Out of Office Reply is Associate Editor Taylor Paul’s column on surf travel, big waves, and other manly bits
“Paddling Jaws is going to rewrite the book of big-wave surfing,” Greg Long tells me while we share a pitcher at Big Helyns, the dive-iest dive bar in San Clemente (they were serving spaghetti lunches out of a plastic bag). He says this after he’s proved that he can punch harder than the entire SURFING Magazine staff and a few Marines (there’s a punching bag at Big Helyn’s that measures your strength), but before he serenades a crowd of swooning cougars at Taka-O karaoke (“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man!”). He is so good at life. Surfing too.
Now, the whole “rewriting the book” thing, I’ve heard Greg say this before. He’s not afraid to make big calls and so he’s very quotable. I chuckled inside when he said it, but then I remembered the last time he uttered such a claim — in the channel at last year’s Maverick’s contest, a day when guys were getting barreled and Shawn Dollar was breaking world records. He was right then, and he’s right this time.
But if paddling Jaws is going to rewrite the book, then the preface was scribbled long ago. Dudes have been paddling Jaws under the radar for over a decade. Why the hype now? According to Danilo Couto, who’s been paddling Peah’i for four years, it’s because they “usually paddle the left, which isn’t as gnarly as the right. And because all of the big dogs came by.”
I’d add a third reason: most of the guys who’ve paddled it over the years were Brazilian, and surf media tends to stick to Americans and Australians (notice how the subhead of Surfline.com’s feature on the day read “Long, Healey, Walsh + friends paddle-in at giant Jaws?”), even though Danilo got the wave of the day. But I love Brazilians. Some of my favorites are Carlos Burle, Maya Gabeira, Thiago “Shrimpy” Camarao and Giselle. And I love Danilo too. Together we placed second at Kohl Christensen’s Thanksgiving egg toss. We lost at a distance roughly the size of the wave he caught the other day at Jaws.
But luckily, Danilo’s feet are more reliable than his hands in critical situations, as he bucking bronco-ed his way down a wind-swept beast. Let’s hear how it all went down, shall we?
“Being a goofyfooter, I usually surf the left. It’s more suitable for catching waves and making the wave. So I was surfing the left in the morning, but then I saw the guys surfing the right and thought I’d give it a shot. I’d caught waves on the right before, but on this day it was better size and direction, and the wind was too strong on the left anyway.”
“I went out the back and talked to Greg for a little bit. Most of the other guys were sitting on the inside a little but Greg was sitting out the back waiting for the bombs. When the set came, Greg paddled out, and I stayed right there.”
“I went for the first one but I couldn’t get into it, and when I looked back, I saw the next one coming right to me; I was right under it. So I just said, ‘OK…’ and I gave it a try — just paddled as hard as I could. The wind was so strong that it didn’t want to let me go down the face. I was up and the board started dropping and then the wind got it and started blowing my board back. It was like two or three times fighting the wind to get down the face.
“Then I had the whole wall in front of me. I had the same feeling I get when I tow in there and you let go of the rope and you look and go, ‘Wow, the bowl is right there.’ And there’s nothing you can do, you just have to think to pull in. I knew I had a chance — I thought it was maybe going to be a barrel, but I guess it was more of a pocket ride.”
“At the very end of the ride I could see the foam ball on my board. I thought it was just the tail but when I saw the footage I could see that it covered my whole board. I don’t know how I made it through, maybe it pushed me out.”
And with that, Danilo gives us a wave to root for in the Billabong XXL Ride of the Year. It was tall, critical and ridden as well as it could have been, a clear statement to the writers of big-wave books that Danilo should be more than a periphery character.
Taylor Paul is SURFING’s Associate Editor and is qualified to write this kind of shit because he surfs big old scary waves himself. Reckunize.