When Kohl Christensen talks about the current “arms race” in big-wave surfing, he’s not being cute about paddle-in progression at spots like Jaws and Cortes Bank. He’s referring to the trend of using longer boards in bigger waves. But while his peers are now pushing their guns into the 11-, 12- and even 13-foot range, Kohl and his shaper, Fletcher Chouinard, are holding their ground. Because really, if he’s successfully attacking waves with an AK-47, why use a nuke? Well… —Taylor Paul
KOHL: This board was built for Jaws, but I used it at Cortes Bank and it worked insane. What we wanted to do differently was add more weight to it. This one weighs about 25 lbs., whereas a typical gun would be between 19 and 22 lbs. Since there’s so much wind at Jaws, you need a board that’s going to stick to the face but still maintains speed — and this one does.
For guns, 9’6” used to be the magic number. Then it was 10’6”. But now it’s 11’6”. [laughs] Everyone’s going bigger. Nate [Fletcher] has a 13-foot paddle board and Dorian has 11’3”s that weigh 30 lbs. and are over 4” thick. It’s cool to see how everything has exploded, but it’s almost like I’m getting left behind in the size range. You can easily use a bigger board at Jaws, but I feel fine on my 10’6” out there. It’s funny, though, because at the same time it’s a mental thing — if everyone else is riding an 11-something, should I too? At Cortes I was probably the guy with the smallest board. I used to be the guy on the biggest board.
What’s next? Well, Fletch [Chouinard] and I are working on an 11’2” now…