Cover Story Excerpt: Gerard Butler's Wild Ride
Credit: Photograph by Sam Jones

By all accounts, when he's not in front of the camera, Gerard Butler is making the most of his action stardom and actually living the life. Motorcycle trips across the Himalayas, tears through the Louisiana bayou in ATVs, stints in rehabs, a Romanian model girlfriend. But, as he details in this month's 'Men's Journal' cover story, nothing could prepare him for the wrath of Mavericks, the mythic Northern California break that nearly did him in. Butler was filming the surf drama, 'Chasing Mavericks,' getting in a last few days of footage, when the wave that would nearly drown him appeared. Here's an excerpt of the cover story:

"We saw it coming half a mile away," Butler says of the wave, which he calls as loud as a volcano. "But there was nothing you could do." Surfer Greg Long, who was in the water with Butler, started shouting at him to paddle toward shore: "Go, Gerry! Fucking go!" But it was too late. When he realized he wasn't going to make it, another surfer yelled at Butler to take two deep breaths. He managed one, and then the wave hit.

Butler got caught in what surfers call a two-wave hold-down, where a wave forces you so deep so fast that you can't get back to the surface before the second one hits. He was trapped underwater for nearly a minute. "It just went on and on," Butler says. "It was absolutely terrifying."

Butler was pretty sure he was going to die. "You know how people say you get a sense of peace?" he says. "I didn't experience that. It was violent."