Surfing World - - Introduction -

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

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