Ask any big wave surfer about the risks they take and most of them will give you the same answer: it's not a case of being as gung-ho as it may seem from the outside. It takes year round training, a flawless knowledge of your equipment and a lot of calculation. We're not talking a big day at your local beachie, we're talking years of preparation leading to that one day that'll go down in history.
In the first instalment of our new series looking at the experience of the world's elite big wave surfers, we ask how they prepare when a big day looms on the charts.
You definitely have to be in a certain mindset, but there’s no consistency. We’re not allowed that, because you know you can be driving all night long, or have been on flights for two days and you feel like shit.
I always say that if I get to a big wave and get to surf and I’m at 70% then I’m doing good.You just have time to warm up and stretch, you’ve got to eat gas station food and drive all night once you get there. We just do whatever we can to get to the spot, we don't have the luxury of being able to have some sort of routine to get warmed up. I always say that if I get to a big wave and get to surf and I’m at 70% then I’m doing good. The only time I can ever be at a 100% is if it happens at here home in Hawaii and I can drive down the road.
Grant 'Twiggy' Baker
Just trying to stay calm and save energy while hydrating as much as possible and getting my equipment together as best I can.
I train year round to make sure I am totally prepared. I also make sure I have all my boards dialled in, and all my fins and leashes and stuff totally ready to go.
Lots of equipment organising and usually some travel. I do my best to stay occupied so I'm not thinking about wiping out all day.
Usually it's just loads of logistics stuff and deciding where I wanna go, speaking to all the other Euro big wave guys, trying to make the right call. The physical stuff is done way before, then on the day it's all mental, maybe a bit of visualising what my game plan is and then good breathing, just in case.
James Hollmer Cross
Just lots of big deep breaths.
It depends on where in the world I'm going and how big it's going to be. For Lanies I check the peak of the swell, the tides and the winds the night before and throw a few boards in my car, a paddle vest, a solid Stay Covered leash and hit it.
Check the Boards, gas the skis, check walkie talkies, call the Navy for permission, call the fire department and lifeguards for support, get all the GoPros ready on boards and skis and finally launch and head out. For Jaws I've got to line up a boat or a ski, book tickets, rent a car, call uncle Rodney aka Handsome Bugga or one of the boys for a place to stay. Then I get three to five boards packed. I always bring at least one Wavejet so when I am on my third session and tired and everyone else is going in I bust it out and keep going strong like the Energizer bunny. In Nazare, I get everything prepped the night before. Check the boards, gas the skis, check walkie talkies, call the Navy for permission, call the fire department and lifeguards for support. Get all the GoPros ready on boards and skis, and finally launch and head out. Once we get around the point we get on the walkie talkies to Nicole and the rest of the support team and figure out where is best and safest peak to surf.