Gerard Butler, right, works on his surfing technique while filming 'Chasing Mavericks.'(Photo: John P. Johnson, Twentieth Century Fox)
BEVERLY HILLS - Rule No. 1 of extreme surfing: Don't confuse fear
with panic. "You panic," says Gerard Butler's character, a craggy
surfing pro in new film Chasing Mavericks, "you die."
line that would reverberate through the actor's head just two days
after he delivered it. With film cameras trained on him, Butler, 42, was
bobbing in Northern California's Half Moon Bay when a massive swell
crashed over him, ripping away his surfboard and pinning the actor
underneath the churning sea. Lungs burning and quickly losing breath,
seconds clicked slowly by as a thought crossed Butler's mind: "Why was this necessary?"
(out Friday) is based on the true story of Jay Moriarity, a fearless
young surfer who gained worldwide attention surfing a big-wave mecca
near Santa Cruz known as Mavericks. Butler plays Frosty Hesson, Jay's
rugged, real-life mentor who schools Jay (played by Jonny Weston) on the
rules of survival around 50-foot swells.
Underwater, "all of
those things were going around my head, going 'This is it. If I panic
now..." Butler was barely able to gasp a breath before a second wave hit
and the cycle began again.
Submerged again, Butler fought the urge
to scream. "I felt very present. There was something that felt very
normal about it. But by the time I got to the point I got to thinking,
'I'm in big trouble now,' that was only a about a quarter of the way
through it. It went on and on and on. And then I started
thinking, I just wanted to scream. And I was so deep underwater. I
wanted to scream 'Help, somebody!' Or 'Mom!' Or something. And yet I
knew the second I did that I was done."
Close to being jettisoned
onto jagged rocks, Butler finally grabbed a crew member's hand, was
pulled to shore and taken to the hospital (he was released the next
It wasn't the first time he'd taken a beating in the ocean.