Strong Island Son

How Long Island, New York's Will Skudin rose to the big-wave elite from the unlikeliest of places

Will Skudin earned his place among the big-wave elite the hard way: by keeping his finger on the pulse of storm systems, chasing swells around the world, and committing to the heaviest waves he can find. Over the last few years, Skudin has thrown himself over the ledge at Puerto Escondido, Mullaghmore, Mavericks, Todos Santos, Nelscott Reef, Jaws, and more. At Nazaré, he paddled into a left that Garrett McNamara called "one of the biggest paddle waves I have ever seen.”

Many big-wave surf fans were left scratching their heads, wondering how Skudin, a Long Island-New Yorker who grew up surfing breaks that seldom get over head high, could have become one of the best big-wave surfers in the world. But others saw something in Skudin that could account for his unlikely rise.

"It's not surprising to me that someone from the East Coast could become successful in big waves," says Gary Linden, founder of the Big Wave World Tour. "Sometimes there's more motivation if the waves aren't in your backyard; it's incredible how committed Will is."

[This edit originally appeared in SURFER’s 57.08 Collector’s Issue, “Home Of The Brave.”]