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Saturday, January 25, 2014
Updated: January 28, 5:19 PM ET
Squaring Up With The Bank

By Jake Howard
XGames.com

In the span of 96 hours last week, big-wave surfer Greg Long found himself traversing the Pacific Ocean to three famous surf spots separated by thousands of miles, including the Cortes Bank where he almost died over a year ago, to ride one of the most intense swells of the winter season.

On Monday Long joined a cadre of photographers and surfers on Maui, where he paddled into 15-to-20 foot surf at the famous big-wave spot, Jaws. It was a pleasant day in the islands and he even had time to Instagram a photo of himself kicking back on a jet ski in the channel. A red-eye flight got Long back home to San Clemente, California, just in time to load his van with his prized quiver of Chris Christenson-shaped big-wave boards, and rush north on Highway 101 to Half Moon Bay, in Santa Cruz. Greeting the swell he'd just ridden in Hawaii, Long spent Tuesday riding 15-to-18 foot sets. The swell was bigger and "more intense" than expected, Long said.

By Wednesday, it was apparent the Maverick's Invitational would be called on, but Long had bigger things on his mind. He began putting all the pieces together for a covert strike mission to Cortes Bank, a wave 100 miles off the coast of San Diego that nearly took his life a year ago. Long wrangled two boats and an eager crew. One boat would carry six jet skis, the other was a dedicated support boat that carried a paramedic, as well as a World of X Games film crew.

With all the pieces in place, Long returned to Half Moon Bay on Thursday to get ready for the contest on Friday. He would ultimately finish fifth in the contest, while his good friend and often partner-in-crime Grant "Twiggy" Baker rode to victory. After a brief celebration, Long hoped a flight from San Jose to Orange County, where a ride was waiting to take him straight to the dock in Dana Point to the awaiting boat ready to go to the Cortes Bank.

As Long sailed off into the night he remarked, "I'm looking forward to getting some sleep."

After a seven-hour haul out to the infamous Cortes Bank, Long awoke before dawn to what can only be described as flawless 18-foot surf. He spent Saturday coming to terms with what happened last time surfed here.

"Since nearly drowning at Cortes Bank a little over a year ago, I have since wondered if I could go back out and surf there again," posted Long to his Facebook page late Sunday. "Yesterday I answered my question. It wasn't the biggest ever but 8 hours in oil glass perfection surfing alone, it was still the most mentally challenging and memorable session of my life."

Even the Coast Guard, which played a vital role in saving Long's life, buzzed the lineup in their helicopter. Long was able to get on the radio with them and once again express his gratitude. All told, it was a very therapeutic session. The action was documented by film crew for the upcoming show "Hell and High Water," which will premiere as part of the World of X series on ABC.

"'Hell and High Water' is a three-part reality series from ESPN and TAUBLIEB Films that follows Shane Dorian, Grant "Twiggy" Baker, Mark Healey, Ryan "Hippo" Hipwood, and Greg Long, five very different surfers, as they circle the globe in search of the world's biggest wave," explains the project's producer/director Paul Taublieb, who also produced the ESPN 30 for 30 film "Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau." "A very near-death experience last season at Cortes Bank left Long shaken and full of doubt. In 'Hell and High Water' he's after way more than big waves: he's searching for himself."

'Hell and High Water' will air as part of The World of X on ABC through November. Stay tuned for specific dates and times.