That morning, I paddled off the beach into the lagoon in pitch darkness as usual, some 15 minutes before the sun rises. A 20 minute paddle would take me through the lagoon, into the deep river mouth and around the reef to the takeoff spot. As the light came up, I realized the waves were huge and that nobody else was out in the lineup (usually, thered be around 20 of us on dawn patrol). Next hint was the tow in surf team cruising out of the Rivermouth on their high powered jetskis (with tow-in surfing big wave surfers use jetskis to pull them into monstrous waves, which reduces some of the risks of getting caught inside the breaker), circling around me twice and shaking their heads in disbelief. By now, I was outside of the wave, but estimated that it was breaking 20ft+ face with enormous speed, and Id also thought through the worst case scenario; caught under the lip, slammed onto the reef, boat destroyed, nasty injury on the coral followed by drowning or the close interest of the local guvnor - Galeocerdo cuvier, the Tiger Shark. The day before my wedding to Caroline. But this was my chance to surf a truly monstrous Hawaiian big wave without any competition from the local expert boardsurfers (meanng I could pick my spot and play it as safe as possible, in the circumstances), who were way offshore towing into reefs that only break a few times a season. Also on the positive side my boat (the red Neutron now ridden by Mick Auger) was perfectly suited to big waves, I was as fit and practiced as Id ever been, Id been surfing this spot every day for a week, and I was equipped with the best safety equipment for surfing big Hawaiian waves in a kayak.

I sat outside of the break totally alone for around 20 minutes, trying to workout how the sets of larger waves were forming and where they were breaking. My plan was to take the last wave in a set of larger waves, giving me the chance to get the hell out of there is anything went wrong. Suddenly, a much larger group of waves appeared in the horizon moving incredible quickly towards the reef and the first one was shaping up to peak where I was sitting now or never time, I thought, as my plan went out the window. I spun around, 4 aggressive paddle strokes to get moving and Im dropping down this face thats doubling, trebling, quadrupling and as Im dropping Im actually getting higher up the wave as it rears up over the reef. As I feel Ive hit terminal velocity for my little 7ft kayak, I look down the line to see the wave peaking for the next 20 meters ahead of me, and realize its time to bottom turn and slingshot along the face. The next 30 seconds, is a straight race to the channel as I try to cut through the chop that always appears on large waves and carve my kayak up and down the face, attempting to generate as much speed as possible without catching an edge or getting caught under a jacking lip. Finally I made it into the last bowling section where the wave wraps onto the end of the reef in a concave shape and the deepest barrel appears the options are to go and high and attempt to get over the lip, or drive low into the barrel and hopefully out to the deep water channel beyond. Its funny how things slow down when your in truly dangerous situations, and I can remember thinking that this is the first wave of a large set and that pulling off over the lip could leave me in the impact zone of any larger wave behind so I elected to drive under the lip and hopefully into the deep water of the river mouth. In the event, it was the right decision as I pulled into easily the largest barrel of my life and literally flew off the shoulder behind it into the deep water. 

Fear was initially replaced by euphoria, and I found myself paddling back across the reef for more. Fortunately, I was caught by a much smaller wave on the way out, given the beating of my life but lived to paddle back into the safety of the lagoon where I watched the waves reeling across the reef with faces reaching up to 25ft on the sets. In extreme situations, fear plays a funny role in your decision making and performance, often increasing your perception of events beyond anything youve experienced before. I can still remember minute details from that ride over 12 months on. A really nice article on fear by Corran Adison, one of the sports legends, can be found here.