Kyle Ward: The Gnarliest Wave Ever Paddled?
All footage @thridlinkfilms.
Images by @gbeckerphoto
Even though the footage was four years old, this incredible paddle effort by Kyle Ward lit up social media last week. The crazy thing was, the story behind this nuts drop and shocky hop had until this point never been told. Infoamed tracked down Kyle, and filmer Cian Salmon to get their recollections on this all or nothing game changer.
First up, Kyle.
Firstly, can you give us some background to this session? When did it go down? Who was there? What were the conditions like?
This actually happened about 4 years ago! I was with Ben Veitch, Cian Salmon, Jake Osman and Gordon Becker. It was a beautiful Winter’s morning, sun was out and a light offshore breeze – which is rare down there for this time of the year. Oh, and no one else was there! It was the dream day!
Before this day, we’d been surfing flat out over a four day long weekend. I think we’d surfed North Point on the first day, then pumping Box on the second, a beachie on the third and then a swell popped up on the South Coast on the last day – so everyone committed even after being well surfed out from the previous days.
Do you surf this wave often or was this a strike mission?
No, I don’t. Not as much as some other mad dogs out there do. I was lucky enough to tag along on this trip. I didn’t sleep the night before with the prospect of The Right the next day. It was going to be my first time there and I was so nervous. But, I’d just told myself that I’ll do whatever feels right at the time – even if that means just sitting in the channel or towing the other boys.
Can you run us through your thoughts and experiences when you were paddling into this wave?
Once we got out there, I sat in the channel for a while like I planned and just watched to get my bearings. It wasn’t a massive day but I’d say the sets were ranging from 10-15ft. It’s hard to judge out there though – it’s just so different to any other wave.
After watching it for an hour or so, it was my turn behind the tow rope. I got my first one but it just capped, so we went back for round 2. Veitchy put me on the first wave of the set but I let go of the rope too early, putting me in the perfect position to paddle the next one behind it. Veitchy was yelling at me to just go for it! At this point I don’t know what came over me but I put my head down and went for it. It just felt… right (haha).
Can you remember the actual wave, or is it all a blur of adrenaline?
Yeah I remember the whole thing! No other barrel has ever felt the same.
Did you think at any point you weren’t going to make that wave?
Yeah for sure. I think once I got to the bottom, I lost all my speed and was deep in the barrel. I thought “here we go, time to visit the fish at the bottom”. But then I was lifted by the shocky and spat out into the clear again.
Describe the feeling of escaping into the channel once you’d made the wave?
Once I was in the clear and in the channel I think I screamed so loud that half of the South Coast heard me. The adrenaline was indescribable! And the boys were all as pumped as I was. After that, it was on and all the boys had a crack at paddling – even Jake who was on a stick!
Do you do any specific training for days like these, or just go hard?
When this happened, I had no training at all and I wasn’t wearing a life vest or floatation. I was so keen to push my bodyboarding at this point, so I wanted to push into bigger waves. But looking back now I definitely was not prepared enough. The Right is a crazy wave and it could easily hold you down for minutes. It’s important to train and prepare for these types of things.
Lately, I’ve been diving a lot and I’ve realised that my breath hold is not as good as I thought it was back then. I’m learning to control my breathing and how to stay calm deep under the water.
Do you have a stance on towing vs paddling?
Nah, whatever works. Some waves are better towed and some are better to paddle.
I recently had a session at The Right with Dan Steel, Tom Forward and Sam Thomas and we paddled it all morning – it was drawing off the reef perfectly creating a take-off peak on nearly every wave. It was epic and I felt a lot calmer. But this was rare and it’s usually much safer to tow and that’s fun too.
Do you have any riders who inspire you with their approach in waves of consequence?
Probably Hardy and Veitchy. Their control in big waves is so impressive.
I think once you get into waves like The Right it’s all on you though. People can tell you things about your approach and technique but as soon as you’re there it’s just you and the ocean.
Any other shout outs or thank you’s you’d like to add?
Yeah – Cian, Gordo, Jake and Veitchy. These boys made the day happen!
Next photog Cian Salmon gives us his perspective.
“It was the end of April 2016, no one thought Trump was going to be president, a large percentage of the population still used Iphone4’s and I was trying to film my second movie, Overboard.
Our crew had been trying to get down to The Right for about a year or so, we had made it down once or twice but the ever-present reality that was the necessity of having access to two jet skis kept preventing us all from getting out there.
However, when Jake Osman somehow managed to con his mum into going halves with him on a ‘Family Ski’, we suddenly had consistent access to half of the key that would allow us entry into the greatest Colosseum on earth.
When this swell popped up it was relatively small, baby size really for The Right. A swell that if we saw on the charts today we would likely head to other patches of reef. The saving grace was the low tide and obscenely picturesque conditions the day was promising. The crew consisted of Ben Veitch, Gordon Becker, Jake Osman, Kyle Ward and myself.
So, it was nearly drowning in our own froth and naivety we drove down.
Upon our arrival in the line-up the next morning, the twenty-minuet ski drive in temperatures around 5c had done very little to wipe away the froth. It was indeed quite small, 8-12ft or so… paddle sized. It was also the most beautiful day I have ever lived through, 5kt offshore, sun shining and just us in the line-up. Paradise.
It’s here my memory gets a tad hazy about the order off events, I know Veitchy paddled a bunch of sick ones and I know Jake got some mental pits. I however can’t remember when Kyle grabbed the rope to tow his virgin wave out there.
In any case, he did and it was a shit one. A ‘Capper’ as we say. Ben came back picked him up and they tried again.
Shit one. Wardy didn’t even get on it. What’s more he let go of the rope entirely too early and left himself in the line-up.
Then it happened. As Kyle turned back out to sea after his fruitless hunt for a capper he saw what was easily the biggest wave to come through thus far. I remember Jake Screaming “Goooo!” myself whispering “Noooo” and Kyle turning putting his head down and paddling into the most incredible slab of water ever to be taken on.
He didn’t even have an impact vest on, let alone one of the inflatable vests everyone has now. If that lip had of hit him it would have cleaved my mate in two no question.
Wardy handled it wrangled the shocky and got insanely spat out.
We have been out to The Right more times than I can remember since that first day, but still that clip of Kyle remains the gnarliest thing I have ever filmed out there”.