Kingy Cops One On The Head
Kingy Cops One On The Head
What follows is a quick chat with Anthony King, who recently did a strike mission from the Sunshine Coast to Hawaii for what's now known as 'the Eddie swell'. As Luke Shepardson led the charge at big, perfect Waimea, Kingy was having a wild ol' time at one of Hawaii's outer reefs.
(All photos: Hank Foto)
Swellnet: You're the head of lifeguards at the Sunny Coast. Is that correct?
Anthony King: Yeah, mate, I'm the Chief Lifeguard on the Sunny Coast.
How long you been in that role for?
I've been in the Chief Lifeguard role now going on two years. I've been in a lifeguard service for almost 21 years.
Were you travelling with mates?
Yeah. So a mate of mine down in Cronulla, Hayden Blair, he's ten years younger than me, but during our travels we kept running into each other. Ran into him out at Cloudbreak. Ran into him at Chopes. And so he invited me down his way, to go surf all the reefs down at Cronulla, and he was also watching the swells in Hawaii.
We were going to go for the first swell - the one where the Eddie got cancelled. We didn't end up going but our board bags were packed, and then that next swell popped up and we decided to hit the green button.
Did you have a particular wave in mind that you wanted to surf?
Yeah, so my intention was to surf an outer reef. I've been wanting to go out there for quite a while - I've got a little picture of it next to my bed on my bedside table.
I've got a friend in Hawaii - he's actually an Aussie, but he lives over there. Liam Wilmotte is his name, and he surfs it quite a bit. He hangs out with the likes of Kohl Christensen and all that group that surf it quite regularly. We had him set up to do our water safety with jet ski and all that sort of stuff.
That was my mission. My friend Hayden...he'd already surfed it once before, but he also wanted to go and surf Jaws. So that was on the list for him to go and surf out there as well.
There's an inner and outer reef there. Had you been out there at all?
Never seen it in my life. I've been over to Hawaii twice, once in 1996 when I just stayed at the backpackers and surfed Log Cabins most of the time. Think I surfed out at Pipe once. And then I went over a couple of years back to catch up with Liam, who's really involved with the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group [BWRAG]. With my lifeguarding background, they invited me over to do the BWRAG course, where you get a level one certificate, which you need that to get a Patagonia inflation suit, and the other part of that trip was to do a bit of research with the lifeguards.
But yeah, I hadn't surfed it. The very first I saw it was that morning with Liam. We took the jet ski out of Haleiwa, and Hayden drove the vehicle with our paddle boards and stuff like that. Liam and I had a tow board on the ski. We didn't realise that swell was going to be as big as it was until the morning when there was reports of the buoys going 27 foot at 19 seconds. And yeah, the first time I'd laid eyes on the reef was pulling up out the back. I'm just like, "Oh, OK, I don't even know where we are!"
You're out at sea.
Yeah. And Liam's a bit of a cheeky bugger so he goes, "Mate, just throw your feet in the straps and see if they're too tight, or you need to adjust anything." So I'm sticking my feet in the straps, saying, "No, they feel pretty good." And he goes, "Oh, we'll let's go then," and we were off.
There was another tow team, plus a couple of guys trying to paddle. A set came and Liam's just hit the throttle and I'm like, "I haven't even seen the front of the wave and he's about to whip me into a set."
But luckily the guy's paddling motioned for it, so he pulled me off the back of the wave and he's like, "Look, they're paddling it, so we can't tow. Let's get our paddle boards" I was relieved because I hadn't seen the front of the wave; I didn't even know what was happening down the line.
So we shot in to get our boards. Hayden was already waiting with his paddle board. But just just going in through Laniakea and back through the channel was an eye-opener because it was massive. It was MASSIVE.
So much water funnels through that channel.
Yeah. But it was also good because it was when I first got to see a bit of the wave.
Quick one: Have you ever watched John John's film 'Maps From Home'?
Yeah, I've watched that a few times. In fact, I was watching it before we went and I said to one of my mates: "Yeah, Haydo will probably get one like John John, and I'll get the Koa Rothman one that just closes out."
Not too far off the mark. How far into the session was the big wave?
Mate, well, early on a set came through that cleaned us all up. There's drone footage of it. That was probably one of the bigger waves that came through in the morning. I mean, later in the afternoon it got consistently really, really big, but earlier on, sort of before lunchtime, we were all playing cat and mouse with these huge sets.
I've never sat out there so I didn't really know where I was. I'd sort of drifted in a bit further just trying to get onto one, and that set came through and I think about seven boards snapped. That actual wave, the first wave of the drone footage, didn't snap my leggie so I got back on my board after that wave. Got about three strokes in and then get rolled by the one behind it. That one snapped my leggie.
Hayden's brand new Kirk Bierke had snapped, and his leggie had snapped. We popped up, sort of nearby each other. We'd just come up after the second one and he's like, "Oh, I think we're in a bad spot." And I'm like, "I fucking know that."
We both got picked up by someone else doing water safety. It cleaned up a heap of people.
The drone footage is incredible.
Yeah, and I'm not even on my board. I took a 9'8" and that just wasn't going to be big enough. So I've loaned a board off Liam, it was an 11'0" Eric Arakawa. Liam said on the first wave he saw his board go over with the lip, which he described as like Mark Healey's board going over in the lip at Cloudbreak. He was sure it was going to snap, but it didn't.
Anyway, we all got washed in. There was parts of boards just getting blown around everywhere in the channel. I grabbed the front of someone else's board, put it in a tree on the beach, and then Hayden come in, so then he had to get another board. Luckily I just had to get another leggie - which we had in the front of the ski.
And all that's happened and you haven't caught a wave yet?
I don't think I caught that wave until just before lunchtime. We'd been out there since early in the morning and it took that long just to get that one wave.
It was funny, earlier in the session, Darrick Doerner rode over on the jet ski, and myself and Kipp Caddy were sitting sort of way out the back and he starts talking to us and he's asking if any jet skis were messing up the lineup. No, no. And then he said, "Alright, you guys seem to be sitting in the right spot here." Kipp and I are just looking at each other, like "OK, thanks Darrick."
Then, before he goes, he said something like, "Don't chase the wave, let it come to you." Something like that. Just this legendary dude giving us advice. We were nodding our heads. "Thanks for your advice."
Kipp actually caught two waves out there. He was charging.
He borrowed a board off Nate Florence. I think he's got to know him pretty well over the years. But yeah, so I didn't get my wave until pretty late.
Let's chat about it. Can you talk us through it, Kingy?
Yeah, well I just sort of paddled my guts out. There's two sections that you can take off on, and I got a good paddle at it - a good run in - but then there was another guy down the line, and he was was sort of halfway down the face and I had to yell him off.
Aside from that it was a pretty easy chip in. I was just looking down and across at this massive wall of water, and as I was sort of coming off the bottom I was thinking, "Oh my god, I might be able to pull up into this thing." But then it all started going wrong. It sort of went a bit almondy; it went to pinch. And look, I'm standing on an 11'0" that I've never ridden before in my life. I've never ridden a board that long. So all of that was completely foreign.
Especially trying to make a heelside turn.
Yeah. I was looking up and it was so high, the sun was shining through the lip and I'm like, "That's going to land on me." The thought crossed my mind that it could break my leg. And then, boom, I got blasted.
The lip pretty much lands on you. What happens?
Mate, it wasn't too bad. I mean, I've never been that belted before. It drove me down and I was getting rag dolled, and I was underwater for quite a while, but I couldn't find me bloody rip cord to inflate. I was getting thrown around. So it was quite a while till I actually finally inflated.
With the Patagonia ones you pull straight up so both of them inflate. You get two canisters go off. I could feel I was coming up but it took so long. I even started shaking my head at one stage to get hair out of my eyes because I thought I was up but I wasn't. And then I finally popped up and I was like, "Oh wow, I'm facing the wrong direction and I'm looking at the mountains." But I wasn't. It was the next wave.
Ha ha...so what did the next wave do to you?
Well, I've never actually had to inflate when I've surfed with my flotation. The first wave washed me quite a ways in. So I just stayed inflated and I just sort of put my hands across my body and just went, "Right, I'm just going to ride this next one out." And yeah, it belted me and it pushed me even further in. That one was almost as bad, or maybe even worse, than the first one.
Because you're stuck in the whitewash?
Yeah. It was just pushing me along. And then I've finally come up on that one and someone had caught that wave and he'd been belted as well. So he was 30, 40 feet away from me. The Hawaiian lifeguards were out there, they came zipping in and I just did the, I'm okay, tap my head sign, and they just kept going.
Then there was another wave, and apparently a guy took off on it, free fell out of the air, landed it, went straight, but didn't have a leggie on. So now his board was ping ponging in the whitewash coming straight for me. I'm like, "Oh fuck."
So not only do I have to deal with the waves but there's a 10'0" coming at my head. Fortunately it sort of disappeared and that wave pushed me closer to shore, and then Liam picked me up. I'd deflated a little bit by that stage and we'd sort of gone into the channel - I think we were trying to find that guy's board. I was trying to deflate some more and I pulled the wrong rip cord and it fully inflated!
We'd been talking safety that morning and one of the rules was, if you use four canisters, then that's it, you're sidelined. So I just went to Liam, "Oh, mate, I've done four canisters, so I'm done, I'm out."
What a shame.
Mate, I was done.
What about the adrenaline afterwards?
Aw jeez, we were still pumped the next day. Longer. I don't think it wore off until I got home, to tell you the truth.
Yeah. It was just next level. Poor old Haydo though, I went back out the channel for a bit and was watching there. Hayden had loaned a board from Tevita [Gukilau] after earlier snapping his brand new Kirk, and then he got cleaned up in the channel. It was getting that big. He got cleaned up, his leggie snapped, and we lost Tevita's board.
We packed up, went and had burgers, and then went back down to the beach. We told lifeguards about the board and they'd found it. It'd been sucked around at Jocko's and it looked like someone had taken to it with a hammer. All the fins knocked out. Completely destroyed.
So Haydo snapped his KB, then he destroyed Tevita's board. Did he get a wave?
Yeah, Hayden caught a wave, so he did tick it off. Unfortunately the poor bugger couldn't find shots of it. Later we went to Jaws and Haydo and Kipp went out there. I didn't paddle out. I said, "Look, I haven't got a board big enough for that. I'm not borrowing Liam's 11'0. It's too much a good board."
I'm not really interested in Jaws; that's on my backhand. So I just went for support and watched them get absolutely lit up getting off the rocks. Poor Hayden then got lit up coming in on the rocks. Haydo didn't even get a wave. But mate, yeah, the adrenaline was just pumping. Even Liam was pumped. That first night we all had a few beers, and, yeah, just sort of talked in shock about it. It was a crazy day.
Well, mate, it sounds like a fantastic trip. And how long were you in Hawaii for?
Seven days all up. Flew in, six days there and then fly out on the last day. Best strike mission I've ever done.
Love these interviews. Keep ‘em coming.
Woah. What a trip. Puts you right in the spot. Great story.
Most videos / stories don't name the spot, but the cat is surely out of the bag by now. The bigger ones like the JJF one a few years back look like pipeline x 3, unreal wave.
Jesus these big wave guys are something else. Flys to Hawaii, gets smoked on a bomb set, goes back out, hours waiting with no waves, finally catches 1 wave that detonates on his head. Breaks multiple boards, then calls it the best strike mission ever done. Sounds like a horror show! Loved the story, the rush of taking the drop on a monster wave like that must live with you forever
Kind of what I was thinking. I guess its about the journey not the destination eh?
Such a charger. All the biggest sessions I've had on the Sunny Coast have been made better by Kingy being in the water. Full of encouragement and zero judgement.
Yep the old Wingy knows his way in and out of a gaping left barrel. Shame that one guillotined him, but mad respect for the effort.
He lives in the wrong place to surf large waves regularly. Such a contrast, Sunshine Coast to Hawaii - that's extreme.
On the other end of the Big Wave spectrum there's Luke Shephardson winning The Eddie on a 4 year old, dinged up gun.
You listened to his podcast episode on surf splendour?
Sounds like the most chilled dude.
Rides old boards, broke nearly all of them anyway, and doesn’t like surfing Waimea until it’s 20-25 feet because the crowd thins out hahahahah what a legend.
Will give it a go. Thanks, gf!
Speaking of guns, just got a call saying yours was about to be trucked north to here IB.
Pavlovs Dogs song lyric: comes to mind:
"Its a long way to go to test out your mettle"
In our DNA .... to varying extents!
JJF's wave out there would have to be up there with some of the greatest rides of all time
Agree. Watched it again - actually, watched it a few times - while doing this interview and everything about it is ramped up to 11. The size, the shape, the beautiful light, John's style, and his modesty.
Hard to imagine a better wave ever being ridden.
Without a rider up and going, it looks like sheer perfection. However pretty much all the footage I see of it either shows it running away way too fast or clamping down. The fact that jjf was (I think) the only guy to make a solid barrel that day really tells the story.
Bruce Dunn was another standout Sunshine Coast lifeguard and surfer back in the day.. When visiting the sunny during cyclone swells, Bruce would be the one to encourage me and others to stretch our limits…felt better than he was a lifeguard too ha….
Got my adrenaline up reading that ... Epic. Geez how do you stay dialed in on big waves living on Sunny Coast??? Lots of travel I guess...
Head lifeguard goes out in conditions beyond his ability and creates dangerous situation
Great White Shark, seriously thats your comment? Kingy at work runs a great crew of lifeguards that save numerous swimmers each year, he oalso trains other lifeguards outside the Sunny Coast. Privately he is the nicest bloke and can do what he likes! The conditions were no more beyone his ability than the Eddie was beyond Luke Sheppherdson's. If you read the article all the saftey precautions recomended were taken. He just gave a frank account that surfing dosent always come up trumps but its the journey counts.
Each to their own, but I find that the Strike Mission mindset lead to people taking on more than they can handle (and often being greedy pigs in the lineup).
Personally I would have rather heard about a guy/lady that surfed say Phantoms and Laniakea on large days - quietly and without fanfare, and without snapping boards and getting rescued.
If that sounded snarky and too harsh, let me just say that I loved reading this. It was just so far from what I could/would/will do.
Still hoping to spend a few weeks on the North Shore doing some long paddles on a large board.
Sunny Coast and North Shore Boardriders legend.
“ We'd been talking safety that morning and one of the rules was, if you use four canisters, then that's it, you're sidelined. So I just went to Liam, "Oh, mate, I've done four canisters, so I'm done, I'm out."”
What’s the reasoning behind this rule?
Almost sounds like if you need to pull all 4 then you’re not up for it and it’s beyond you.
Shouldn’t of been out there?
I’m not implying he shouldn’t of been out there, just asking the question
I'm guessing only 4 cannisters in the wetsuit. No more canisters to pull if you get in trouble. Safety issue.
Check the Patagonia video on how it works - pretty cool.
Couldn’t you just have more canisters on the ski though and load em up again?
Yeah. I didn't realise they were just the "nang" style cannisters. (I watched the rest of the video after I posted). Maybe the crew figure they've had enough if they've had to pull all 4?
I wouldn't go out in big waves after 4 cans either.
oh.....he said canisters.
haha best comment of the lot :)
Wild how much that wave grew from the first pic in the sequence to the last. Looks like a 10/12 foot wave in first photo.
Last pic looks double that.
Coming from someone who grew up with Kingy, that’s nothing. He would have got straight back into it.
Just like the long blonde haired kid (at 4am after a couple) did, from handlebars to pavement, face first. Like a champion, straight up, big grin & missing a couple of front teeth.
Good times buddy
Oh wow, I'm facing the wrong direction and I'm looking at the mountains." But I wasn't. It was the next wave.
The places people put themselves into never cease to amaze me.
Enjoying these stories even if only for one make, or kinda make, or thrashings. Cheers Kingy.
so good stu, I've been out there with you one much smaller time and that was hectic enough!