Last winter Noah won $20,000 and was crowned with the surf session of the winter under some snow capped peaks in Ireland. The waves were big and perfect; not mountain sized rollers, but double to triple over head, perfect technical barrels. Noah has been inspiring us for years with his ability in these terrifying situations and we really recognise his expertise and love to share his big wave story.
But how can you explain what people go through in the moments at the edge, the thoughts and feeling? Moments like falling in love, death, birth, hanging on a cliff trying to climb to the top, or as they are about to drop down the face of high wave? How can we remember anything at that moment when we search for mindfulness, of pure ego-less-ness?
Ambassador Noah Lane and some of the others that represent our points of commitment are in this moment more than most. They relish and drive everyday to get there. I have been in the ocean with these people, there is a calm in the water when all should be manic, there is tranquility, connecting with the breath and the water that is holding them. Tuning into which line of swell to ride, which ones are right for them. Then as the moment comes, focusing in only on what they are doing, keeping the breath and finding strength to stay conscious but also act on instinct, asking there mind to be present and mindless.
As I watch I can try to explain what happens from this moment until the wave loses its energy and full consciousness kicks back in. His paddle becomes extended, reaching forward, his fingers pushing as much water as possible, matching the waves speed, head down, eyes direct. As the waves picks him up his front leg firm on the deck of his board, his back controlling the seesaw of speed to get into the exact part of the wave that will give him enough speed to ride as close to the edge as possible. The place that he searches for to keep him alive, to keep him feeling human.
The next thing his eyes widen and his focus turns to his escape, his critical skill and tension over as he exits into the safe part of the wave. The elation is over and the plummet into exhaustion begins. Now, as he is supposed to relish and bask in the knowledge of nirvana and listen to the resonance of that deep connection, he either goes to shore, a peaceful man or head-down paddle-out for more, realising that those moments are the only moments that he cares to live for.
I asked Noah a few things I had been wondering for a while and really enjoyed his answers and a insight into why he isn’t chasing the big wave scene.
MS: It's a tough question but do you know the deepest reason behind your desire to search for big, dangerous waves and ride them?
NL: I don’t really think I search for them, they are just there and I have adapted to my surroundings. But maybe it's a thoughtless space existence, where instinct takes over, but at the same time thinking about everything.
MS: I feel that nothing is by accident and that we are where we are because following our heart's path, we are exactly where we need to be. What do you feel about this?
NL: I feel the same. Life is this series of events; the decisions we have made in the past have seen us here.
MS: So surfing for you is surrounding yourself with big waves?
NL: It's not something I set out to do. My partner is Irish and I live there, I am not as big wave inclined as a traditional big wave guy, but happen to surf them and found a challenge in surfing these waves, it's not that I am naturally drawn to them.
Noah's Kit List
MS: What do you think is different about those traditional big wave guys?
NL: It's a different aspect of surfing because it takes more dedication than just 'going surfing'. I don't think I am at this point inclined solely to that and I think to be the best, or with confidence and safety, you have to do that. I know my limits.
MS: But you seem to get as good a waves as them a lot of the time, what makes this possible?
NL: There is a point where the waves are different. 50ft big waves like Jaws, Mav's (Mavericks), Naz (Nazaré) - those proper big wave spots are a different pursuit to 10-15ft Mully (Mullaghmore) or 8ft G-Spot. Maybe it's relative because I am used to waves like Mully and G-Spot, all I have seen of those traditional big waves spots are what I watch on the internet. Maybe it's about the surroundings I have around me, I have learned to be comfortable through regular exposure, so now they don't seem as intimidating.
MS: Do you think if you went back to Australia you would find yourself on road trips to those traditional big wave spots?
NL: No, the the big wave scene like Mavs and Jaws, I feel would be overwhelming. Even if I was totally capable, I think the scene might freak me out and take my confidence away for no logical reason. I think I would go to South coast and WA - those places have big waves, but I am not looking to be in the scene, that atmosphere I don't enjoy. If you are going to places outside the big wave scene it's just you and your devices, I feel I would enjoy that. Mully sometimes has that big wave scene thing, but because I am used to it, I don't seem to notice it and am still happy there.
Words by Matt Smith | Photography by Chris McClean, Mats Kahlstrom, Lewis Arnold, Ian Mitchinson & David Gray.