9 of the best big wave surfers tackle today’s most pressing issues
The venue – the Ritz Carlton overlooking Salt Creek, the afternoon prior to the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards. An insurance convention is taking place next door, a big budget piano photo shoot on the path, waiters, groundskeepers and all kinds of staff walking attentively about and 8 of the world’s foremost big wave surfers sitting around a fancy table, outdoors, surrounded by coffee and little pastries infront of the bright blue Pacific, flat as a pancake. This is how Surfline’s 1st annual big wave round table began.
Skindog Collins arrives on time, Healey and Greg Long drift in shortly after, Ian Walsh and Shame Dorian showed up together and Dave Wassell rolled up shortly after, but the Big Man isn’t here yet.
That title isn’t an easy one to earn amongst this crowd of big wave surfing legends, these are probably the most alpha surfers on the planet! But somehow, there’s an understanding. One guy has out-alpha-ed the alphas, and when Laird Hamilton eventually ambles across the manicured lawn, the 8 other surfers stand up and offer mock applause.
Despite the idea of some general surfing “brotherhood”, big wave surfing isn’t like the ASP. These surfers don’t spend months travelling around the world together, checking out each other’s styles and contending for points, money and girls. It’s lucky if they see each other a few times a year, hanging off the coast of Cape Town, Todos Santos, Pillar Point, Tavarua, Oahu’s North Shore or Maui. Of course they all know who everyone is and they shake hands and laugh about that small, funny fact.
This is kind of the point of the roundtable – get all these guys in the same room, away from the next looming 50 ft swell, purple blob or underwater rock run and take a few hours to talk amongst themselves about where big wave surfing has come from, how we got here, and what’s coming, and while most of the best parts of the conversations were captured in the upcoming 3 part series from Surfline, a couple of moments happened, as they frequently do, after the cameras stopped rolling. One of the most telling of these moments came when the discussion about the Big Wave World Tour reached a sort of crescendo. Ideas were being flung around about logistics, support, locations, etc and someone asked Laird what his thoughts were on the idea of a Big Wave World Tour. He didn’t miss a beat.
“I think it’s great,” he deadpanned. “That way I’ll know where all you guys are and I’ll go somewhere else.”
Laird making his thoughts on the subject very clear, did I mention he was late?
The footage can be seen here