Dec. 20, 2011 at 9:53 AM ET
Gerard Butler, who's been sporting a leaner, more golden-locked look for his upcoming role as a big-wave surfer in "Of Men and Mavericks," got a taste of what it's really like to tempt the waves at Northern California's legendary Mavericks surf spot.
On Sunday, Butler was filming a scene that required him to paddle out with fellow "real" surfers Greg Long, Zach Wormhoudt and Peter Mel when the group encountered a series of bigger-than-expected waves on the inside of the break.
"They were steering clear of a set of waves in the 15-foot range when a much larger set loomed and broke in front of the four of them," Wormhoudt told local media. The set broke on top of the group and Butler was held underwater then washed through to nearby rocks, all while tethered to his surfboard, reportedly a big-wave gun about 10 feet long.
After the actor surfaced, he was scooped out of the surf by a rider on a Jet Ski and ultimately taken to the hospital, where he was later released.
Butler was not an experienced surfer before taking on this role, which required him to confront one of the most dangerous wave breaks in the world. To give some perspective of the danger that looms at Mavericks, one of the most accomplished big-wave surfers in history, Mark Foo, died there in 1994.
Wormhoudt said that Butler had been working hard to improve his surfing skills, and the group took a "conservative line" while paddling out Sunday. They talked about what to do if they got mowed down by big waves.
"Everything he was doing was within reason," Wormhoudt said. "We took like four to five pretty big waves on the head. Basically there's nothing you can do."