Pulling out of his 175th wave at the Social Centre reef pass on Sunday, local body-boarder Eric Gamez knew he had most probably made history.
The 39-year-old Moroccan-born world traveler had set himself a goal of setting a world surfing record for riding the most waves in a day – an achievement that will need Guinness Book of Records approval.
A professional bodyboarder who has competed on the World Circuit, Gamez entered the water at sunrise at 6.23pm on Sunday morning.
As he rode his last wave into the lagoon 12 hours and 41 minutes later he was exhausted but elated.
He had surfed 175 “perfect waves” – two to six foot waves in perfect conditions – averaging one wave every four minutes. He said he wiped out on just two waves.
But it wasn’t all about setting a world record. It was mostly about proving that ill health can be overcome by healthy living.
Gamez – who has lived on Rarotonga with his Basque wife Ira Partarrieu and their two twin boys for the past 12 years – says three years ago he began suffering intense chronic pain – a form of sciatica – that he thought would end his days of surfing.
“I thought I had damaged myself from all the years of body boarding here on Rarotonga and around the world.
“So I did some research related to lifestyle, particularly about diet and natural medicines.
“I learned to heal my own body the natural way and in a matter of weeks the pain was gone. I studied and became certified as a naturopath.”
He says he then thought that he should share what he had experienced in his journey to good health – that many types of sickness can be over come, particularly due to negative attitudes that creep in as a person gets older.
So he decided to see how far he could push his newly-healed 39-year-old body by getting publicity for some sort of athletic feat to champion the cause of natural health and good nutrition – and of course, bodyboarding was the obvious choice.
Building up to his day-long marathon in the waves, he said he regularly now surfs for seven, eight and even 10 hours a day when the condition are good.
Whether or not his record will be accepted by the Guinness records adjudicators will take some time to find out.
The existing surfing record highlights the “Longest Surfing Marathon”, held by South African stand-up surfer John Enslin who caught a total of 455 waves over a period of 30 hours and 11 minutes.
However, there is no category yet for bodyboarding or for surfing the most waves in a given day.
Gamez and his wife, who is a surfing photographer, has posted video and photos of her husband’s huge surfing day online and on the web pages of international bodyboard surfing magazines.