Danny Griffiths On What It Felt Like Falling 20-Stories At Shipstern Bluff

20 Jun 2016 1 Share

360fly | Wave Of The Week

Video by Dave Otto - See full clip here

On Thursday 16 June, Danny Griffiths suited up in the near freezing conditions and headed out on skis and boats to Shipstern Bluff. It's one of the world's most mutinous slab surfing locations. Mostly, you'll watch people drop in and stumble on one or more of the many liquid steps that draw up on themselves to form smaller-big-waves. They form just a couple of feet above a rock slab and boulders, and below more water than you could ever imagine gravity allowing to rise above sea level. It's hard to make it out the channel but when you do and look back, it's all worth it - they say.  

We spoke to Griffiths today about that day, that fall and getting straight back out there. 

Coastalwatch: That wave Danny, it was a crazy wipeout and looked nearly unsurfable at all, why did you guys decide to go out?

Danny Griffiths: We had a big east coast swell the week before last and we were keeping our eye on the southern swell that was moving around. We usually don’t get very big swell periods – nothing this high at 18-19 seconds. What we did know was that it would be really steppie, drawing a lot of water off the reef, more than usual when we surf out there. You could tell it was going to be big because there were waves coming up the boat ramp, it’s a good sign for the size before you get right out to the Bluff.

SEE ALSO: What Was The One Thing Kobi Abberton Said That Made Red Bull Cape Fear Go Ahead?

We arrived out there with a group of skis and boats in the freezing cold and watched the first set descend out of the darkness but it was hard to gauge the real size of the wave faces it without anyone on them. Mikey Brennan, my tow-partner and I just got out there, no hesitation. Right off the bat, Mikey dropped into one of the biggest waves I’ve seen out there in ten years and held on until the spit out. It was a huge wave and full of energy.

The low tide was 11am so we got as many rides in as we could before it dropped right out, and waited around for about an hour before we could get back into it. With each hour that the tide fills in, the more surfable it gets.

DG: Then I took that fall.

CW: One of the heaviest falls, up there with the best!

DG: It doesn’t help that your hands and feet get so cold and numb out there to the point where you just can’t feel them. My back bootie had a hole in it too, so my toes were stiff. The cold affects you every time, you’ve just got to jump up on the board and do a few loops to get the feeling back in your toes.

There were five or six steps and it was crazy beast. I knew it was big. It was a big black wall.

We had borrowed a ski and it was a bit slower than we were used to. I tried to generate as much speed as I could to get to the bottom. The wave drew up twice as fast as what they usually do and I tried to jumped down the biggest step. I bogged, on that step. I didn’t see it until it was a meter in front of me. So in the moment, I just tried to bust through the back to get a breath before I went over because I knew I was going over.

The funny thing is, everyone keeps asking, why didn’t you do this and that? I just laugh. It happens so fast. You use a split second to decide.

(VIDEO ABOVE: Right back into it, this was the keeper!)

CW: It’s pretty easy to comment from the warmth of your couch or office and you’re watching it in slow-mo.

DG: You see the steps drawing up closer and closer – the wave your jumping down onto isn’t flat either. You have the opportunity to jump the entrance step and you usually have enough time to line up the next one and work out where you’re going to hit it and land. The problem on Thursday was the steps were popping up everywhere drawing more waves in front of you. It was the gnarliest I’ve seen Shippies.

CW: The motion of going over the falls at that size, what was it like?

DG: As soon as I started pulling away from the step it was time to get out of there. I thought I could get that breath and then go over the falls. There was no way I was going to get through the back of that wave.

I started doing a really slow back cartwheel. I curled up in a safety ball and then just fell out of, what felt like a 20 story building. I couldn’t hold that safety ball, my arms and legs went everywhere. There was so much power and energy in that wave. I think I remember kelp brushing past me and my board hit me a couple of times but I couldn’t tell whether it was my board or the boulders.

SEE ALSO: Lizzie Stokely Gets Barrelled At Shipstern Bluff

I could hear the thunder of the wave all around me and my ears started ringing. I came up after I inflated the vest. My wetty was unzipped and my vest was unbuckled, nearly completely undressed.

CW: Then, just like that you were back out there. Not even a scratch?

DG: Ha, yeah. I had a ten-minute rest in the boat. I wasn’t rattled and scared but my body was aching. I couldn’t leave on that note, I just wanted to get a good one. I did end up making a wave after that, as people kept going down and out. Everyone that surfed got wiped out, it’s just so addictive.

CW: So how did it rate all up from your experience?

DG: In 10 years surfing shippies, I’d say that first one Mikey got was one of the biggest I’ve ever seen since surfing out there. It was definitely in the top 10!

Negotiating the step and landing it!

Negotiating the step and landing it!


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