Ryan Hipwood, Russ Bierke, Scott Dennis… Harry Bryant?
It was the first day of the trip. Everyone was rocking up super keen to surf. There were rumours the swell was going to be big enough for this bombie in the middle of nowhere, but I didn’t have the equipment for it. You need a big board. So we’re all sitting around the campfire on the first night talking about the boards we’ve brought, and Duncan McNicol says, “I’ve got one of my dad’s 7’6”s, I just thought I’d bring it.” And I was like, “Hmmmmmmmm, ok.”
Later that night I pulled Dunc aside and I’m like, “Hey man, reckon I can borrow your dad’s 7’6” in the morning?” And he’s like, “Yeah, go for it.” So I go get it out and it’s this super old board with an old FCS 1 fin system in it, I’m looking in people’s boardbags for some FCS 1s and then Beauy Foster finds a set in his truck and they are the tiniest little fins. I stuck them in this old 7’6” and thought, “Well, fuck, that’ll have to do.”
I woke up super early. Me, Nate, and Moose – the elusive Moose who came down and gatecrashed the trip – we got up before anyone, and a few crew were onto us, asking where we were going to surf, but we were just like, “Aaaah… dunno, might go check a few places,” and sped out of there without making a scene. We got down there and it was on, really cooking, 10-12 foot with some rogue 15 foot sets. I paddled out – it’s a fucken big paddle – and had a bit of a scope around, and it was pretty serious. Ryan Hipwood and Russ Bierke were out there, Scott “Whip” Dennis and Leroy Bellet too, and it was such a good feeling out in the water. Everyone was buzzing about the spot being on, and I got a few little ones in between those guys and was having a pretty fun time.
Then I paddled into this closeout. I went to jump off, but kinda got stuck in the lip which whiplashed my neck back and then sucked me straight over the falls. It’s such a deep water wave – just this bombie out in the middle of nowhere, and this wave pushed me so far down, so deep. I kept going down, but I was thinking, “There’s no way you can hit the bottom out here!” Then my skull went, “crack!” The back of my head slammed into a rock. There was a crazy white flash and blackness. For a second I thought my head might have exploded from the pressure because I was on the floor of the ocean and my ears were ringing and I had gone into full panic mode. Funnily enough, it let me up pretty easy, and when I got to the surface and felt my head I felt fine. I didn’t have any blood, I was in one piece, and I was like, “Sweet!”
So I began paddling back out and I was chatting with Russell Bierke and suddenly I started feeling really dizzy. I was looking around and everything started changing colours and I couldn’t really hear people speaking to me. Later someone told me that they were trying to talk to me and I was just looking out to sea with an expression on my face like I’d eaten a paddock full of magic mushies. I mean, the clouds were changing colours and the sky was all lit up and I was pretty much tripping balls.
I must have come to after a while because the next thing I remember is Ryan Hipwood coming over and telling me to go in. Everyone was wearing those paddle vests and I wasn’t wearing one because I didn’t really know you had to. I’m not that educated on the whole big wave scene, I guess. So Hippo pulled me aside and said, “Mate, if you’re gonna surf waves like this again you need to be equipped because if you had been knocked out under water you would have drowned straight away.”
It was an eye opener, it’s so raw in that neck of the woods. Guys get in their tattered up old wetsuits, wax up an old board and paddle these deep ocean bombs, charge, then go to work like nothing even happened. It’s insane! In the last couple of years those guys have really been getting noticed – Russ, Brett Burcher, Whip, they’ve all been doing it for years. They’re such humble guys, always welcoming, they help out, it was sick to surf with them. They’re the biggest legends. So core, it’s epic.
So I learned a lot that day. I went to the hospital that arvo and got a bunch of scans on my brain just to make sure I didn’t have any internal bleeding. It was all sweet, a crazy start to the trip, though. I came back to the camp and everyone was like, “Where did you surf today?” And I was like “Aaaaah… yeah, I pretty much got my head knocked off my shoulders.”
After that the swell kind of backed off, and I was able to get stuck into some serious rehabilitation. I stayed off the booze for the next week and laid really low, kept things very quiet… Ha!. As if. I ripped in like a bulldog chewing a tennis ball.
OCTOBER TOUR DATES:
Thursday 12 – Westside Museum, Costa Mesa, CA USA
Wednesday 18 – The Steyne, Manly, NSW (film only) – Free Entry
Sunday 22 – The Bangalow Hotel, Bangalow, NSW – $15.00 – Tickets on Door