MIND SURF THIS? No Thanks
When it comes to mind surfing, I’m a total lunatic. Right up there with Laird, Dorian, and Evel Knievel (if he surfed). Ten foot closeouts at my home beach, for example? Mate, I’ll throw full rote 720s off those things straight out and into the flats. Sixty foot A-frames at Nazare? I’ll swing the deepest fades in history, and backdoor the peak standing bolt upright while eating a chicken kebab. Impossible Superbank sections reeling off at 50 yards a second? I’ll thread those puppies from behind the rock all the way to North Kirra, and throw in a few high speed roundhouses between sections for good measure. There’s pretty much no wave I wouldn’t mind surf my way to a World Title on… or so I used to believe.
You see, earlier this year I was standing on the cliffs at the entrance to Botany Bay, watching the Red Bull Cape Fear event – which happened to be running at the very peak of a once in 40 year East Coast Low – and, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t mind surf my way through anything that was breaking. As far as mind surf sessions go, and I’ve had some pretty memorable ones, I was having a shocker. Mountains of furious swell were rushing the coast, tripping themselves on the shelf, folding in half, and detonating into giant explosions of whitewash less than a tennis ball’s throw from where I was standing… and it simply didn’t make sense. There wasn’t a section I could mind backdoor, no wall I could stylishly mind-highline. Every wave, every single monster that erupted that day, gave me some sort of mind-beating. Mind two wave hold downs. Mind over the falls. The mind wipe-outs of my life.
This wasn’t just unrideable, it was mind unrideable.
But the competitors were ready to take it on, because somehow they saw what my imagination couldn’t, and for the next two days new lines were discovered in those ridiculously heavy waters breaking inches from exposed rock. And while I was mind climbing up the rocks like a crab with a broken shell, guys were scoring the (real) rides of their (real) lives.
If you believe in the collective subconscious, you might suspect that the current leaps happening in the evolution of slab hunting around Australia right now are no coincidence. For the handful of guys committed to chasing monster swells, fear is no longer the mind’s way of telling the body it’s in danger. Fear is now the motivator to let go of the rope and have a go anyway. As you read this, two major films are in production focussing on the tribes leading the way in Australia’s big wave slab surfing. One is being made by Talon Clemow (who brought us the award winning masterpiece on the 2012 Fiji mega swell, Thundercloud) and will tell the story of Shipsterns Bluff and the rise of the Tasmanian Wildman. The other is Society Unseen, a concept created between Western Australia’s Brown brothers and legendary cinematographer Rick Rifici. Three years in the making, you only need look at the photo on this page to see just how wild this film could be. In this issue, we look a little deeper at the mindset of the men and women who intentionally seek out the heaviest surf in one of the most remote and deadly coastlines on Earth.
Yes, slab surfing isn’t for everyone, and for many the smell of petrol in the line-up, the whirr of choppers above, goes against everything we love about paddling out and stroking into a few quiet rollers. Yet every one of us, at some point or another in our surfing lives, has sat on a headland on the craziest swell of a year and pictured ourselves in the belly of beasts. Mindsurfed ourselves into heroic big wave glory.
These guys see potential in that surf, the surf we can only imagine riding. And in some special cases, these guys can see potential in the surf we can’t. And that’s nothing short of bloody extraordinary. – Vaughan Blakey