Rip Curl Blog
Louie Hynd’s Story Behind One Of His “Most Memorable Surf Sessions”.
Sharing the lineup with dolphins and riding the wave of his life. Louie Hynd takes us through one of his most memorable surf sessions at a break he has always dreamt of surfing.
A Story By Louie Hynd...
I arrive bewildered and exhausted in the middle of nowhere after 24hrs in transit. After two flights and a lengthy overnight drive, I found myself at the location of a wave that should be lighting up according to the charts. The harsh afternoon desert heat blared down on me as I dragged my feet through the orange dirt toward the edge of the cliffs to check the waves.
The full brunt of the southern ocean was detonating onto a shallow slab of reef. The conditions didn’t look perfect, the solid swell washing through on the sets and a light onshore wind causing ribs and chop on the wave face. Far from the ideal combination at a wave of such consequence. But I thought I may as well give it a go anyway. Just to tick it off the bucket list since I’d come so far.
As I was getting ready, I couldn’t help but feel a strange energy. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my heart beat a little quicker. It may have been the prior knowledge of some of the dark history that surrounded the place.
“Maybe it was the fact that the spot is notorious for great white sharks and not too long ago, a man was devoured whole by a great white while surfing the break I was about to paddle out at.”
The incident confirmed by two eyewitnesses who each then and there, took a vow to never step foot in the ocean again. A pub horror story that remains well versed by many of the locals that call the desolate lands home.
Regardless of the bad juju in the air, there was still the potential for a few crazy rides. The sun was starting to dive and I knew that I didn’t want to stay out too long as the day was fast approaching PST (Prime Shark Time).
The first challenge is attempting to reach the sand to paddle out. No beach access stairs around here. How about traverse your way down a steep, loose-footed rock and dirt cliff instead? No worries. With nobody around to tell me the right way to get down, I decided to go with my default navigational and problem-solving strategy; just wing it. I cautiously and ungainly slip-slide my way down the slope. Each wary footstep causing mini avalanches of dirt and rock larger than the last. After a treacherous descent, I eventually make it to the beach, but not completely unscathed. Kicking a rock toward the end of the trip down resulted in a ripped wetsuit bootie and bleeding cut. Great, now I was going to be attracting sharks and have numb toes.
My anxiety had since taken form as a tiny red devil on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, tantalising me with its persuasive allure.
‘This isn’t worth it, the waves don’t even look that good.”
“It’s way more risk than reward.”
“Fuck this. Go back to the car,” the fear persuaded.
A few deep inhalations later and an empowered ‘Fuck it’ rebuttal was all the attitude adjustment required to get me out there.
Feeling equal parts anxious and exhilarated, I paddle out through the deep channel behind the wave. The eerie darkness of the water perpetuated the already spooky vibes. Not eager to sit on my own, I paddle straight up to the two guys that were already out to exchange pleasantries.
Being an outsider hunting waves in a heavily localized area of the world means you’re constantly walking on eggshells. And don’t even think about pulling out a camera. I crossed my fingers and hoped they weren’t two gnarly locals ready give me an earful; especially if they’d already detected the not so disguised tripod amongst the cliffs… Luckily for me, they’re just two men on a road trip from Wollongong. Phew! Bullet dodged.
A reasonably sized in-between set wave appeared. I turned to the bloke beside me and probed for a hint to what a good one should look like. He gave a hesitant remark that didn’t exactly give away the answers to the test paper.
Any spot you surf, good ones are the kinds of waves you see break and think fuck, I wish I were on that! Picking a good one comes down to your ability to read the ocean and identify waves with the right look. You’re essentially reading the ocean and coming up with a hypothesis on how that particular swell will hit the reef and break. The angle the swell is coming in, how much energy there is in the wave, and numerous other small factors are added up to create your hypothesis. At waves of consequence like this one, recognizing the look becomes less calculation and more of a kind of spiritual connection. For me, a swell line with the look emits an intangible energy that connects with my intuition, giving me an instinctive sense of, that’s a good one and you should probably start paddling. No questions, just trust. Reconciliation between the calculation and the intuitive connection is how you ultimately make your decision to commit or let the wave go.
“Surfing this spot, the ability to feel this connection would mean the difference between getting blown out of a crazy tube or being slammed on the reef and ferociously rag-dolled under the water for an uncomfortable amount of time. Energy doesn’t lie. ”
The result of trusting this intuitive connection and your skill to ride the wave is when you get to experience what I believe to be one of the most incredible natural highs that life can give.
It’s why passionate surfers have that insatiable desire and dedication to search far and wide, hunting new and different waves. We’re chasing the dragon. Each wave is different, making every high unique. Surfing becomes our addiction.
I swing around for a wave and paddle my heart out. So much water is surging off the reef; it feels like I’m not even moving. Eventually, I feel the wave start to pick me up. Time to try and take off on this thing. Hands leave the rail and my feet jump onto my board as I knife down the wave. There is so much power and speed in the wave, I could see it already starting to run off on me before I even got to the bottom. Too late to turn off the bottom I was forced to straighten out. I made it safely out the front of the wave away from the lip; only to be mowed down by an avalanche of white water. One deep inhale of air and I pin dropped off my board. Despite jumping off in the safest place, I still get absolutely flogged. Surfacing a little while later, way on the inside of the break. It was time to face the part of the surf I’d been dreading; the long, very lonely paddle back to the take-off spot, through the deepest, darkest, sharkiest water you could ever find yourself in.
I cop a few more waves on the head before I reach the channel. Rattled and dizzy, I take a moment to compose myself.
“Deep breaths Louie,” I whisper to myself in an attempt to calm my racing heartbeat.”
I start paddling as fast as I can without splashing around too much. The feeling reconnected me with my childhood irrational fear of being in the deep end of the swimming pool.
You’re not scared of the water, you’re afraid of the unknown.
“Don’t look down, keep looking forward and keep moving those twigs you call arms. There’s safety in numbers, just reach the lads at the take-off spot and you’re in the clear”, I reassured myself.
Halfway there and I’m quickly heating up. I shouldn’t have worn the 4/3. I eased off the gas knowing if I try to keep up that sort of record pace for the whole session, my arms would end up turning to jelly very prematurely.
With the lads now within close range, I feel more comfortable and reach them pretty soon after. One of the guys yells out, “Hey mate, just letting you know we’re gonna head in. Not getting that many and it’s getting kind of late. You gonna stay out or head in too?” I’d only had one wave and it was a flogging, no way I was wrapping up my session like that. “No worries lads, I’m gonna stay out, wouldn’t mind just trying to get one decent one” I reply.
Gone, taking with them the safety of their presence. An involuntary solo sesh is upon me.
As I sit there alone, scanning each swell rolling through, I notice the wind slightly drop off and swing offshore. I’m in luck, it’s the beginning of the natural phenomenon much appreciated by surfers – The LAGO (late arvo glass off). The ocean cleaned up and the wind started to swing lightly offshore, meaning the absence of a chandelier falling through the barrels. An opportunity for a stand tall pit was now truly on the cards.
A set approaches and I feel the instinctive feeling to go. Learning from my mistake earlier, rather than paddling out and waiting for the wave to jack up, I immediately swing and start paddling in as hard as I can. Paddling feels like I’m battling with the opposite direction on an escalator. As the wave starts to pull me up the face; I grab the rails and jump to my feet. The bottom is dropping out faster than I can get down the face. I free-fall for a split second and then land.
I look up and see the golden afternoon light beaming through the lip as it throws over me, illuminating the emerald green tube I’m standing in. I stand there for a moment, truly present. Mouth wide open, eyes beaming in sheer awe of the beauty and energy I’m experiencing. The intense natural euphoria of this moment seems to slow your perception of time, gifting the chance to enjoy a completely unique experience for much longer compared to someone watching. All senses are in overdrive, absorbing and reacting all at the same moment. I come flying out of the tube hooting myself and kicked out into the channel. That’s what I came I here for.
I lay down on my board and start the paddle back out. My body suddenly jolts when a dorsal fin emerges just inside my peripheral vision. It’s just a dolphin, thank god.
“I’m suddenly surrounded by a whole pod of dolphins that are just out of arm’s reach.”
I’m suddenly surrounded by a whole pod of dolphins that are just out of arm’s reach. It’s pretty common to see dolphins in the ocean, but to be paddling alone with an entire pod in the wild is something else. I feel safe with them around me, like they are my security convoy, protecting me from harm.
(I later heard an alternative opinion that when a pod of dolphins does this, they are actually drawing the attention of a predator away from them and towards you. Oh the naivety!) In true ignorance is bliss fashion, I take the experience as a spiritual connection as they swim with me all the way until I get back to the take-off, where they too begin catching waves themselves. Scoring pumping waves with only a pod of dolphins challenging for priority. There was no way I was heading in now.
I traded a few more waves with the pod until another surfer eventually joined me. I threw him a wave and received one back. I recognised him, it was the underground surfing world core lord known only as ‘Camel’. I’d met him once before but, I still felt slightly star-struck in his presence. His dedication and passion for surfing, especially large tubes, is second to none.
He’s a man who has lived an extraordinary life fuelled by nothing other than the desire of chasing that feeling. A true inspiration to living life the way you see it. We exchanged tales of epic sessions we’d experienced and I listened in awe as he shared details of some of his wild escapades.
He was coming off a major injury and was just happy to be in the ocean again. He belly boarded a few waves off the shoulder, but his real stoke came from calling me into sets. His mind is so analytically dialled into the ocean after a lifetime studying it. Explaining why a wave was doing with pinpoint accuracy and detail. I had complete confidence in his wave selection whenever he said ‘go this one’. Wave after wave I kick out into the channel to see him claiming it in the distance with pure froth!
As the sun neared the horizon, I decide to wrap the session. I let Camel know my decision and he responded in sigh of relief. “I was hoping you’d say that soon, I was only really staying out to keep you company.” We paddle with purpose back around the top of the wave and make it safely to the sand. One last burst of effort to scale the crumbly cliff side and I make it back to solid ground. I sit and watch perfect empty waves continue to roll through under the pristine sunset. Revelling in the euphoria of having just experienced one of the most memorable sessions I’ll ever have.