risk vs reward
We hit the icy roads of winter bound for NZ's pound for pound heaviest wave, a wave considered too risky by many and a wave that has ended its fair share of love affairs with those that have dared tame her. Surfers are traditionally seen as extreme risk takers and will go beyond the normal means of human acceptance to simply bask in the glory of riding the ultimate wave. With great risk comes great reward, but what if that risk far outweighs any reward you could possibly ever receive from riding a wave? What if that risk meant never surfing again? Surfing injuries can be part and parcel of the sport and happen day in day out at breaks throughout the country, yet considering this wave turning on is such a rare occurrence and is also only ridden by a handful of experts with skills to match the technical challenge of its ride, surely there is no other wave on our shores that have handed out such beatings and humbled many to the point that they resign from ever surfing here again! Extreme you may say! But when those incidents consist of broken necks, backs, ankles, and cuts and bruises so deep that they could have long lasting life affects, then it would make you think twice. What if you were faced with being knocked out, only to be found floating face down in the impact zone by another surfer who just happened to be paddling back out? These are some of the clouds that hang over the heads of those that dedicate themselves to a spot in this lineup. With the most extreme of risks out of the way, surfing here also comes with other associated risks although of the lesser impact kind. With a mid-winters weather bomb spiralling its way off our East Coast, the hype meter was in overload with surfers all over the country frothing on this potential week-long run of swell. While many swells can be hyped and lead to sweet bugger all, this one was looking a dead set certainty therefore the entire East Coast from the Far North down to Otago would be smoking at various stages up and down the coast as the wind swung. What this introduced was another risk of dedicating to the chase of scoring this one particular wave, a wave that is notoriously fickle and a wave which has not only a narrow swell window but also needs the combinations of wind and tide to harmonize to deliver the platform to ride. Therefore, those that expressed interest in chasing the swell to have at least a chance to score this wave would be risking blowing certain sessions elsewhere, and risking the possibility that they could take days off work, spend hundreds of dollars on travel and yet if those elements didn't combine, it would result in a fruitless few days and riding nothing at all! Yet they all knew and all understood, for that ultimate reward their lies an ultimate risk, and not plenty, but just one wave at this spot can make all of that risk vanish in a haze as they are blown out of a deep barrel into the channel.
LEFT: Prior to this wave Sam 'Sanga' Willis got beat up pretty bad on the reef, but he couldn't bring himself to go in and with the water being so cold he couldn't feel the damage anyway, so he paddled back out, scored this drainer and went in.