Washburn Offers Surf Update

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Veteran surfer Grant Washburn has been waiting for huge waves to be carried in by Northwest storms. Dozens of surfers line the beach. But was it worth it?


Grant Washburn is back with us. He's the big-wave surfer and documentarian we interviewed yesterday from the stormy beach site of the famed Mavericks Break in Northern California. Grant was waiting for what he said would be the biggest wave of the year.

Grant, did it arrive, and how big was it?

Mr. GRANT WASHBURN (Surfer): Yeah, it absolutely arrived. It was big. It was about 80 feet high.

CHADWICK: Eighty feet?

Mr. WASHBURN: Yeah. It was possibly the biggest Mavericks that we've ever seen.

CHADWICK: Now, when we spoke to you yesterday, the beach was so foggy and hazy, no one was out surfing. Were people out when that wave came in?

Mr. WASHBURN: Yeah, they were. And actually the guys were using personal watercraft to get on the waves because when they get above 50 or 60 feet, it's generally not safe to paddle it the way we usually like to ride them. So the guys were using the assists by the Jet Ski and were able to ride those waves.

CHADWICK: You're a cinematographer, so you were filming a lot of this. But did you go out at your board too?

Mr. WASHBURN: You know what, I didn't. You know, I set my limit around 60 feet. So I knew it was going to be probably a little bit rough for me. And the angle of the swell - I think we talked about it yesterday - was such that it would make it extremely hazardous to ride it the way I like to, which is by paddling in with your own, you know, hands.

CHADWICK: What is it like to be in a wave that big?

Mr. WASHBURN: The times that I have done it, I have not really felt like I was on a big wave. It's like snowboarding or skateboarding or something. The thrill didn't match the risk.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHADWICK: So it's more like being on a mountain rather being on a wave?

Mr. WASHBURN: Yeah, it's very strange because when you're paddling in the way we normally ride those waves, it's so dramatic and exciting that you actually feel like you're going to drown because it's so intense. But when you ride with a Jet Ski, it becomes really easy, so the thrill part is sort of not obvious to you, but the risk is exponentially heightened. I know what a 50-foot-high wave is going to do to me, and when I see an 80-foot-high wave, I kind of want to get out of the way.

CHADWICK: Grant Washburn, big-wave surfer and documentarian. He worked on "Riding Giants," among others.

Grant, thank you again.

Mr. WASHBURN: You're welcome. Thanks, man.

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