The Search: Comfortably Numb

Mick Fanning and Mason Ho find cold waves and clarity in the frozen north.

The sound of the fire echoes off the ice chunks as Mick Fanning and Mason Ho, head-to-toe in rubber, warm their hands over the flames. A new swell is coming soon, they’re almost sure of it. They wait.

A half-mile in front of them, a 500-foot glacier rises from a calm bay. Mick and Mason came here yesterday when the surf went flat, a touristic detour in an area that can’t seem to shake the ice age. But when a chunk of ice the size of a city block fell and created a single-serve 10-foot swell, which then morphed into three perfect lefts, there was no choice but to return today to try and ride it.


They jolt upright and turn toward the glacier. A refrigerator-sized chunk of ice falls into the water. Then a Ford F-350. Then a studio apartment.

“Here we goooo!” Mick yells as a 4 bed, 3 bath with walk-in closets detaches from the glacier. By the time the sound of the collision reaches them they’re already sprinting toward the water, zig-zagging between rocks and sliding over icebergs. Photographers rush to set up tripods and attach lenses. Everyone’s scrambling and yelling. They jump in the water and paddle toward the glacier as the water draws off the shoreline. Chunks of ice bounce off their boards. They weren’t searching for a glacier wave — neither of them knew something like this even existed — but here they are, and here it comes!

The glacial swell approaches at a non-glacial pace and Mick and Mason pick their lineup They have no clue. They’ve never surfed here before, nobody has, so they’re just guessing. But they have their shortboards on top of SUPs, hoping the vessel’s extra paddle power will make up for any lineup miscalculation. It doesn’t.

Sitting too far down the sandbar, they watch helplessly as a chest high left reels perfectly down the top of the point. “No, no, no!” Mason yells as he paddles toward the wave. Mick concedes defeat and watches it peel, mouth agape. While he missed the biggest, best wave, Mason’s tenacity gets him to the tail end of the set’s last wave. He dismounts the SUP, grabs his shortboard and jumps into the wave. He has time for one pump and a hurried lip hit before the wave dies.

“Coolest one-footer I’ve caught in my life,” he says, simultaneously ecstatic and dissatisfied. He knows how good this wave can be. And for a guy who loves novelty waves, this is the Holy Grail. “We gotta get ready for the next one.”

Read the full excerpt from Comfortably Numb.