Coast surfers charge swell of the century
ANTHONY King was still frothing after returning from Cloudbreak in Fiji where he had been part of the big wave crew surfing arguably record-sized waves at the outside Tavarua Island break
The Sunshine Coast northern lifeguard supervisor and Ben Hamilton read the charts, made a decision, bought airline tickets and took the three-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean in anticipation of one of the swells of the century striking the legendary break.
Their own eight-day strike mission has left the pair of experienced watermen in awe of the ocean's power and delighted to have survived unscathed.
Anthony is first to put his hand up and say the waves he surfed were 'not even comparable to some of the waves surfed on Sunday' when some of the world's best big-wave riders pulled into ridiculous 30-foot sets.
"I'm just happy I survived," he said.
"It was 30 foot plus. It was bloody huge. It's the biggest I've ever seen the ocean in my life.
"The whole thing was pretty dam scary."
Scary it may have been but its didn't stop the pair charging every day of their stay, ultimately swapping from backpacker accommodation to the Marriott.
There they teamed with a crew of Hawaiian and Australian surfers to share boats, tow jet skis, the services of a doctor and experienced water safety ski drivers.
It put them in the company of the notorious Oahu Northshore Rothman brothers, big wave paddle in specialist Kohl Christensen and the celebrated Chilean charger Ramon Navarro.
Conditions on the big Monday were anything but ideal with strong offshore winds and driving rain.
In the water there were 15-20 surfers paddling and between two and six tow teams. By lunch time Anthony said, there were only the tow teams operating, whipping their riders deep into waves hitting high up the reef.
Every surfer was wearing inflatable vests.
"There were three jet skis doing rescues," Anthony said.
"I've done a little bit of towing around here, at Cronulla and other breaks but this was strapped in on a five foot five board with weights in it.
"It was completely foreign and scary for me. Hippo (Ryan Hipwood) was towing me and I asked him to tow me around the back to get used to it.
"Instead he whipped me straight onto it."
"There was one wave he was more than happy to be hustled out of by Hawaiian Makua Rothman who towed in past him, snaking one of the biggest waves of the session only to be caught by the foam ball and flogged within an inch of his life.
"Rothman was eaten up. I was lucky. Hippo said he could have pushed it but he didn't want to send me to my death."
According to an interview with Surfline.com Rothman would have gone anyway even if King had towed in.
He'd walked off the set of the Rock's latest movie where he was shooting stunts and on to a plane just in time to make the swell.
The wave according to Surfline.com was a 'triple black diamond XXL beast'.
"When that thing stood up ... some other guys were in the zone, but I told Danilo, 'this one is ours. We're going. I'll pull in behind this guy (King) if I have to - I am not not catching this wave'.
"I'd rather be deep and eat shit that out run the barrel."
And that in the end Rothman did, pounded within an inch of his life.
King however did cop a pounding, caught inside after a ride by three waves he could neither avoid or effectively duck dive on the tow board which was eventually ripped from his grasp.
"Hippo came screaming in with his hand and grabbed my arm screaming 'I've got to go now' as he drove us out of there," he said.
"Then we had to go looking for the board through eight foot of white wash. I've got to give it to Hippo, he knows what he's doing.
On May 21, a sunny 15-foot plus 'nice' day travelling companion Ben Hamilton scored the wave of his life tucking in tight deep in the pit on his back hand.
"It's given us a taste for it," Anthony said.
"Swells like these only happen rarely. Hopefully we'll get another crack.
"We had the best time over there getting waves everyday and meeting a lot of great people. It was an epic trip.
"It was a great week, completely better than we had expected. Sometimes you just have to throw your hat in the ring and buy the plane tickets."