During the 2015/16 El Nino season, it seemed like you couldn’t go anywhere online without seeing Aaron Gold’s name.
He was on quite a publicity tear, catching world record waves, getting invited to the Eddie, qualifying for the Big Wave Tour, tearing his head open, and nearly drowning in Fiji. But the past 12 months have been pretty quite in the Gold camp—until mid-January, that is.
After what seemed like an extended hiatus, Aaron popped back onto our radar, just in time for the swell of the winter. He ended up paddling two of the biggest waves caught at Pe’ahi, then took an overnight flight to Northern California, where he got busy sending it at Mavs.
Once the swell dropped, we gave Aaron a chance to get home and settle back in with his family, then stopped by for a visit to see what he’s been up to.
It's been awhile since we've talked with you, Aaron. What have you been up to over the past year?
Well to be honest, my life tends to move in waves. It's funny, because you can pretty much gauge exactly what I've been up to by reading between the lines.
I either have my head down to the grindstone, trying to provide for my family, or am taking a break to stay sane and chase some swells. If you see me in the media, that usually means I'm burnt out and getting some much-needed water time.
You had a pretty rough go of it there for awhile, between your head injury, your near drowning at Fiji, and your rib injury. Was it difficult for you to come back from those accidents? Do you find that your approach to big waves has changed at all?
Yeah, I guess that was pretty good run of things that went down. For me they are just part of what I love to do, and you simply take things as they come.
I think the hardest part had nothing to do with my injures, but rather trying to re-motivate myself and set new goals, both in and out of the water.
It's hard to explain, but when you achieve or surpass your goals, you find yourself in a weird place trying to figure out what's next. I simply don't care as much now about the things I used to think were important to me, career-wise.
Did the accidents affect the way I approach big waves? Yes and no
Did the accidents affect the way I approach big waves? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that I don't feel the need to chase everything that moves when it comes to swell.
I'm simply content to wait patiently for the special ones, and if they come, they come. If not, no worries. But also no, in the sense that when I'm out there, I still want the biggest, heaviest one. I don’t know, maybe I'm broken or something (laughs).
I do understand, however, that life is short, and I'm thankful and blessed every morning to wake up and enjoy the people around me that I love, and with whom I get to share a home.
It seems like you were all over that XXL swell that hit in mid-January. Rumor has it you paddled two of the biggest waves of the swell at Pe’ahi, and then went straight over to Mavs. Talk us through the highlights of that swell for you.
Yes, I was stoked I got two good ones at Pe’ahi that last big swell. I waited three hours each day, trying to line up the bigger ones, which were coming in few and far between. Most of the guys where sitting under, as the swell was a bit slow both days. It was definitely super hard and shifting a lot—lumpy, bumpy, doubling-up, and moving fast.
The one I got Saturday afternoon was super heavy, and drawing so much water off the reef it made the wave feel twice as big.
The one I got Sunday stood up super tall and had a ledge I had to commit and push over, but was moving super fast and had a lot of chatter on face, which made it hard to set a line. I got super pounded at the end on both waves, and like everybody else out there was just thankful to make it back to the beach in one piece.
Mavs, on the other hand, was the polar opposite. It was super rad, because I was scheduled to shoot a show for the Olympic channel with Garret, Mitcho, Emi Erickson, and Luca Padua.
So I was going either way, good or bad. Monday ended up being all-time conditions, 15- to 20-foot and glassy all day, blue bird conditions with minimal crowds. It was a perfect, fun, non-life-threatening day of surf, with everyone getting good waves—just the needed change for my third day in a row of XXL surf.
Tuesday was fun too, but considerably smaller, with some weather. Then Thursday was massive, like 30 foot Hawaiian, but I blew it and missed the early window with good conditions, and ended up surfing monster bumpy Mavs from 11:00-1:30, with only young Luca on the ski.
Needless to say I wasn't gonna push it out there solo, but I managed to shoulder hop a few, and got to see a new side of Mavs that I can't wait to get another crack at.
It's a new year on the Big Wave World Tour, with a new batch of full-time guys on tour. Is getting back into the top 10 a goal for you at the moment? Have you been granted wild cards into any of the events this year?
For sure, I definitely want to get back into the top 10 this next year and mix it up with the boys. I ended last season in 11th, making me first alternate for the top 10 guys this year. All of the ups and downs last year definitely played into my performance as a whole.
I got a wild card into the Pe’ahi challenge this year, but I wasn't prepared equipment-wise, and ended up having the worst surf I've ever had out there. I had only me to blame on that one, and it forced me to get on it and get things back on track, which I did just in time for the run of swell in January.
I was stoked to get out there and get a few bombs, both at Jaws and Mavs. Hopefully with that, a few more swells, and the rest of events on the 2017/18 schedule, I can get my full-time spot back for 2018/19.
What would feel like a bigger accomplishment to you: to win the Ride of the Year award, or take home a world title?
Honestly, they are equally amazing achievements in their own right. Taking home either one at the moment would help me out greatly financially, which in turn would allow me more time in the water. The way I see it, both are a win-win, so why not just go big and take them both out, right (laughs again)?!
You have the world record for the biggest wave ever paddled, you suffered the biggest and most publicized wipeout in recent memory at Cloudbreak, you've surfed XXL days at nearly all of the heaviest paddle waves out there, and yet it appears that you are still hungry. What does it take to scare a guy like you?
Well I hate to break it to you, but I’m not some superfreak, fearless, un-scared, crazy, invincible, uncalculated charger like some people may think I am. I get scared just like everyone else, and I'll be the first to tell you I'm not perfect, and there is nothing particularly special about me.
I find my strength through my faith in Christ Jesus, and simply choose daily to step out in that faith and overcome my fears, knowing without a doubt that this is the calling that God has for my life. I understand full well that each one of our days here on earth is numbered, and find my comfort in knowing that when my time has come, I will be in the presence of my creator.
After paddling massive days at Pe'ahi, Mavs, Nazare, Cloudbreak, and Oahu's outer reefs, what do you consider to be the heaviest big wave spot? And is there anywhere you haven't been that you'd like to check out?
Ah, the dreaded comparison question [laughs]. There is no absolute answer for this question. Every big wave spot in the world has its own set of challenges, and on its given day will break down and humble even the very best and most seasoned surfer.
This is what makes them special, and draws us to seek them out and come back time and time again to challenge our skills. The only real constant about big wave spots is they always end up the victor, when is all said and done.
There are so many places I'd love to seek out and surf around the world
There are so many places I'd love to seek out and surf around the world, but one of my new goals for this year is to surf the spots closer to home that I've always wanted to score, but have historically passed on because I was trying to be at the biggest spot.
First on the list is 20-foot Makaha, off the point. Second is bombing Hanalei. And lastly, believe it or not, I’d love to score pumping Honolua.
Sounds like you have some big plans in the works! Do you have anything else you want to share with the world?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain any inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God through faith, for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” - 1 Peter 1: 3-4 NASB