Flipping heck! Photo series shows Peter's surf boat soaring
IN YEARS to come, members of the Kawana SLSC Masters Men's surf boat crew will gather at the bar late at night and talk in hushed tones of "that freak wave".
Like the characters from a Banjo Paterson poem, they will hold court while mere mortals look on in envy, knowing they can never join their ranks or hope to match their story.
Only five men were in the boat the day it nose-dived into a Southport sandbank and only they can share that special bond.
Peter Williams, Dave Earley, Mal Schwab, Warren Lowe and Paul Slosh may row another hundred races but they will never forget the Men's Masters final of the 2013 Navy Australian Surf Rowers League Australian Open competition.
And Peter Williams will always get the final word, for it was he who stayed with the boat - suspended upside down for a moment in time while his teammates bailed.
"We'd finished second in all three heats and were looking good for the final," the second stroke recalled yesterday.
"We were coming back in and we struck this freak wave.
"It wasn't big but it caught us by surprise and we didn't get a chance to lay back so the weight would go to the back of the boat.
"We just nose-dived and the front of the boat hit the sandbar."
What happened in the next few seconds was captured by photographer Bob Freier, who barely had time to turn his camera and snap a few shots.
But he managed to capture Williams, suspended upside down and a fraction of a second away from joining his mates in the drink as their boat cartwheeled out of the water.
"I didn't have time to think, but I automatically put my hands straight down because I didn't know how deep the water was," the rower said.
"Luckily it was deep enough, but it knocked the wind out of me.
"I came up in the air pocket inside the boat and I could hear the others outside calling, 'Where's Pete? Where's Pete?' They thought I was a goner.
"The next thing I know I felt one of them - I'm not sure who - pulling me out from under the boat."
Apart from a few bruises, the teammates escaped the spill uninjured and there was no damage to their boat or its oars.
Exactly who pulled Peter Williams from under the boat is unclear, but as the story is retold over the years, his teammates will no doubt take turns to claim the honour.
And with each telling, the wave will get bigger, its face steeper and the nosedive more spectacular.
But as the night wears on, Williams will inevitably turn to sweep Paul Slosh, nudge him in the ribs and remind him: "It was all your bloody fault!"