours in the freezing waters when he hit a part of the ocean surrounded by jagged rocks known as the Boneyard.
“I messed up,” Butler admits. “I had paddled way too far out and I saw these big hard waves coming in, one after another, so I started paddling back as hard as I could.”
There was no way he could escape it.
“The largest wave I’ve ever seen in my life caught me and took me down. My board disappeared and I was already out of breath when the wave hit me,” Butler says.
At that moment, he made a horrifying realization.
“I lost my board,” he says. “Then the next wave pummeled into me and the situation became really dire. My body disappeared under the water on my way to those Boneyard rocks down below.”
Miraculously, he was fished out and tossed into an ambulance. Later, Butler found out that his surfboard was jettisoned some 60 feet into the air.
“I thought I would die and I wasn’t far off,” he says “The ambulance guy said, ‘You’re lucky. The last guy we picked up from here was dead.’ ”
In “Chasing Mavericks,” Butler plays Frosty Hesson, a surfing legend who helps young Jay Moriarty (Jonny Weston) conquer the Mavericks surf break.
From the get-go, the film was the kind of difficult challenge Butler loves to embrace. “The crazy thing is I got into trouble I few times during training with huge swells,” he says. “I got caught by a massive wave, which grabbed me by the foot and kept beating me down. I remember getting out of the water thinking, ‘I can’t do this movie.’ ... A few hours later, I was ready to get in the water again.”
“Chasing Mavericks” made him understand why surfers risk it all.
“We trained near Malibu in this area surrounded by cliffs,” he says. “It’s so beautiful that it’s like you’ve had your breath stolen from you.”
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