At some stage you get to a point of no return, what are your feelings to ensure you make that final commitment on a wave like that?
Just thinking about this moment, and Shipsterns itself, straight away gets my heart rate increasing! I'm thinking all the way up until the point when I commit to the wave - speed, positioning, whitewater and whatever else… but when I psychologically commit to taking that wave, I’m no longer thinking, I’m more feeling. Once I’m past the point of no return I become completely relaxed like I’m in a ‘flow state’ where things change and I’m more in control of my feelings. For example, being on a wave like is really loud, but I can't hear a thing and everything slows right down for me, it’s sick!
OK, so now you’re riding down the face but you know there is a gnarly step coming, how do you prepare for that at Shippies?
The interesting thing about this wave in particular is the direction was very south and sometimes the big south ones miss the step. Russ had me in early and positioned really well so that it felt like a big, dreamy South one and I remember just cruising along going ‘how good is this’. Then it was like someone pulled the rug out from under me and I felt like I was getting sucked back up the face as suddenly, there’s this big drop under me. It happened so quickly! The water sucking up the face and over the step actually felt like a massive vacuum, sucking me backwards. Thinking back, that’s when I realised this wave was significantly bigger than anything I had ever had out there before.
You’re board is almost pointing to the shore as you wait for the step, how do you stay calm and overcome the urge to get away from the danger-zone?
I like to take the step straight on at Shippies if possible, I subconsciously use my left arm to help me straighten up just before hitting the step. I try to keep my nose up, so it doesn't catch (man I’ve learnt the hard way about that) and then you just kinda want to lower the board down, similar to how a plane lands. I’ve learnt the most important thing is to hold your nerve. When I first started surfing Stern I’d see the step and rush to it because I just wanted to get over it, but the trick is to actually wait for it to come to you, because then you’ve got more speed to air off it, making it way easier!
It looks like as soon as you land you have to immediately start turning or the lip will obliterate you, what happened there?
That was so intense, the transition from landing to turning was instant and the foam ball actually helped me out and pushed me back up to where I needed to be. What a trip!
Now you’re amongst a heap of whitewater and actually getting sucked up the face, what are you thinking at this stage?
It was honestly one thing to the next on this wave. I finally started regaining balance after being stuck in the foam ball and then it grabbed me again and I lost traction, suddenly the channel started to look further away!
How do you keep the faith that you can make it with all this going on around you?
A wave like that can come with serious consequences so I don't give up until I physically can't ride anymore.
When did you know you were going to make this wave?
To be honest, through the final stages I had zero vision and the board felt completely weightless as it lifted off the wave face, so I didn’t think it would end well. It wasn't until the whitewater explosion finished and my eyes cleared that I knew I’d somehow made it.
What happened after you made a mental one like that? Was everyone frothing?
It took a couple of seconds to sink in. As I rode towards the channel I looked up and everyone on the boats and skis had their hands in the air, so I threw mine up as well. It was the first wave I've ever claimed, haha! I jumped on the ski and felt like I was floating on a cloud, I couldn't stop smiling as I sat out there buzzing all afternoon. When I look back at the wave now I can still remember every little moment, sort of like a really vivid dream.
You’ve kept the clip under wraps for a while, why is that?
Were there other angles of the wave?Yeah Covid hit Australia as this all went down and the world was a bit chaotic, so I didn't feel any rush to get it out there. My good buddy Cameron Staunton nailed the land angle, but I’m saving that for a Profile piece I have coming out soon!!
You and filmer Chris Bryan have a good relationship, he’s really committed to nailing clips at radical waves, how does that work?
Chris is extremely talented at what he does and we both share a passion for the same type of waves, so we’re always watching the forecast, psyching each other up, He’s pretty much been there for all my key moments at Shipsterns. Stoked to nail a good one and do a piece with him.
Finally, tell us something that only a person who catches a wave like that would know?
In the days leading up to this session, Russ and I were joking around, like “Maybe we’ll get some 20ft bombs”! So I guess … Be careful what you wish for because your thoughts will become your reality!!