Life of Lamb

Nic Lamb on his Maverick's win, his Santa Cruz roots, and his social media critics

Nic Lamb, soaking up the limelight after his Titans of Mavericks victory. Photo: Ellis
Nic Lamb, soaking up the limelight after his Titans of Mavericks victory. Photo: Ellis

Last Friday, Santa Cruz’s own Nic Lamb won the inaugural Titans of Mavericks big-wave event in Half Moon Bay. Chargers in the know weren’t at all surprised by the 27 year old’s victory. He’s been a regular in the Mavs lineup for years, having first paddled out when he was only 14 years old. Lamb has since dedicated his life to becoming one of the world’s best big-wave riders, and with this victory, he’s cemented his place among the heavy water elite. I caught up with Lamb between swells to discuss his win and why Mavericks means so much to him.

Congratulations, Nic! I know you’ve been put in over a decade of blood, sweat, and tears into surfing big waves, especially Mavericks. How did it feel to win that event?

It’s been a crazy week with a ton of emotions. I’ve wanted to compete at Mavericks since I was a kid, and to come away with the win feels incredible. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with my performance throughout the event, so it’s back to the drawing board. I made a few mistakes that I shouldn’t have, so I’ll be identifying those errors, dissecting them, and hopefully improving upon them moving forward. With that being said, winning that event was an absolute dream come true. Right now, I’m ranked 4th on the WSL Big Wave Tour, and although the Titans comp was a standalone contest, the win gives me tons of confidence going into the upcoming big wave events. I can’t wait.

Lamb, angling for the podium at Mavericks last week. Photo: Ellis
Lamb, angling for the podium at Mavericks last week. Photo: Ellis

Santa Cruz has produced a number of Mavericks winners over the years. Did you get inspiration from Flea, Pete Mel, and Anthony Tashnick when you were growing up?

Yeah, absolutely. I watched so many videos of Mavericks when I was growing up—you could say I was a bit obsessed [laughs]—and I really admired different things about all of those surfers; they all have their own unique approach. I think Santa Cruz guys have an advantage out there because it’s practically in our back yard—it feels like home.

How do you prepare for an event like that?

I’ve always felt I’ve had ability in big waves, but it takes experience and time to dial in your equipment and your fitness to feel truly prepared. I struggled with that side for some time. That’s what I’ve been focusing on over the past few seasons. I’ve been working on my body with Nick Curson, who’s well known for training Olympians and UFC fighters. I’m striving to get myself to a place where I almost feel physically superhuman. I’m also working on my boards, getting them tailored to my specs. I’ve got a really solid team around me, so that helps a ton.

Even when there's no prize money on the line, there's still plenty on the line at Mavericks. Lamb, outrunning a bomb during a recent freesurf. Photo: Chachi
Even when there’s no prize money on the line, there’s still plenty on the line at Mavericks. Lamb, outrunning a bomb during a recent freesurf. Photo: Chachi

Before the first heat, there was some question as to whether or not Mavs would be contestable. It wasn’t the cleanest, or the most perfect, but how did it rate by your standards?

At Mavericks, there are so many blackout dates issued by the US Coast Guard, so it’s tough to run the contest on the day of the year. It’s important these events run more years than not if the sport is going to grow and evolve. Will some events be better than others? Absolutely. But let’s keep in mind that the mainstream’s perception of a big wave is worlds apart from the core surf culture’s perception. The bottom line is that any time Mavericks breaks, it’s deadly, and it’s one of the most difficult and intimidating waves to ride successfully. Anyone who thinks different hasn’t been out there. The wave is far from being mastered and there’s tons of room for improvement. Any time there is an event out there, the boundaries will be pushed, and hopefully the audience will be entertained and grow.

You took some flak recently on social media for your acting aspirations and wardrobe decisions. Where do you think that criticism comes from and how does it affect you?

[Laughs.] At the end of the day, I’m just having fun following my interests. I’m working hard and enjoying it, which I feel is important. I’m a professional athlete first and foremost, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have some opportunities in the entertainment industry as well. I’m not the first athlete who’s worked in the entertainment industry. Social media has given everyone a platform to express their opinions, and some people choose to spend their energy to say mean stuff. It’s none of my business what people choose to say behind my back or on social media. I feel it just comes with the territory.

When he's not in a wetsuit, odds are he's in a tailored suit. Nick Lamb, an unusually fashion-forward big-wave surfer. Photo: Chachi
When he’s not in a wetsuit, odds are he’s in a tailored suit. Nick Lamb, an unusually fashion-forward big-wave surfer. Photo: Chachi