Sunday, September 19 2021

Kai Lenny in Pe’ahi, Hawaii, home of the “Jaws” surf break, in 2019. Photo by Fred Pompermayer.

In the world of extreme sports, there are few things as dreadful and dangerous as surfing big waves. Basically we are talking about 20 feet tall or more, something almost impossible to understand for strangers and the occasional rider.

American legend Shane Dorian, who left championship surfing competition in 2003 to go all out on big waves, calls them “the ultimate challenge,” noting: “They can also present the ultimate life or death situation. “.

He makes the point in the foreword to one of the most impressive photographic tributes ever released to the sport, Big Wave Surfer: the most beautiful rides of our life, new from Rizzoli and written by fellow surfing legend Kai Lenny.

Kai Lenny surfing at Jaws in 2016. Photo by Fred Pompermayer.

Kai Lenny surfing at Jaws in 2016. Photo by Fred Pompermayer.

The book profiles the world’s best competitors on the big wave scene, accompanied by breathtaking images. “It’s hard to define big wave surfing as just a sport for me,” Lenny wrote in the introduction.

“Sport has rules that must be followed. But in the water, the only rule is that you respect the ocean for its relentless but somewhat comforting presence…. [As] the saying goes: “The greater the risk, the greater the reward.” And I believe it is true.

He writes that although “I still don’t think I rode a wave that could surpass my very first one, but all the waves I rode afterwards, especially the giants, have been stepping stones to my next goals. It’s important to remember that you don’t become a big wave surfer overnight. Of course, you could catch a huge wave out of sheer luck and reckless abandonment; it might work once, but probably not twice. “

Kai Lenny at the Big-Wave Invitational Eddie Aikau Opening Ceremony, O'ahu, 2019. Photo by Brian Bielmann.

Kai Lenny at the Big-Wave Invitational Eddie Aikau Opening Ceremony, O’ahu, 2019. Photo by Brian Bielmann.

“[And] when things go wrong, they go wrong very quickly. Before you know it, you’re jumping along the face until the wave begins to suck you vertically into space. Everything is light; one has the impression of floating, then a lung snap which collapses. You want to fight him, escape him, but there’s nowhere to go. You, my friend, are at the mercy of the ocean, and it won’t let you ride until it says so. “

Fighting against the omnipotent force of water will only make the defeat more overwhelming, literally. The only way to survive, advises Lenny, is to “Relax, let it be you.” [and] go with the flow. While all of this is going on, you haven’t breathed for what seems like forever. “

“Thirty seconds is like three minutes; time moves at the speed of a snail. Only when it’s finally finished can you break the surface; time rushes back in, and suddenly five seconds go by before the next wave lands on your head. “

Nazaré in Portugal is home to the largest surfable waves on the planet.  Photo by Mattias Hammar.

Nazaré in Portugal is home to the largest surfable waves on the planet. Photo by Mattias Hammar.

He notes that immediately trying to get out and ride the biggest wave you can find is sheer madness: “Before you do anything extreme and possibly be life threatening, it is essential to create a foundation on which you can build. ”

“For me, it wasn’t about instantly going out and trying to ride a big wave; it was making giant strides towards bigger and bigger waves along the coast … for its monster waves. .

“It’s definitely a drastic feeling to paddle in a line and watch your peers, who are the best of the best, and feel astonished at what they are capable of doing in such intense and unpredictable scenarios.” , writes Lenny.

Big Wave Surfer_Cover

“It’s a feat that really inspires me to cross that ledge when the next wave arrives. There is no hindsight; it is total blind faith. Whether you get it or not, there is an incredible rush. Getting out of the race of the day, the race of the year and maybe the race of a lifetime – while everyone cheers on the boats, in the queue and on the cliff – that’s what I imagine by winning the Olympics. a stadium.”

The rush of the moment is not his only motivation, however. “I surf because I love it, and facing a towering mountain of water, it becomes something more: a mirror reflecting who I am as a person right now. I admit I was disappointed. , and sometimes proud. When faced with terrible odds, the fog of self-reflection is lifted. ”

“I believe you can find this anywhere as long as you’re pushed to your limits, really live in the moment, and don’t care what other people think. when time slows down, that’s when anything becomes possible. ”


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