Tuesday... urrgghh. Monday was hard enough, but Tuesday! But don't worry - there may still be three whole days to the weekend, but we'll be here every week with an update that sticks two fingers up to Tuesday. So put your feet up on the desk, loosen your tie, get your mates round your screen and help us keep it real by remembering that work just helps you pay for your kiteboarding gear!
This week's feature might leave you happy you're safely tucked up behind your desk though. Look out for the video in the middle of the story!
WORDS - Reo Stevens and Jason Wolcott
ALL PHOTOS - Jason Wolcott / LEWHS
Part one: As told by Reo Stevens
Some of the best plans are the ones never made. Spontaneity is one of the spices of life that keep things interesting and takes the monotony out of the predictable schedule of everyday routine. There are not too many things in my life I am more passionate about than riding waves, so tracking a swell from the birth of a storm to actually catching and riding the swells that they create is something that I love to do. So when I got an email from BWS rider and Western Australia's Ryland Blakeney saying that there was a large swell headed in his direction and that I should get on a plane as soon as possible and join him for one of his pursuits in chasing crazy, mutant waves I couldn't say no.
Living in Hawaii, I was quite a long distance away from Australia and had no time to waste to get there in time to get the swell. So, less than 18 hours after getting that original email I was boarding a plane for a 24 hour journey to Western Australia to meet up with Ryland a few other daring people to head south into a world of possibilities.
One of the conditions of allowing me to come on this trip was that I could not say the names, or exact location of where we were going for fear of attracting a crowd. For this reason, the details of the rest of the travels will be left to your imagination.
We arrived to the destination the day before the peak of the swell to a break that Ryland has frequented often and has many stories from, both good and bad. The last time he was here his jet ski was hit by a wave and washed onto the rocks totally destroying it. So needless to say, he was a little hesitant to head back out there without giving it a proper assessment. The swell hadn't fully filled in yet, but there were still plenty of waves coming through. The wind was a little light, but still seemed like enough to go on our bigger kites; after all, we didn't come all this way to sit on a beach. We all shared a great session as the wind and waves picked up throughout the day. We left the beach smiling and in anticipation of the next day knowing that we had only seen the beginning of the swell.
The next morning we awoke to the roar of the swell in full effect. We knew that that day was the day. Everyone had butterflies and no one said much as we loaded up and headed for the only spot we thought might be able to handle the swell. We sat perched in the howling wind on top of a mountaintop overlooking a wide aqua marine bay. The swell was well and truly pumping and the wind gusting in the thirties, maybe even forty on the outside. We watched a spot at the extreme left side of the bay to see if the wave we hoped was working that we'd seen on a previous trip a year before. After five minutes, a large set appeared on the distant horizon and as it approached the rock slab at the tip of the point the boys start yelling 'Look at this set!' The wave formed a widow's peak as the lip hurled itself onto the barnacle covered rock shelf that lay merely inches below the surface. The first section of the lip was ripped off and spray blew downwind for at least 100 metres, the blustery tempest. Three perfect gaping holes in the ocean break and none of us had any words.
Getting off the beach was no easy task, the winds were gusting from 0-35knts and the shore break left little room for error; not an easy combination and timing would be everything. I waited on the beach for about ten minutes looking for the right combination of a gust of wind and a lull in the waves to make my way out to the outside break. As my kite went into the air I was left dancing six steps forward and four steps back trying to keep it in the sky. When I finally made it to the water, I jumped on my board, rode about ten metres extremely over-powered only to instantly stop, fall backwards and watch my kite start to 'Hindenburg' out of the sky. I thought that was it for me and I would soon be swimming back to shore in defeat with a wet and soggy kite with a ball of spaghetti for lines. But somehow, about a metre above the water, a gust of wind hit my kite, sky rocketing it back into the air and giving me just enough time to make it outside the shore break and out into the steady wind line.
As I tacked upwind towards the wave I started to realise how big it actually was out there. There is a point when a wave gets big enough to appear to be breaking in slow motion. As I got closer and closer I was mesmerized by its beauty and power, watching the twisted beast break top to bottom, turning more than the butterflies in my stomach. It's beauty and danger was simply breath taking! A sight and feeling I will never forget. After a few more tacks in and out, a lull came in the sets and I figured it as good a time as any to head into the line up and to try and catch one?
Part Two: As told by photographer Jason Wolcott
We had been watching it from the cliff for two hours. In my mind I kept asking myself, 'Is someone really going to try to ride that thing?' Less than a minute later, I got my answer. 'I'm going out there, but we have to have the ski in the water for backup' exclaimed Reo in a tone of absolute determination. Ryland volunteered, whom having kited the day before agrees to drive the ski and make sure Reo is rescued if something bad happens. The two drive to launch the jet ski and the rest of us prepare for what promises to be something special. Not knowing that the boys had to drive the ski into 35 knots of wind and a 4.5 metre swell, this mission still only took over an hour to drive the ski to the destination.
The boys pumped up and we waited to see the jet ski come around the corner of the headland. The only problem is that the launch is a narrow beach with a large headland upwind blocking the wind, making it nearly impossible to get through the ten-foot white water mounds rolling through the bay. Reo somehow made it out and as his kite started to fall out during a lull, he got lucky looping his kite and received a heaven sent gust to make it out.
I walked almost two miles to get to the tip of the point climbing up and over sharp rock walls and across slippery wet rocks. The only thing on my mind is the snake that a friend nearly stepped on the day before and how fucked you would be being so far from a hospital.
When I finally made my way to the tip of the point, the scene was nearly apocalyptic. Lines of energy loomed on the horizon all the while being whipped by near gale force winds. It's hard to imagine a more powerful situation. A set loomed on the horizon and I could see that Reo had picked out the biggest wave of the set. As he dropped in I could barely contain myself; the lone warrior willed himself into a solid wave and barely made it. I thought for sure he was going to fall on that one! I have seen a lot of heavy waves in my years as a photographer but this one is so incredibly intense and equally beautiful. I started running, looking for a vantage point high enough to see over the spray from the previous wave in the set. Reo later called this day 'One of the heaviest sessions of my life'.
At one point, mid drop, a step formed in the face of the wave as it sucked dry on the reef and Reo somehow airdropped the section strapless and stuck it. The entire session had me glued to the eyepiece on my camera. During the long walk back to the car, I couldn't help but giggle to myself at how crazy the session that just went down was and couldn't wait to get home and have a closer look at the photos.
Reflection on the session some days later I realised that what Reo did was in some ways as dangerous as putting a man on the moon. If anything went wrong, it would have been a massive undertaking just to get him out of the water and to the hospital. You could see it in his eyes as we shared beers in the town's only pub - he had pushed himself to the limits of what is possible and broken through any barriers including his own fear. As a photographer, I dream of days like that. Documenting athletes pushing their own limits is almost as satisfying as the accomplishing the fetes yourself.
Thanks to Reo Stevens and Jason Wolcott for this feature for Terrible Tuesdays!