POSTCARDS FROM THE LEDGE
Has any surfer been more barrelled in a calendar year than Nathan Florence was in 2022? The North Shore local went full nomad, surfing and documenting iconic sessions from Shipsterns to Scotland, and the Mentawais to Mullaghmore. So, just prior to his back-breaking session at Jaws, we asked Nate for his take, in his words, on 12 months where he tweaked the very trajectory of surfing.
The Grand Plan
At the start of 2022, I was so burnt out on surfing Pipe. Pipeline had been so crazy, but I was just done surfing the same wave over and over again. And I was just so excited to travel. I was like, okay, I am going to chase swells, but I was less strict on how gnarly the swells would have to be.
I wanted to be in Australia for March and April and catch up with John. And, I wanted to do Indo and also two months in Europe. So those trips were locked from the beginning, but I had no idea really how it would pan out. I didn’t plan to have the best surfing year of my life.
Stepping into Oz
I made it to Oz and this Shipsterns swell popped up almost immediately. I was talking to my buddy Kipp Caddy, and he said, ‘Dude, it looks pretty sick, a paddle day, could be fun, maybe not the best ever, but worth a look.’
We show up and we have the most epic day. It wasn't 100-foot or anything like that, but it was insane paddle conditions. Everyone was going over the step getting 10 to 12-foot barrels, the bodyboarders were paddling 15-footers. We all scored.
Then I went to Western Australia and met up with John. During the Finals Day of the Margies CT, I had two sessions at the Box. In the morning I surfed with just two guys. Then I watched John's heats and went back out and this time it was with Kelly and one other guy. Unbelievable. The dudes at the comp were saying the winds were weird. I was like, “I just saw a 10-foot wave below its guts out. Like, what are you talking about?” It was epic.
A Tahiti Diversion
The plan from Oz was to head straight to Indo, but I needed to go home, reset and grab some new boards. As soon as I got back though, this insane Chopes swell pops up, so it was a case of giddy-up. Now, I’ve been traveling to Tahiti for almost 20 years and have been pushing hard on those paddle days the last few years, but this first session with a big, west and rising swell was gnarly. It was so mean.
However, there was this group of guys out that were just so willing to push it that it turned into something special, actually historic. You knew that the buddy next to you was going to go if you didn’t, on anything that came in. And there were a dozen guys all doing that. Balaram paddled one of the craziest waves I have ever seen. And Matahi did it like 10 times in a row. Eimeo, Kauli, Lucas Chumbo; all the guys were just sending it so hard.
And you can score, but, dude, this was just different. This was a historical session because new elite levels got pushed. The goofy footers started tapping into this new technique that instead of trying to knife drop, they were air-dropping to the bottom and they started pulling it consistently. It was a new way to paddle it for the frontside surfers. And now you're like, maybe it isn’t backslider who's going to paddle the biggest one ever. It's going to be a frontsider because they can do that heel-top, tail-tap air-drop and hook in. It was just insane. And that trip was a bonus because I wasn’t even supposed to be there. And then, bam, we checked the forecast for Indonesia, and it was lighting up.
A 60-day Score in Indo.
I got home, repacked for one day, and flew to Bali the next day. As soon as I get there, I scored two days at Ulus, and then bailed to the Mentawais. This wave outside the camp was a 10-second barrel and just a few people were surfing down the bottom of the point. I just surfed it with the camp owner and me for hours by ourselves.
And I was, like, well that was fun. Then the swell picks up and all of a sudden, we are way out the back surfing the psycho slab version of a part of the reef. It was a solid 10-foot. To find that kind of heavy water in Indo was incredibly rare.
We bailed to Bali, and the surf kept pumping. But I wanted to get Lance's Right really big. Sure enough, another big swell pops up so we shoot back. Lances was so big, heavy, and perfect. Often it was just me and my brother Ivan out at times for three hours. Or we’d be joined by a couple of the older Australians that have been down there for 300 years, full Dawn of the Dead dudes coming out of the jungle. And we just scored that for a week. Later my mum came out to Bali, and my wife was there. We had nowhere we had to be. We were loving life. We ended up staying for two months.
Tracks Magazine has provided the following excerpt from 590. Read the full issue by subscribing to Tracks.
NATE FLORENCE COLLECTION
FCS II Nathan Florence Big Wave Tri Fins
Nathan Florence's signature FCS II Big Wave fin in premium performance glass material, tested and proven in Hawaï, these precision-cut fins are built for big wave surfing.
FCS II Nathan Florence Big Wave Quad Fins
Nathan Florence's signature FCS II Big Wave Quad fins in premium performance glass material, tested and proven in Hawaï, these precision-cut fins are built for big wave surfing.