While big wave surfing has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years, big wave bodysurfing still exists on the fringes. In fact, outside of Nazare resident Kalani Lattanzi, you’d probably be hard-pressed to name another person who swims out into XL waves on a regular basis. But they do exist, often braving life-threatening conditions with little or no fanfare, simply doing it because they love it.
The Hijo del Mar is one of those madmen—a dedicated big-wave bodysurfer who spends most of his time exploring the outer reefs of Lanzarote, kicking his way into watery beasts out of either passion, obsession, or a little bit of both. We decided we wanted to know more about the Canary Island’s gnarliest bodysurfer, so we got him on the line to find out why he does what he does, and where he got such an apt nickname.
Forecast: Canary Islands
Tell us a bit about the Hijo del Mar. Who are you, where did you grow up, and how did you end up bodysurfing huge waves in the Canary Islands?
My name is Ahmed Erraji, I am 39 years old, and I am a big wave bodysurfer, vegan and ocean activist. I was born in Rabat (Morocco), and the nickname “Son of the Sea” was given to me by my grandmother when I was five years old. I started to catch waves without a board at the age of sven, although my first experience with the water was two years before that, falling by accident from an eight-meter river bridge.
Lanzarote is breathtakingly beautiful, impressive, and fascinating! It has a tropical climate, wonderful people, and big waves. The Canary Islands are a treasure of the Atlantic, and that's why I'm here.
There aren't too many guys trying to bodysurf XL+ waves, so I would assume you are out there alone a lot of the time. Is that part of the appeal, or do you wish you had more people joining you?
When the swell is huge, I usually paddle out with locals surfers like Lezcano, Monchi, and Mariano. But when it comes to bodysurfing, usually it is just me. As far as I know, there isn’t anyone else trying to bodysurf XL waves. It is not easy to bodysurf in extreme conditions.
The spots here are super intimidating, and often provide a big reality check. Rip currents, slabs, rocks, and difficult access all make it difficult. You spend a lot of energy just swimming one mile to the peak while battling the elements. These places make you realise how tiny you and your problems are. Being completely in nature’s hands makes you feel alive. It is Mother Nature at her rawest.
Spot guide: Lanzarote.
Do you find that it is scarier approaching big waves without a board?
It is a lot of physical work, because there is no board to float on. The wipeouts are heavy. I don't use an inflatable vest, so the apnea aspect really comes into play. Last season a huge wave catapulted me several meters and I dislocated my shoulder.
Are you also bodysurfing smaller slabs, or mostly just the outer reefs?
Both of them. I bodysurf anything that produces adrenaline. Here in Lanzarote there are lots of big waves that break on shallow reefs as well.
What's the biggest waves you have been out in with just your fins? What about the biggest wave you have caught?
I have a few beautiful memories. One of them is in "La Punta Bra" in Lanzarote, where I rode an XXL wave that seemed like a tsunami invading the village Lasanta.
What is the end goal for you? Are you trying to set a record, or just out there having fun?
I’m not trying to break any records. The way I see it, either you’re going for it or you’re not—and I don’t want caught somewhere in the middle. The ocean is a reflection of my energy, my joy ,my calm, my behaviour. I push the limits because I feel everything connected: the love, the empathy, the ability, and the power.
You are also an ocean activist. What is your focus there?
Nowadays, man seems to be fighting to dominate and exploit nature. But here in Lanzarote there is so much energy that it teaches you to be honest with yourself and with Mother Nature, and to live a life in accordance with your personal values.
I became a vegan for the environment and for my health, but also out of respect for animals. Empathy has a number of definitions, but at its simplest it is the ability to appreciate and respond to the feelings of other beings. When one of us suffers, we all suffer, and that is true of all living things. I feel compelled to protect the environment and the animals, and advocate for them as much as possible