Last time, in part two of this special web extension for our recent “Over The Ledge” big-wave surfing feature, we checked in with Wes Laine and Will Skudin for thoughts on the progression of the sport and what it’s like trying to break into the big-wave bubble as an aspiring East Coaster. This time, we’ll catch up with New York native and Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards contender Kurt Rist, North Carolina globetrotting pro Rob Brown, Puerto Rican charger Carlos Cabrero, New Yorker and Big Wave World Tour alternate Cliff Skudin, and North Carolina shaper/big-wave enthusiast Adam Warden. Here’s what the guys had to say…
Kurt Rist: “Growing up on the east end of Long Island, I loved surfing heavy shorebreaks. I loved the challenging drops into slurping tubes, and the bigger it would get, the more excited I became. I would always look at magazine shots of pros getting huge tubes at Pipe and Teahupo’o, and I told myself I had to get a massive barrel sometime in my life. It’s probably the ultimate thing a surfer could do, in my eyes. There’s no big-wave surfer out there doing it for the fame and glory, they’re just doing it for the feeling and rush. It’s like putting your lifetime of surfing to a test. My biggest personal achievement so far has been paddling Mullaghmore on the suitable days. Mullaghmore is not just a steep drop into a channel, it’s the ultimate ride, and when you’re locked in, you’re not even comprehending anything until you get to the channel.
“I actually find it kind of hard traveling all over and chasing big waves. You have to travel through airports with a rhino-chaser quiver and then, ideally, you want to have jet-ski support when you’re ready to charge. It also takes a long time getting comfortable at a new big-wave spot, so I've been really just trying to put my time in at Mullaghmore. Big-wave surfers, I feel, are a bit more dedicated, because you have to really train and prepare for that day you've been waiting for, or else it’s not going to end well. And I feel East Coast surfers will actually charge harder if they have the chance. We never get XXL stuff on the East Coast, so we really go for it when it’s on.”
Rob Brown: “A few years ago, in Hawaii, I surfed an outer reef on Christmas Day. I had just surfed Makaha, so I didn't bother waxing my board again. I ended up catching by far the biggest wave of my life, only to make it to the bottom and have my front foot slip forward, which resulted in me doing a split that turned into a face-plant. So I pretty much kooked the biggest wave I've ever ridden [laughs]. I think I got into surfing bigger waves when I realized I sucked at contests. So, instead of paying for entry fees, I started to buy plane tickets to Mainland Mexico and Hawaii. But I’ve never really tried to go big in the first place. It seems like it’s always just been like, ‘OK, it's big today. Do I feel like surfing, or not?’ I definitely wouldn’t say that I care about catching the biggest wave or making myself paddle out because it's big. Instead of thinking about how I can go bigger, I'm just thinking of how I can keep doing this for longer. I'm putting a lot of thought into my mental and physical preparation, safety preparation, and just having fun. If you have all these things dialed, then I think ‘going bigger’ just comes naturally.”
Carlos Cabrero: “Growing up in Puerto Rico and being surrounded by so many good waves that get to a bigger size, it gives you a fresh challenge and a lot of adrenaline to eventually try to go a little bit bigger. You keep practicing and trying up to the point where you feel comfortable in those waves, and once I reached that level, it started to be more fun to me to ride bigger waves. The biggest swell I’ve ever surfed in Puerto Rico was in 2008. I had the chance to surf Tres Palmas at a very large size. The waves were reaching from 30 to 40 feet, so I paddled out and caught a few waves by paddling into them, then I got lucky to get towed into a few more and got one of the biggest waves I’ve ever surfed in Puerto Rico and in my life.”
Cliff Skudin: “Five years ago, I had been watching my younger brother doing his big-wave stuff, but I was busy going to college and pursuing other goals. Then, shortly after we started a surf school together, Will motivated me to give it a try. My goals with the sport now are just to have fun and share waves with friends. It’s special, being out there in the big surf. It makes me feel really alive. Feeling comfortable in the water is definitely a huge tool, and the way I was brought up, I was in the ocean at an early age, and I’ve been swimming competitively my whole life. Being a strong swimmer and having good breathing control and holding your breath and relaxing in the water is definitely important. I also do a lot of weightlifting and running to try to build my cardiovascular system up so I can last longer, because, a lot of time, you’ll be out in the lineup for six hours at a time, so that’s a long session. There’s a lot of paddling, so you’ve got to be in shape for that as well as surviving a wipeout.”
Adam Warden: “Honestly, shaping big-wave boards on the East Coast is extremely difficult, because you’re 100% basing it off of rider feedback, and there are not that many guys from the East Coast really testing the big boards. For quite a few years, I still didn’t really understand the amount of foam necessary in big-wave guns; at least not until I started surfing Todos Santos. You can’t really understand how important volume is until you’re out on a big day with a board too small. The real function in big-wave boards is making a paddle machine that won’t get hung up. It’s as simple as that. Overall, it’s the same strategy Greg Noll and all the original big-wave shapers always strived for, and that will continue. The only thing different in the future is that guys are really looking for the barrel in the big stuff with the help of quads.”