Sam at the ‘Stern.
Simon Longhurst chats with Sam Thomas about his epic Shippies pit!
📷 Matthew Tildesly.
Okay, can you take us through the lead up to THAT wave?
Sunday was a bit of an emotional roller coaster . We had planned to leave the boat ramp at 8 am with a solid crew of mates . However it got to 830 and it was just me and Ben Carosi who had rocked up to head out with mat Tildesley on the boat. The others were Mia with phones all turned off and we knew they had been out the night before playing @whatsonots show. We gave it till 840 and then headed off on the boat. It wasn’t till we got out of the barge and into the ocean that Charles Ward gave us a call and said he was up and That his phone had gone flat and we slept thru his alarm.
After a debate we turned the boat around to go and wait for them to arrive , I was pretty rattled on this decision as the thought of perfect 10 foot pits plagued my mind. Eventually they rocked up and we were off.
Rocking up to stern it certainly wasn’t the sight we had expected to see with it being a fair bit smaller than predicted, heaps of people paddling and not many waves coming through. Despite this I was still amped to get out there after a bit of a stressful morning.
I stuck it out for three to 4 hours until the crowd thinned and everyone had left. In the last hour of the afternoon it was just me and one other guy paddling the ocean hadn’t really coughed up anything of any note in a while until all of a sudden this bomb rolls through out of no where . I could hear the boys on the boat going nuts . It was a solid take off . With a huge wall rolling into the bay I wasn’t sure what was going to happen as it was all drawing up the reef and it looked so long taking off. I pulled in high and once I got through the first bit I knew the hard work was over and I could take in the view of this epic pit with the boys hooting in the channel. Fair to say it’s the best wave I’ve ever had in my life and a little message from the day was that sometimes things just work out in the end you just have to roll with it.
What goes into chasing these swells as a professional bodyboarder, in terms of looking at the charts (how often do you keep your eye on them), planning a crew of mates, and a boat to get out there, organising photographers etc?
I’m onto the charts probably every couple of days … but I definitely don’t study them as much if I know I have work and have used up most of my sickies. However it’s also nice to look at the long range and see if you can line something up for you days off.
As far as organising a photog goes, it’s hard these days as most photogs I know down here work full time jobs and have family commitments, so trying to line up a session with them can be hard. Mathew Tildesley has been frothing on shooting video on my handy cam recently while he drives his boat, which has been sick fun, hopefully we can keep doing that. As far as mates go, same kinda thing, just put the feelers out there and usually you can get one or two people keen for a mission if the surf looks good.
Being a big wave surfer, you’ve taken on some of the biggest waves in Australia. What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?
The worst injury I’ve had was from a big wave was at shipsterns. I’d waited for ages for a wave to go in on when the conditions had kind of gone to shit. I feel like almost an hour and a half had gone since I had caught a wave, so when a big lump came through you sort of feel more inclined to go regardless of whether it looks good or if you’re slightly out of position.
In this circumstance it has also gone light onshore. As I scooped into the wave it started to break about 1 metre in front of me which kinda wigged me out, so for a reason still unknown to me I thought I’d kinda go around it but ended up going straight, the whole thing fucking nearly exploded on my head.
I was just far enough in front of the lip that the explosion threw me in the air so far. I remember feeling weightless for 5 seconds as I did a slow motion front flip. Then it turned so rough and I went limp. I popped out eventually and Jeremy Faulds was there to get me in the ski. But when I went to get on the ski I realised I couldn’t lift my arm to get onto the ski. He dropped me back to the inside and I paddled in and walked out with a little help from the boys.
I got it checked the next day and it turned out the force had ripped the clavicle from my sternum. My other injuries are normally after stupid nights out which are filled with regret.
What were your thoughts on the reactions to this wave (newspapers, news, and it went viral via Instagram). Good to see people getting around it?
To see it get the hype it did on the internet and the news was super cool . The reaction definitely confirmed that the wave was as good as me and the boys on the boat thought it was.