Staying Calm Saved My Life By Chris “Chef” Blouin

Post from a SJ Reader Chris “Chef” Blouin


Staying Calm Saved My Life

By Chris “Chef” Blouin

This is a story of about one of my worst fears coming true while wetsuiting, hopefully by reading this story you can take away a few key points and avoid the situation I got into on the great island of Cuttyhunk, this June during the annual Striped trip.

It was Friday night after an amazing meal by Warren and his famous ribs, we all decided to head out, some guys headed to the pyramids, others to churches and all points in between. I suited up and head out with Julio, on the way to the cove we talked about life, working, kids, family and fishing. We decided to fish one of the big coves.

Julio decided he wanted to fish the rock in the next cove instead, which was insight of where I’d be, said good luck and he headed on his way. I made one last equipment check to make sure my plug bag was secured, all my gear on the belt secured and tethered and the TA clip secured to the line. I never swim with a plug on my rod, learned that the hard way many years ago. I attached my set up with is a red/silver ZeeBaaS 27 and a custom build Century 1326 stealth, to my belt with my Princeton Tec gadget gear lanyard, and started making my way thru the boulder field.

I’ve made this swim to this rock numerous times in the past it’s a decent swim maybe 75 yards from shore, thru a decent boulder field but the rock is what every wetsuiter hopes for. Its flat, it’s big and right on the edge of the cove, deep water easily within casting range.

The surf was decent constant 2 to 3 foot swell, nothing crazy, no undertow, I felt good in getting out there. After a few bumps on the shins I was thru the boulder field. The water was about 6 feet deep so I slowly started my swim, a little side swim and some scissor kicks, so far so good. Took a few waves over the head, wakes you right up and makes you feel alive, love that feeling. I was getting close to the rock and needed to swim around the side of it so I could get on the rock from the front of it with help from the waves. As I was approaching the side of the rock, I heard a noise, a noise I usually don’t hear unless I’m rummaging around looking for a certain plug. I knew right away what had happened, and got nervous.

Somehow during the swim around the rock the surging water of the waves and constant back and forth had forced enough pressure into the bag and opened the flap. As I looked around I could see most the contents of my bag starting to drift by, a brand new GRS slim, my go to all yellow and blurple super strike darters, a bone redfin, a super strike bottle swimmer and a Surf Asylum in all yellow jr were slowly being pulled out to sea. When I reached with my right hand out to grab the plugs I felt the points of a brand new VMC 3/0 treble burrow themselves through my wetsuit, splash top and into my forearm, when I moved again the tail hook buried itself my bicep. So now my right arm is pretty much immobile, every time I move it I can feel the hooks going deeper.

My left hand is holding my rod, I grab the bone redfin with my hand and I started using the rod as a plug catcher to maybe salvage some of my losses, only able to snag the jr., the rest are gone and being pulled towards Martha’s Vineyard. I start to panic a little, now what?? I can’t swim with my right arm like I usually do; my left hand is holding my set up and a plug. A few sets of waves rush over my head as I’m no longer paying attention to the surf, can’t seem to catch my breath in between sets and can feel myself sinking.

You always hear that when people drown they don’t move around and wave their arms like a crazy person like you see on TV, they just slowly sink and don’t say a word, and it was happening to me.

I just kept telling myself to stay calm and regroup and not to panic, panic leads to disaster. I was finally able to slow my heart rate down as I bobbed up and down in the surf, head barely above water, took a few deep breathes and accessed the situation. I wouldn’t be able to get on the rock now anyway, so my only option was to slowly let the waves push me in. I decide to ditch the plugs I was holding and hold the rod with my right hand and use my left to help swim in. I managed to close the flap on the bag I had no idea what if any plugs were left. Plugs at this point were the least of my worries.

I slowly swam in using the waves to more or less push me into shore the “swim” back was the longest of my life. I could tell my arm was bleeding as I could feel the heat from the wound. Finally back into shallow enough water to stand, but I’m too exhausted and still sort of in shock, I manage to stagger my way into the shore and sit down on the first rock on dry land.

Just sitting there thanking my lucky stars, I’m alive, shaken but alive. I unclipped my set up from the belt and place against the rocks, took the plug bag and belt off with one arm, sounds harder than it is. Now to deal with the plug lodged in my arm, it’s my lucky blurple redfin, not so lucky tonight. Thankfully the back hook pops right out of my skin and suit as the barbs are crushed on the back of all my plugs. The front treble is another story, one of the points is all the way thru the suit and my arm and sticking out the other side, doesn’t have a big chunk of skin just enough, and the other hook point is just poking in and out in a small area. So grab the pliers crush all the barbs, get the hook pulled thru the skin which was surprisingly easy, think it moved around so much while I was in the water it opened the hole up pretty good. So the plug is out, arms bleeding and throbbing, lost 6 out of the 10 plugs in the bag, only ones I didn’t lose were needles.

Decide to walk back to the club and regroup; I can see a few guys’ lights off in the coves there on fish, happy to see that at least. As I walked back to the club I start thinking about what just happened and how much worse that could have been. I could have panicked and done more damage to myself, gotten disoriented and swam the wrong way as you couldn’t see the shore that night or drowned. But by staying calm and knowing where I was and thinking clearly I was able to get back. So overall not bad, plugs and gear can be replaced, people cannot.

Got back to the club, everyone was still out fishing, sprayed myself off with the hose to cool down, sat and had Gatorade and a snickers bar. Then restocked the plug bag and decided to fish under the club, and proceeded to hammer high teen to low 20lb fish on the only darter I had left. Not the best way to start a night but a great way to end the end.

I decided not to elaborate on what happened that night at the club as we all sat around and had some beers, food and laughs, just wanted to enjoy the good times and put that experience behind me.

So know your limitations, the areas you fish, stay calm when problems arise and keep a clear a head and hopefully you can avoid a night like this. Be safe and tight lines out there.



[issuu width=420 height=162 shareMenuEnabled=false showHtmlLink=false proSidebarEnabled=true backgroundColor=%23222222 documentId=120707201511-7f8cda4eee37461cb729655825046239 name=issue14 username=surfcasters_journal tag=fishing unit=px v=2]

21 comments on “Staying Calm Saved My Life By Chris “Chef” Blouin

  1. Rich B.

    Thanks for sharing that story, Chris. There is real risk involved with our chosen passion and that will never change. Safety is a matter of managing that risk with good decision making, proper equipment, and considering the “what if?” scenarios on a regular basis. Stories like this are a great example. (Not unlike aviation accident reports that I use with my students when discussing flight safety.)

  2. John P

    I have regular debates at the shows with the guys who make the plug bags. I tell them they need to include clips. They insist the velcro is enough. So I end up sewing my own clips into the bags.

    Its also a good idea to have a clear sense of “what can go wrong” and what your next move will be.

    I also am a big believer now in adding some swimming to the gym routine. I have found that the more I swim, the less likely I am to get worried about getting to a rock.

  3. MRisser

    I am making my first wetsuit trip next week, and I’m very excited to start this next chapter of my surfcasting journey.
    Reading this doesn’t frighten me, but it absolutely makes me more aware of the dangers and how to cope with the unexpected.

    I truly appreciate you sharing your story. I know that sometimes men feel embarrassed to share experiences that do not shed them in the best light, but your example will help all of us who read it be more prepared and safer fishermen. You may have helped a father come home to his children or a husband to his wife.

    SJ crew, thanks for giving us this forum to connect to others that we would otherwise not be able to.

  4. Iverfish

    After many years of scuba/free diving I have learned one good lesson that carries throughout all aspects of life…
    Use the few seconds that you have to calm your mind, then act.

    Chris, Thanks for sharing the lesson…

  5. Bunker

    Thank you for sharing chef. “calm assertive energy” in those hairy situations is very important. I try to reminde myself that all the time.

  6. matt viggiano

    Being A wetsuit newbie I really appreciate that someone who I consider to be an experienced surfcaster sharing A story that as mrisser said “some might be to embarrassed to share”. As I have learned from a near death motorcycle accident if your able to share and learn from your story your world as well as everyone’s lives you come in contact with will be better for your unfortunate happening.Thank you for sharing I most definitely appreciate it.

  7. Jamie

    Chef, thank you for sharing your story, even though it is not a glorious one of catching big fish. It brings awareness to all of us that simple things such as retrieving plugs from the water can put us in jeopardy. Stay safe and live another day to catch big fish.

  8. Allen W

    I am so happy that the Chef did what he did to live to tell his tale. Perhaps by him relating his story he has already saved another life of a surf caster.
    Thank you chef and thank you SJ.

  9. CTMatt

    I was close to drowning on my honeymoon when I tried snorkeling with fin. No hooks in my body but I cut myself bad on some coral way out from shore somehow, panicked for a moment, had a bit of trouble getting myself back on track because I took in some water from the snorkel. Could have been worst honeymoon ever but I tried my best to keep my shit together and focus on letting the waves take my back. Was a life changing experience. Probably why I wetsuit but prefer to not swim too far out to rocks.

  10. JLH

    Scary story Chris! Glad you kept your head and made it out if a dangerous situation with only a few plugs lost. I am surprised that more guys don’t carry cutters capable of cutting a heavy 4x or 6x hook especially when out wetsuiting.

  11. Steve Tag

    So what kind of clips or snaps are guys adding to their bags to keep this from happening? I love my Commando bag, but I could imagine this happening. Jeez just the thought of losing a couple of prized GRS plugs is bad enough, not to mention what else could go wrong!

    How many of you are carrying manley pliers or something that can cut 4x VMCs when swimming?


  12. chuckg

    Just make sure your life insurance is paid up-to-date, it would be nice to leave somethinng to your wife and kids…

  13. Matt

    Sargent fishing pliers make short work of a 4x .. and have been sporting a Stohlquist PDF don’t give a dam what people think .. This Dads coming home for dinner ..

  14. Bobby

    All the bags I build I put oversized clips on them even If they don’t want them cause u never can be too safe

  15. Aram

    Wow! Met you the following night at the final feast. I was one of the CSA guys that joined in that spectacular meal. I had no idea. You seemed pretty chill to me on Saturday. I guess that’s how a man looks when he knows how tenuous it can be and he’s glad to be alive.

    Thanks for sharing that story and keeping your wits. That’s an important message.

    Glad you are okay

  16. Mark P

    Glad you are still here to tell the story. I just had a situation Saturday night with a mutual friend that got me thinking it might be time to get a spot gps locator. Walking off a long break water I missed a step and my right leg went plunging in between two boulders. Any variation could have led to a broken leg. 3/4 of a mile from any exit. Would have sucked. Not deadly but it would have been a brutal drag back.

  17. DZ

    I’ve always said, “The most important piece of safety equipment is your head.” Glad you used it Chef.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *