BUCKET LIST

- SCOTT WHIPPY DEN­NIS

Tracks - - BITSA - COM­PILED BY LUKE KENNEDY

1. Go to the Mentawai Is­lands with my clos­est friends. 2. Snow­board with Travis Rice and be a part of the next phase, ha­ha­hah. 3. Dou­ble tow a code red swell at Chopes. 4. Free climb the big­gest mountain in the world. 5. Have kids one day.

For the past few years im­ages of Scott ‘Whippy’ Den­nis have bom­barded the Tracks office in var­i­ous guises – Whippy’s ropey frame stand­ing tall through a con­torted slab, Whippy ca­su­ally slalom­ing down a top­pling, off­shore bom­bie while wear­ing a broad smile, or Whippy as the face­less man be­hind Leroy Bel­let’s other-worldly tow-be­hind shots.

Plenty of big wave surfers are paid big­ger sums than Whippy and many have re­ceived more ac­co­lades, but few go harder than the roam­ing South Coast charger who has been known to red­line it for 2000km to chase a swell that’s col­lid­ing with a but­ton of sub­merged rock on the other side of Aus­tralia.

Al­though rest­lessly fo­cussed on putting him­self in the way of ev­ery ma­jor swell that hits his tar­geted waves, Whippy is also that clas­sic kind of unas­sum­ing Aus­tralian char­ac­ter who per­forms seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble feats while pre­serv­ing the gre­gar­i­ous coun­te­nance of a knock-about bloke. The good-na­tured de­meanour is cou­pled with an ob­ses­sive streak, and amongst his South Coast peers he has earned a rep­u­ta­tion for re­lent­less ex­ac­ti­tude when it comes to mak­ing calls on swell fore­casts.

Al­though Whippy may cur­rently list lo­cal Ul­ladulla Surf Shop, South­ern Man, and fledg­ling wet­suit brand, Cheer, as his hum­ble spon­sors, his an­tics have not gone un­no­ticed by the con­tent di­rec­tors at Red Bull, who have an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for high-adrenalin ac­tion. Whippy and Leroy Bel­let have now been backed by Red Bull to take their unique tow-be­hind act into an­other realm. Al­though they’ve al­ready nailed shots around the South Coast re­gion, you can ex­pect to see pho­tog' and surfer dou­ble towing at a host of other world-class waves around the world. It’s a well-de­served break for a ded­i­cated charger who is on the tools run­ning his own car­pen­try busi­ness when he’s not chas­ing swells.

In the in­ter­view be­low Whippy dis­cusses the forces that moulded his big wave act and how he be­came ad­dicted to the whole process of pre­dict­ing, chas­ing and slay­ing waves of con­se­quence.

You grew up on the South Coast of NSW around Ul­ladulla. When did you sense you were drawn to big­ger, heav­ier waves? Yeah I grew up on the South Coast. Moved here when I was 4. It was kind of my brother and his mates that drew me to the heav­ier waves as they were push­ing their surf­ing. As my brother is three years older than me, the age dif­fer­ence pushed me a lit­tle harder than I maybe would have gone with­out the mo­ti­va­tion from them. The fear fac­tor is al­ways there, but it has be­come sec­ond na­ture to be out there, that’s what we’ve grown up in. Was there a lot of pres­sure to ride big­ger waves when you grew up? Nah, it’s just some­thing that I love do­ing. Is there a ses­sion or per­son from your youth that stands out as be­ing very in­flu­en­tial? From a young age it would def­i­nitely have been my brother and his mates. There is one ses­sion I re­mem­ber when I was about 12, with Mick Mackey and Rob­bie Page at home, I just pad­dled out and sat in the chan­nel and watched these guys get­ting 15 foot­ers. Some wide 15 foot­ers charged through the chan­nel, I sort of felt scared but at the same time quite comfy. That could have been a turn­ing point for me, I’m not sure! What about the nick­name – Whippy. How did that orig­i­nate? One arvo af­ter school, the swell was solid. My brother and his mates were go­ing out. I needed to get a lift with mum to the surf. When we got there she saw how big it was and she told me I wasn’t al­lowed to go surf­ing. She com­mented on how big it looked and there were a bunch of rips. One of my brother’s good mates started giv­ing me shit say­ing “It's too rippy for whippy”, some­how this just stuck. At this stage I was about 10, it’s been my nick­name ever since. Do you think the Ul­ladulla re­gion is home to a gen­uinely unique group of guys at the mo­ment in terms of big waves? Be­tween your­self, Brett Burcher, Russell Bierke, Paul Mor­gan, the Wrench broth­ers, the Taplin broth­ers, Shaun Mawson and El­liot Mar­shall. Yeah, there’s some­thing in the wa­ter down here for sure haha. But we all love what we’re do­ing, this area has made it eas­ier for us to adapt to big­ger heav­ier waves for sure. For push­ing each other, it’s re­ally Russ that is al­ways rais­ing the bar, and push­ing all of us. It’s strange, he’s the youngest, he’s just a freak! Are there par­al­lels with the guys who chase The Right on the West Coast? Well yeah, cos we all love chas­ing the big­gest heav­i­est bar­rels we can but some of the guys at The Right are pretty crazy with what they’re do­ing over there. Ob­vi­ously you feed off each other, but is it com­pet­i­tive be­tween you also? The com­pet­i­tive side re­ally is just the me­dia side for us. We all have some kind of spon­sor­ship and we need to keep push­ing to chase that. We’re all so stoked when one of us is do­ing re­ally well. It’s not about the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween mates when you all love what you’re do­ing. Do you have an un­der­stand­ing that you have to look af­ter one an­other in heavy con­di­tions? Is safety some­thing you dis­cuss? Yeah, there’s no doubt that we’re al­ways look­ing out for each other in heavy con­di­tions. Well … now you men­tion it, this is prob­a­bly some­thing we should dis­cuss some more! Ha ha. What’s the heav­i­est sit­u­a­tion you have found your­self in? Prob­a­bly the time I was towing the back of the point and fell be­fore the cor­ner. I felt my­self go weight­less as I got sucked over and felt my­self get driven down with the lip. I still re­mem­ber the way I was trav­el­ling was head-first, and the side of my face and shoul­der took first im­pact. It’s kind of a blur, and I was a lit­tle un­con­scious un­til I sur­faced and got washed around in the bay. What’s the heav­i­est sit­u­a­tion you have pulled some­one out of? Maybe my re­cent project with Red Bull. Mark Matthews had dis­lo­cated his knee, and not know­ing how bad the sit­u­a­tion was un­til we found out later that they nearly had to am­pu­tate his leg. The heav­i­est thing was to see him in so much pain. How do you strike a bal­ance be­tween go­ing for it and be­ing cal­cu­lated? A lot of times I just go for it, which puts me in a sit­u­a­tion I can learn from. This has helped me work out how to cal­cu­late and make some de­ci­sions. Do you ever have to tell your­self to take it easy? If you have had a few good ones do you start look­ing to wrap the ses­sion or do you just ride the adren­a­line rush un­til you are ex­hausted? Yeah, once I’ve had a few good ones I usu­ally chill out a bit. Yeah, if it’s pump­ing, I ride the adrenalin till the ses­sion goes to shit. You gotta make the most of the ses­sion when it’s there. Do you make any lit­tle rules for your­self, like when to go in or when not to surf or call it quits? It all de­pends on the wave, but you kinda know when the ses­sion is over and you don’t wanna push it! You have worked pretty closely with Leroy Bel­let on the tow-be­hind shots. Is it sat­is­fy­ing when some­thing like that comes off? Was the con­cept partly yours? I’ve known Leroy for a long time, we started the dou­ble tow to­gether. I still re­mem­ber the first time we nailed some shots, we knew it was some­thing spe­cial. We’ve re­ally be­come good mates over the last few years…I’m pretty stoked to be shar­ing the good bar­rels with him! Is it im­por­tant to keep be­ing cre­ative and look­ing for new ap­proaches to make it the whole process of hunt­ing and doc­u­ment­ing waves in­ter­est­ing? Any plans up your sleeve? Yeah that’s why the dou­ble tow photos and footage have be­come pop­u­lar in the last year, as it’s just some­thing so dif­fer­ent. Ev­ery­one in the world who sees this me­dia can ap­pre­ci­ate what we do and en­joy the view! We’re cur­rently do­ing a project with Leroy for Red Bull at some world-class waves, and this shits gonna blow peo­ple’s minds if we pull it off!

With­out giv­ing away too many se­crets you have to ad­mit that the Ul­ladulla re­gion is a wave-rich zone in terms of big waves, slabs and reefs? Does it help to make you a com­plete surfer? It’s helped in the path that I’ve taken, but for com­pet­i­tive surf­ing I think there are strug­gles to pro­duce top 44 surfers. We’re al­ways surf­ing good waves, in­stead of grov­el­ling, and a lot of comp surf­ing is on those sorts of waves. Which is the most chal­leng­ing wave in the re­gion? The one you en­joy the most. I’d say Su­pers is the most chal­leng­ing wave. It breaks be­tween 6-10 feet on a dry shelf and it’s on my back­hand. Ev­ery bar­rel out there is a chal­lenge but it’s the one I en­joy the most. Are you pro­tec­tive of the re­gion? Do you ever worry that a car-load of Hawai­ians will show up at De­pot Bom­bie or one of the other waves or would you make them wel­come? I am pro­tec­tive of the waves around home, but I also travel a lot. You have to show re­spect at all lo­ca­tions, ev­ery surfer should know that. For the Hawai­ians rock­ing up, yeah I’d make them wel­come! It would be mad to have them in the lineup for a ses­sion. What level of re­spect do you ex­pect from trav­el­ling surfers when the waves are on? Its pretty easy, you gotta re­spect the lo­cals. When I travel I al­ways re­spect the lo­cals and just get what I’m given. Do you think other surfers – pos­si­bly some of the Hawai­ians and Amer­i­cans – get over­hyped? Do they make a big deal out of stuff that you and your mates are do­ing on a swell-to-swell ba­sis? Nah I don’t reckon they get over hyped. I think that ev­ery­one is just pumped on what they’re do­ing and the waves they’re surf­ing. Ah­hhh, ac­tu­ally I think the Hawai­ians do froth a lit­tle harder! Ha ha. Which in­ter­na­tional surfers do you re­spect and why? Which Aus surfers do you re­spect and why? Shane Do­rian. I’ve loved him since I was a kid, and now he’s the best in the big waves. The guy’s is a freak. Mark Matthews and Ryan Hip­wood. They’ve been at the fore­front of Aus big waves surfers. They are the guys I look up to.. Do you have any de­sire to chase more waves overseas? Have you done a sea­son on the North Shore? Yeah, I’m al­ways frothin’ for new waves. My hit list at the mo­ment is Apoca­lypse in Indo, P-Pass, big Cloud­break and Chopes. I’ve done two sea­sons on the North Shore. Def­i­nitely an eye-opener. It’s some­thing ev­ery surfer should go and ex­pe­ri­ence I think! If you are not get­ting big money to hunt heavy waves what’s the in­cen­tive? What’s the buzz? To chase and find un­crowded per­fect waves. I love look­ing at the charts and see­ing where all the swells are go­ing, you know you just get this crazy but­ter­flies feel­ing, know­ing you’re chas­ing big heavy waves, it’s kind of ad­dic­tive.

PHOTO: LEROY BEL­LET

WHAT HIS WORLD LOOKS LIKE. TUN­NEL SPE­CIAL­IST SCOTT 'WHIPPY' DEN­NIS SHOW­ING YOU

SCOTT DEN­NIS ROARS WITH DE­LIGHT AS A THICK, CRES­CENT OF OCEAN BENDS VI­O­LENTLY AROUND HIM. PHOTO: SI­MON PUNCH

WHIPPY DWARFED BY A KHAKI LIP THAT'S HEAV­IER THAN HAV­ING A TANK THROWN OVER YOUR HEAD. IN­SET: MAK­ING TRACKS PHO­TOS: LEROY BEL­LET

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