Slater, Long, and Dream Crew Paddle Cortes Bank for Christmas

Kelly Slater contributes to an historic paddle session at Cortes Bank. Photo: Jason Murray

Kelly Slater contributes to an historic paddle session at Cortes Bank. Photo: Jason Murray

Greg Long has just been granted a pair of Christmas miracles. On Kalikimaka, our young big wave hero and his best friend/fellow legend Grant “Twiggy” Baker narrowly survived a pair of tow-in beatdowns at Jaws that Greg described as “among the worst in our lives.” The following night, a bleary-eyed Greg, Twiggy, Nathan Fletcher and Aussie Alfy Cater arrived at LAX and then crammed into the 4wd Econoline that doubles as Greg’s home. The destination was a floating Taj Mahal in Newport Harbor. The secret mission was something Long and SURFER’s intrepid lensman and fellow explorer Jason Murray had been pondering and for the past couple of years: a paddle only session at the Cortes Bank.

Greg and company were met aboard the boat by brother Rusty, shark wrestling hellman Mark Healey, Chilean charger Ramon Navarro and Pete Mel, who was making his first trip back out to the Bank since the historic “Step Into Liquid” launch to Neptune in 2001 that exposed the Bank to the world. Pete was very, very stoked. Oh, and Kelly Slater, who had inexplicably elected to surf somewhere around Santa Barbara phoned in at the last minute and pleaded with Greg and Jason to have the yacht, aptly named Mr. Terrible, turned around so he could join along. By midnight, an all-time gathering of the best surfers on earth was bound for the most enigmatic wave on the planet.

The next morning and day played out as the most epic surf experience, heck, one of the most epic life experiences, that this journalist has had in over 20 years in the business. In fact, I suppose I was granted my own Christmas miracle. Having the opportunity to watch the best surfers in the world paddling into shifty, spooky peaks 100 miles out in the middle of the ocean above the bones of a giant WWII era freighter that was blasted apart by these very waves a generation ago, was something I’ll tell my grandkids about. It was a day of butter-smooth water, epic wipeouts, deep blue barrels, and some of the funniest and most hair-raising stories that will never be retold in the pages of any surf magazine. But some will…

View exclusive photos of the mission and watch an exclusive video on and for a shot of Greg’s backwards El Rollo Suplex of Death at Jaws, it starts at 1:45 on this YouTube video.

Stay tuned for the details in an upcoming issue of SURFER.

Chris Dixon