Mark Foo's Anniversary

Mark Foo drowned December 23, 1994. He left us long before the introduction of inflatable life-saving devices and jet ski support. Inflatable vests were developed after near-death experiences. Before surfers partnered with skilled jet ski rescue drivers, a surfer in distress was on his own. These safety precautions were introduced after many near-drowning experiences. Mark's death also led to a discovery that can save others.

Fellow legendary surfer Brock Little studied videos of Mark's ride and said, "He hit something". Mark fell after the underside of his surfboard nose, impacted the wave in a very steep drop. Nose rocker creates a bend in the surfboard bottom. At high speed, an abrupt impact on the bend can launch a skilled surfer. This bend is called a bow in boats. The boat bow is what impacts water in rough seas. Henceforth the realization: A surfboard may ride through a shallow dive if its bow is not flat and rocker bend is not severe. Note the nose rocker in the photo above, it is extreme by today's standards. Mark's surfboard was typical of boards from that era, with a flat bottom. The design works when the underside does not contact water at high speed. Impact at high speed can push a surfboard backward.

With a Final Breath

Mark Foo loved the ocean and the surfing lifestyle, his quotes expressed his love and commitment: "Surfing and Martial Arts are really similar. If you're into it, it's a way of living, a lifestyle. You live it; you don't just do it. My life is surfing." Surfing was Mark’s life as well as his career. He produced a TV series dedicated to surfing called H3O, his acronym for heavy water. Ironically, heavy water may have attributed to his demise. Science can prove that cold water is denser, heavier, and thicker than warm. A surfboard does not move through cold water as easily as warm. This difference is not significant at low speed, however; at high speed, the temperature may be a factor. Coldwater also affects the human body by restricting movement, making breathing difficult and slowing circulation. Thus cold water is more dangerous than warm Hawaiian water.

Mark arrived in San Francisco, from Honolulu on the same day of his accident. He went directly to a very dangerous surfing spot known as Mavericks. The waves were beautiful, not exceptionally large, but deceptively inviting. Videos show Mark smiling as he entered the water, not knowing the dangers that lay ahead. He caught a warm-up wave and the nose underside or bow of his surfboard stuck. Mark successfully rode out of a shallow nose poke and intended to heed its warning by changing boards. When he disappeared friends assumed he went in to change boards. Mark did not make it to the beach as the bow stuck again on his next wave, this time with a harder impact. The board abruptly decelerated and launched Mark in the air, with his final breath.

Mark once said, "The life I've had has been good enough that I can die happily. Surfing's done that; surfing's given me that. So I can accept dying while I'm surfing." No one really knows how Mark drowned. There is speculation that he hit the bottom, but; it is not known when he hit. A bottom collision may have occurred after drowning or possibly led to drowning. An autopsy revealed some plaque buildup in his arteries. In warmer conditions plaque may not be a deadly issue. Blood circulation is restricted in cold temperatures by constricting veins, conserving blood for organs. When veins constrict with an interior build-up, blocked circulation may cause a loss of consciousness. Common dangers can become deadly in cold water.

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