Flyer: Youth and exuberance and a good set of lungs
If you’re a Frequent Flyer™ you may recall that two weeks back I constructed an argument about modern big wave riding that, with only a touch of bombast, I’ll call The Wisdom of the Elders.
In short, the biggest and best big waves of recent times are being ridden by older surfers who’ve accrued decades of experience which they’ve applied to the fearful complexity of XXL Jaws and Mavericks.
Exhibits A and B are Peter Mel and Twiggy Baker, but you can also count Kohl Christensen, Nathan Fletcher, Mark Healey, and other venerable surfers among the elders.
It’s a nice theory. Neat. It makes sense of new developments.
Yet a few days ago a teenager rode arguably the largest wave ever windsurfed* at Peahi. And not just any teenager. Adam Warchol was born in Poland but raised on the almost surfless coast of Tarifa, Spain, and this was his first ever trip to Hawaii. He had his first session at Peahi just six weeks earlier and can count his sessions out there on one hand, none of them in big surf.
So where does this teenage madness sit among my elegantly arranged theory?
Oh, I tried to make it fit. Toyed with calling it the exception that proves the rule - though I’ve never understood that saying anyway - and looked for all manner of caveats that’d keep my theory neat and complete.
And it wasn’t just my theory blown to pieces. In ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell suggests star athletes have 10,000 hours of practice behind them, so by my calculations that leaves Adam about 9,990 hours short of big wave training.
Clearly it made no sense to pack Adam’s ride into a box, to try and categorise it, and in the end I simply marvelled at what he’d done.
A ten-storey wave with an unfamiliar kid at the base, staring up the billowing face to a pitching lip, each aspect assembled in dimensions far beyond what most surfers - even those with decades of experience - will ever see.
Sure, Mel and Twig and Christensen and Fletcher have ridden big waves before, but their ascent to the top was incremental. In mountaineering terms, Warchol practiced on Mount Druitt and scaled Mount Everest.
This week I spoke to Adam about the wave, hoping to get some sort of insight, maybe a description to match his view, and while it was good to get a first person account, there’s a yawning void between the story and reality.
Watch the wave and see if your imagination can fill it.
* Yeah, Adam was on a windsurfer, but the punishment is no less when things go awry - which they did.
Poles apart: Adam Warchol and his Pe'ahi colossus
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