Kurt Rist completes a paddle-in ride at Irish big-wave slab Mullaghmore on November 13th, becoming the first regular-footer to do so. Sequence: Camila Neves
Gravitas (n): dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner.
Kurt Rist is perfectly happy to sit for six hours in a car without speaking. He’ll sit through a storm for days at the house without uttering more then perfunctory, polite pleases and thank-yous. This is his fourth winter over here in Ireland. And he gets dug in. He investigates weather charts, drinks tea, and eats organic food from the local farm and seaweed and mussels from the reef out front. He trains. Like the rest of us, he got qualified for PWC Rescue and helps everybody stay safe in the brutal waves of Donegal. He has great relationships with all the locals. There is a fondness here for people who speak softly.
What you realize quickly about Kurt is that for pretty much most of the time, he is thinking about surfing, most of that time is spent thinking about big barrels, and most of that time is spent thinking about how to properly paddle a set wave at Mullaghmore. Kurt studied for this wave for four years. Studying exactly what it would take to paddle into a monster. Lots of time spent in the water first, towing and paddling, swimming, running safety. He’s got two XXL nominations (and one more pending).
You might think Kurt is some sort of fearless daredevil — a gung-ho thrill seeker. But he’s not. He’s scared, just like all of us. Mullaghmore is one of the scariest lineups in the world: fear can be a wall out there, and on the other side, your body goes limp. Kurt’s fear makes him sharp as a tack. He can sit underneath a giant wedge on the far outside corner and remember his thoughts and training and internal pep talks. The theory is simple. Paddle way up the reef, turn around under a bomb, and ride that big bugger to the channel: two long sections of the biggest barrel you could possible imagine. Modern surfing at its finest.
Kurt Rist recently became the first regular-foot to do this. He changed the game. He went from becoming one of the best surfers from New York to being one of the best in the world. He is a dedicated athlete who is prepared both mentally and physically to surf the heaviest waves in the world. And this wave was the one: the game changer. It broke barriers. And Kurt’s just getting going...