It has been 17 years since Mavericks has claimed a life, yet it has come close so many times—most recently with Russel Ord’s rescue of Jacob Trette just two months ago.
Sion Milosky was regarded as a fierce, big wave surfer, and recently he had been named North Shore Underground Surfer of the Year, which came with $25,000 in prize money. It would be some of that same prize money that brought him with Nathan Fletcher to surf Mavericks on what some locals claim will be one of the biggest swells we have seen this winter.
Sion was no stranger to big waves, having paddled into one of the biggest waves ever on an outer reef in Hawaii with claims of 30-foot Hawaiian or 60-foot faces.
I have a lot of friends, videographers and team riders who put themselves in Mavericks way to challenge one of the heaviest waves in the world. The stories I have heard send chills up my spine. Two wave hold downs are the norm, and often, people will escape the worst of wipeouts, but for those who have had them, it is a life-changing experience.
Mavericks is a well-respected wave, and the surfers who charge this place understand the consequences, but it still doesn’t make it any easier. Most surfers who have been out at Mavericks claim it may be one of the heaviest waves in the world.
Below is the last moments of Sion Milosky's last wave and subsequent drowning. As told by Chris Killen, videographer:
"The guys have been here all week, and there has been back-to-back storms in the Pacific, and this was the week for Mavericks to break.
The size of the waves were about 18 to 20 foot, a few 40-foot faces, inconsistent, and some seriously big waves coming through for sure.
When Sion went down, it was like 6:30, and it was still really light out, and to be honest, a lot of guys went in; they thought the swell had peaked. For about 30 minutes to an hour, there were only a few waves that were breaking.
The rest of the guys were staying out to catch the last of the bombs.
I filmed Sion's last wave.
I had Ryan Sealbach on the back of my ski, and we saw Sion go down on a bomb.
It looked like there was a huge jump in the swell, and the rest of the evening after Sion's wave, the waves were huge.
He was pretty deep on a big one and went super top to bottom and just bulldozed him, and you see that a lot out there. The wave passed, and his board was tombstoning.
He had an 11-foot board, and only 2 feet of it was sticking out. Add a 15-foot leash, and Sion is at the bottom of that.
I said at that moment, I have to get in there, and the next wave just detonates on him right on top of where the board was.
And when that wave passed, I raced into the bowl, and the board had vanished into thin air, and I didn't know what to do.
Usually you see a board pop up. I got close to mushroom rock, and on my way back out, I saw Shawn Dollar get a bomb and get obliterated, and I race in and grab in to get Dollar, and he thanks me, and he says the wave was so gnarly that it ripped off the spare can of air that he had attached to his suit.
Shawn Dollar had that crazy look in his eyes, and I take him back out to the bowl, and I run across Kyle Buthman, Ryan Chachi. No one has seen Sion, and I rush back in and look for him, and I wasn't really paying attention, and I got caught by a wave and shot out of it on the side, and I see Nathan Fletcher looking at his ski.
In my mind, I think he has Sion, but he had gone back in to get another board. I ask him if he had seen Sion and say I haven't seen him.
Nathan said he hasn't seen him, and we go look in the lagoon and mushroom rock and look around. We can't find him, and we start to panic and realize that it has been a long time, and I figured Sion had gone in.
I check the inside of the rocks, and hoping that I would see him and I don't see anything, and I look out into the surf and realize that it is Sion.
I run over where I could see down the break wall toward the harbor entrance, and I see Nathan Fletcher waving his arms, on the front of his ski.
He has Sion on the front of his ski, and he is lifeless. I started getting really sad, and we raced to the beach as fast as we can, and I hit the beach so hard I flipped over the bars of the ski.
We pull Sion off the ski, and Ben Andrews helped us get him up there, and we lay Sion on his back, and his lips and jaw are blue, and his eyes are bloodshot.
I started to do CPR and tell Nate to have someone call 911. As we continue to do CPR, foam and blood is pouring out of his mouth, and Shane Desmond comes in doing chest compressions, and I am making sure his airway is clear.
And we just sat there and begged Sion to come back until the medics got there. They hooked him up to IV and put a tube into his lungs and kept doing CPR with a pretty big scene on the beach.
They cut his suit off, and we find a flotation device in his suit, and it freaks me out that a guy like Sion, arguably one of the gnarliest big wave surfers in the world, could not survive a Mavericks hold down, even with a floatation device. Once they put him in the ambulance, we knew he was gone.”
This was one of the hardest stories of my life to write. Sion was an amazing father, husband and friend; moreover, he was a water man who died doing what he loved.
Sion Milsoky leaves behind a wife and two young girls. May all the love find this family and uplift them in this time of terrible tragedy.
Sion Milosky had the performance of a lifetime at Mavericks today, waiting for the biggest waves of the day and scoring.
R.I.P., Sion Milosky. You will be sorely missed.