The night before the waiting period officially got underway, we popped along to the launch of Quiksilver’s new big wave life vest, where we sat down with one of the brands big wave ambassadors, Pete Mel.
Pete is possibly the busiest man in surfing, juggling his roles as a WSL commentator, a big wave surfer, surf shop owner and father. He was also an architect of the modern Big Wave Wolrd tour, and served as the commissioner for four years.
We asked him about striking a balance in his life, where big wave performance is heading and if an abundance of safety features actually make big wave surfing more risky.
Here’s an extract:
WL: A study was conducted across 18 countries where they legislated to make wearing seat belts in cars mandatory. Across the board they either saw car accident fatalities stay the same or go up. The theory is that everyone felt so much safer with their seatbelt on, they took way more risks. Do you see any parallels between that and big wave surfing and all its safety features?
P: I would say yeah, there’s absolutely a parallel with that, and I think that we have to learn from that and that’s where the education comes in. For example when I’m looking at the youth, if I see something that I feel is reckless, I think it’s my responsibility to educate, and do it in a mature manner, and not like “yeah you fucked up… go in grom!”. My responsibility is to go “hey, you know that was probably a little reckless, you’ve got this vest, let’s ease into this, let’s not climb Mount Everest first, let’s climb from the channel over”. There’s gonna be people that you can’t talk to, and what are you gonna do? You try to be mature, and hope for the best.
WL: I guess there’s so much to gain now as well from going for the biggest, craziest waves.
P: Yeah, there is, and you know you could say that about the first big wave challenge, with a big prize pushing people into it. But that pushed the limits of big wave surfing and it gave an opportunity for anybody in the world that couldn’t get into the Eddie or Mavericks to showcase their talents.
WL: But most of them would do it anyway right? because competitiveness and ego are driving factors too.
P: I remember why I started riding big waves. I was 14 and my friend let me borrow a board, and I caught a wave at Sunset that was 4 times bigger than anything I’d ever ridden in my life, and the feeling kicking out into the channel was something that I’d never felt before. All of a sudden I was hooked, and since then I’ve been searching for that same thing, I’ve never actually achieved it (laughs)… No I say that in jest, but it truly is about chasing that feeling.
Read the full interview here.
Cover photo courtesy of Quiksilver