A Modesto man is recovering from being knocked off a seawall by a surprise wave at last weekend's Mavericks surfing contest in Half Moon Bay.
The blow sent Joe Williams into rocky water with about a dozen other spectators at the annual tournament, where some of the world's best surfers ride waves that approach 50 feet in height.
"It was just like a brick hit us," said Williams, 62.
He has raspberry-red cuts along the left side of his body, and it's difficult for him to sit because his body remains sore. Still, he considers himself fortunate. Three others suffered broken legs.
Never miss a local story.
"I almost drowned," he said.
Williams went to the competition with two friends who put a visit to Mavericks on their "bucket lists."
He saw a lull in the waves and walked out onto the wall to get a better view of surfers lolling around in what looked like calm water.
The wave that knocked him off the wall came from the left, out of his line of sight, and it was too late to get away by the time he recognized the danger.
He said he wouldn't have been on the wall if he had known that one of the Mavericks waves had struck an hour earlier, or if he had anticipated another one.
"Nobody was warned," he said.
Officials told the San Francisco Chronicle that 13 people were injured and at least 40 were knocked off their feet in the wave that hit Williams.
Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.